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Never mind that it’s found in the kitchen, coconut oil has become the moment’s most obsessed about natural beauty staple.
It has an enthusiastic following of fans who champion the fatty-acid-rich oil as an amazing hair de-frizzer, teeth whitener, body scrubber, and miracle makeup remover. How many of these beauty uses actually pan out?
We cracked open the truth on the nut’s beauty benefits, by tapping cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, Look Great, Live Green author and Sumbody founder Deborah Burnes, and Rose-Marie Swift, the formulator-founder of RMS Beauty.
Here’s what they make of 14 head-to-toe beauty uses for coconut oil. —Natz Soberanes
Intensive Hair Conditioner
All our experts agreed that coconut oil can work wonders for dry, damaged, can’t-get-the-tangle-out hair. “Its fatty acids soften hair,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. How to apply it? Author-beauty formulator Burnes suggests rubbing a small amount of coconut oil between your hands—“so you’re moisturizing them at the same time!”—then applying it to your hair from roots to ends one section at a time. (Note: Thin hair types may not want to apply it to the roots.) Rinse it off in the shower for better-behaving locks.
Frizz FighterThis is one of the most popular beauty uses of coconut oil, because its natural oils repel water and prevent frizz. “Oil and water do not mix,” says Wilson. “So, the coconut oil on the hair prevents moisture from entering the hair shaft to create frizz.” Learn how to use it here. “Coconut oil is absolutely awesome for your hair,” gushes Burnes.
Should you brush your teeth with coconut oil? Well, a study recently confirmed that a specific form of coconut oil can kill Streptococcus bacteria, which would be a step up from chemicals like triclosan in your toothpaste—and mouth! But it’s not readily available yet.
As for making your pearly whites pearlier, Wilson says there’s no scientific data currently supporting that claim. Still, you might want to try it out in your own bathroom lab, or rinse your mouth with coconut oil (it’s called oil pulling!) for its other wellness benefits.
“It takes off the most stubborn high-tech mascara with ease,” says makeup artist and formulator Rose-Marie Swift, who’s obsessed with coconut oil’s gentle grime-removing action and antibacterial properties. (Two reasons she uses coconut oil in many RMS Beauty products and makes an RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream.)
“And doesn’t it seem like a much healthier option for skin than all those synthetic chemical concoctions?” she asks, providing a third.
Burnes likes it for the eye area, too, adding that it’s uber-hydrating—a boon for what’s often the first place on the face to show lines and wrinkles.
Slather this on: In addition to moisturizing your skin, coconut oil can help make your skin work better. “The fatty acids help reinforce the skin’s natural lipid barrier,” says Wilson. “This process helps lock moisture in the skin, promoting hydration.”
However, using coconut oil as a moisturizer might be a little too greasy for some. If you’re one of them, a great alternative is to find a facial moisturizer that uses coconut oil in its base among other natural ingredients, says Burnes.
“If the slip and taste of coconut oil feels good on your lips, then go for it,” says Burnes. According to Wilson, the same fatty acids in coconut oil that help your skin hold onto moisture also provide that love for your lips. “It all comes down to the fatty acids creating a barrier, locking moisture in,” she says.
Our experts think using coconut oil on your cuticles shows serious beauty smarts. One of the properties of coconut oil is that it’s anti-fungal, says Burnes. That’s good for ragged cuticles—and all toes.
And a plus? Coconut oil helps make your nails stronger. “The emollient nature of the coconut oil keeps the cuticles soft,” explains Wilson. “It doesn’t help nails grow, but it can definitely keep your nails from becoming brittle.” To liquify coconut oil, warm it up a little by placing some in a container under running hot water.
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