coconut oil

Benefits of coconut oil for your hair, skin and nails

In this week’s blog we thought we would discuss the various benefits of coconut oil for your hair, skin and nails. You may have read in certain articles that many consider it a beauty super product, and likely why it is an ingredient in so many products. However, in reality, that is perhaps a little over the top but suffice to stay, there are many positive attributes of coconut oil. So, let’s get right to it!

One of the first things people think of when talking about coconut oil is its application as a body moisturizer. And this is very much true. However, it may not be the best choice for your face. Coconut oil has a tendency to block pores and lead to blackheads (a so-called comedogenic product) as it is a rather thick oil (it is solid at room temperature). A consequence of this is that when you apply it topically, it is difficult for it to get absorbed by your skin, and instead just sits on top of your skin, effectively sealing in dead skin cells and bacteria which then fester under your skin causing excess sebum production and an increase in the likelihood of acne breakouts. So, if you are prone to acne, you probably do not want to use it as a facial moisturizer. And even if you are not prone, you may wish to be careful, or simply use it as a very effective makeup remover or as a means to remove the days facial build-up of dirt, grime and oil - just be sure to cleanse with your normal wash afterwards.

That being said, you can certainly take advantage of its wonderful moisturizing properties resulting from the oil being rich in fatty acids (and in particular lauric acid, which provides antimicrobial, moisturizing, and hormone-balancing properties) by using it as a body moisturizer that imparts a barrier to moisture loss through your skin with the added benefits of also supplying anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. There is also scientific evidence that it can enhance collagen production. The reason it can be more safely applied to the body as opposed to the face relates to the fact that your face contains more sebaceous glands compared to your body, making it more susceptible to oil buildup. And while we are talking about skin, if you, unfortunately, suffer from eczema, you may be able to find relief from some of the symptoms such as itchiness and dryness, through topical application of coconut oil based on results from separate clinical trials on both pediatric and adult patients. And those anti-bacterial properties provide another potential application – that of a natural deodorant that will be absent of any potential toxic additives that could lead to skin irritations or other adverse reactions.

And despite what we cautioned about using it on your face, there is one little exception to that piece of advice. Coconut oil can be used very well as a lip balm, especially because it is solid at room temperature and thus less messy to work with, and its fatty acid components can help replenish moisture to cracked and dry lips.

So, what can coconut oil do for your hair? If you have brittle and dry hair that is quite prone to breakage, you might consider using coconut oil as a regular or leave-in conditioner. The oil can be quite effective in repairing the damage that occurs to your hair shafts from a number of different sources, such as the sun or hair coloring, as the oil has a high affinity to hair proteins and has an enhanced ability to penetrate hair shafts in comparison to other types of oils commonly found in hair oil formulations. But it can be even more than a conditioner. You can apply it before you shampoo to help reduce the amount of damage that occurs to hair simply through the action of washing it. That seems like a strange phenomenon, but indeed our hair is most prone to damage when wet. The reason for this is related to its structure. The outer protective shield of our hair, the cuticle, is made up of flat, overlapping scales that give your hair its shine. But when your hair is wet, the moisture taken up by the inner part of the hair (the cortex) causes it to swell. The result is the cuticle scales begin to protrude more outwards, opening up gaps where direct damage to the cortex can occur more readily when brushing, combing and styling. By applying coconut oil prior to washing, it can help shield the cortex from the amount of water it absorbs and reduce the swelling and hence the extent to which the cuticle scales open up to reveal the cortex. Furthermore, applying oil after you wash provides the benefits we generally associate with oils - it helps make your hair smoother and thus reduces the friction encountered by your comb or brush during styling, reducing breakage.

Coconut oil can also help protect your hair from even the most demanding of environments such as swimming pools or the ocean by acting as a shield against the harmful effects of chlorine and salt. And just like for your skin, the anti-bacterial properties can help with the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis such as dandruff and an itchy scalp. Apply a little bit at night to your roots and gently massage it in.

What about my nails? Can coconut oil help there too? The answer is yes. Again, it is the moisturizing and antibacterial properties that play the largest role. Brittle and cracked nails as well as cuticle health can be helped by the moisturizing properties of coconut oil, while the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties could help prevent nail fungus.

Take away message

This week we discussed the many benefits of coconut oil for your hair, skin and nails, stemming from its natural moisturizing, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. And it truly is a triple threat product, with benefits for your skin, hair and nails. However, caution is advised for its use as a facial moisturizer, especially for those of you that may be prone to acne, as coconut oil does have a tendency to block pores, leading to blackheads or acne breakouts. But by all means, use it as a makeup remover or a natural first-level cleanser, just be sure to gently cleanse your face afterwards with your normal face wash product.  

 

 

 

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