Great skin might be just a coconut away. Virgin coconut oil isn’t just making a comeback in the kitchen, it’s spreading to the skin care aisle, too— and for good reason. Research suggests the tropical tonic, typically extracted from fresh coconuts in a cold press or wet-milling process, may help preserve skin’s youthful appearance and treat a host of pesky skin problems Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil. Marina, AM., Man, YB., Nazimah, SA., et al. Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, D.E., Malaysia. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2009; 60 Suppl 2:114-23..

Cookoo for Coconuts — The Takeaway

Pure, unrefined coconut oil is generally cheaper than a trip to the cosmetics counter (many cost as little as $10 a jar), and offers many of the same age-defying benefits, due to its high level of skin-penetrating antioxidants Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil. Marina, AM., Man, YB., Nazimah, SA., et al. Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, D.E., Malaysia. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2009; 60 Suppl 2:114-23. Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats. Nevin, KG., Rajamohan, T. Department of Biochemistry, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2010; 23(6): 290-7.. These free-radical fighting compounds have been shown to help slow skin aging and reduce the harmful effects of sun damage Uptake of antioxidants by natural nutrition and supplementation: pros and cons from the dermatological point of view. Lademann, J., Patzelt, A., Schanzer, S., et al. Center of Experimental and Applied Cutaneous Physiology, Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2011 Jun 1; 24(5): 269-273.. Conventional skin care products, made with refined vegetable oils, generally lose a large percentage of their antioxidants in the refining process.

But there's more to this oil than its antioxidant boost. The small molecular structure of coconut oil allows for easy absorption through the skin and hair, delivering a soft, smooth texture while relieving dryness A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Agero AL., Verallo-Rowell VM. Department of Dermatology, Makati Medical Center, Makati City, Philippines. Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Rele AS., Mohile RB. Research and Development Department, Nature Care Division, Marico Industries Ltd., Mumbai, India. Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92.. And with strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties, research suggests this natural oil may have the potential to help fight conditions like acne, eczema, diaper rash, psoriasis, and fungal infections (fun stuff, we know) Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Intahphuak, S., Khonsung, P., Panthong, A. McCormick Faculty of Nursing, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2010 Feb; 48(2): 151-7. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Verallo-Rowell VM., Dillague KM., Syah-Tjundawan BS. Skin and Cancer Foundation, Pasig, Philippines. Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15..

Ready to shake down some coconut oil? Though the substance is gaining popularity as a skincare product, it may still require a special trip to a health food or specialty store. Both solid and liquid forms are equally effective— just be sure to go for virgin or extra virgin coconut oil to ensure the most nutrient-packed products. Keep in mind that that coconut oil isn’t for everybody, and some cases of skin and eye irritation have been reported as a result of use. For everyone else, remember that a little coconut oil goes a long way (just a dab is enough to cover the entire face). While it tends to be a little greasy (it’s oil after all), it absorbs fairly quickly, so dot it, smear it, and/or smudge it, but don’t forget to say Mahalo to the coconut.

The Tip

Crack open some unrefined coconut oil to help heal and rejuvenate the skin.

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