18 Handy Uses for Coconut Oil
You may already know that coconut oil is a favorite of natural-health enthusiasts, due to its multi-faceted healthy benefits: unlike the more popular mega-healthy oil, olive oil, coconut oil can withstand much higher heat before it starts to burn, making it more useful for cooking.
In addition, coconut oil has healthy fatty acids and disease-fighting antioxidants, as well as antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Those qualities, and the fact that it does not have a scent (the way most other oils and olive oil do) also make it a great choice as a moisturizer for skin and hair alike. And that’s a good place to start our list of handy uses for coconut oil, that you may not have thought about.
1. Moisturizer: Coconut oil is great as an all-natural skin moisturizer; it absorbs fast and has a light feel. Because it has some natural sunscreen properties (SPF 4), it also gives your skin a little bit of protection from the Sun when you’re outside during the day. At night, use in place of a facial masque once a week, to help fight wrinkles and soften skin: after washing your face with warm water and soap, warm a dab of coconut oil (which solidifies at room temperature) in your palms and apply to face as an all-night moisturizer. You may also wish to apply your regular moisturizer first, allow it to dry, then dab the coconut oil on top of it, for more thorough skin coverage.
2. Makeup remover: Coconut oil works well as a makeup remover. When soap and water don’t take away all your makeup, yet you don’t want to tug on your skin with chemical products to remove makeup residue, coconut oil is the easy way to finish the job. Simply dab some oil on areas you wish to cleanse, then remove residues with a tissue. Not only will you cleanse your face, but you will help soften and nourish your skin in the process, instead of stripping natural oils with harsh makeup removers.
3. Soften feet and relieve cracked heels: Rub about a spoon’s worth of coconut oil on each foot, gently massaging your heels and allowing the oil to penetrate the skin. To add a nice scent and enhance the oil’s antimicrobial properties, mix a few drops of essential oil such as lavender or sweet orange into the melted coconut oil.
4. Soothe diaper area and prevent diaper rash: Coconut oil is a good chemical-free (and fragrance-free) alternative for treating baby’s diaper area; it helps soothe irritation, protects skin, relieves itching and promotes healing. Gently rub melted coconut oil on baby’s skin and put on a diaper.
5. Get rid of cradle cap: Massage coconut oil gently on baby’s scalp, leave on for a few minutes, then rinse with a warm, moist wash cloth.
6. Great as a massage oil: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, such as peppermint, to melted coconut oil, and massage away sore or tired muscles.
7. Treat skin fungus or itchiness: Due to coconut oil’s natural anti-fungal properties, it can be used to treat athlete’s foot and skin fungus. Simply cover affected area with coconut oil and leave on, or wipe off residue with paper towel after oil has been absorbed into skin. Coconut oil also helps with skin conditions like eczema. Use plain or add a few drops of essential oil like lavender or sweet orange, to enhance anti-itch capabilities. (Coconut oil can also safely be used on a pet’s skin to treat itchiness and dryness.)
8. Fade dark spots on skin: Apply coconut oil directly to spots, and they will gradually fade.
9. Prevent stretch marks: Condition abdominal skin during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks by rubbing coconut oil on skin.
10. Treat and prevent ingrown hairs: These can be bothersome, especially when they irritate the skin or get infected. Rub some coconut oil on areas of your skin and scalp where you shave or tend to get ingrown hairs; it will soften and lubricate the skin, allowing hair to grow through the skin; it will also kill bacteria and help prevent infection.
11. Use to style hair, in place of gel: Ditch the chemicals and alcohols found in most hair gels, and smoothe a little bit of coconut oil on the ends of your hair; melt a little on your palms and run them through or over the rest of your hair to tame frizz and flyaways.
12. Detangle children’s hair: Apply coconut oil on child’s hair when it seems to lack moisture and tangles easily. Melt oil between your palms and rub on wet hair, then comb through.
13. Remove gum stuck on hair (or furniture): Before you reach for scissors to cut a snip of hair with gum stuck on it, try rubbing some coconut oil on the hair, to loosen the gum. This method also works on furniture.
14. Make a natural, non-toxic insect repellent: When you use insect repellents that contain the chemical DEET, as most do, it’s best to wash off treated areas of your skin when you get home, and change clothes if you sprayed the repellent on your clothes. But when you make a natural mixture, you needn’t worry about any of that. Coconut oil is a great carrier oil to mix with essential oils and apply directly to skin as often as needed. Try mixing a tablespoon of coconut oil with about 10 drops of a few essential oils that insects hate, such as peppermint, lemongrass (citronella), cinnamon, rosemary or tea tree. When using a couple of essential oils in your mix, use about 5 drops of each. Essential oil fragrances are strong and you only need a little. These oils will repel mosquitoes, ticks, gnats and other insects.
15. Homemade, natural vapor rub – decongestant: Bring relief for a cold and stuffy nose by mixing some coconut oil with 10 drops of eucalyptus oil; apply mix to your chest or your child’s chest and enjoy easier breathing! The mixture will open up airways and increase blood circulation to the area, which promotes healing.
16. Free a zipper that’s caught or silence a squeaky door hinge: If your zipper gets caught in the fabric, apply coconut oil to lubricate it and unjam it. Coconut oil also works great on metals that need lubricating or are starting to get rusty. Apply melted coconut oil with an applicator on squeaky door hinges, bicycle chains, etc.
17. Preserve and beautify wood furniture: Instead of using furniture polishes with chemicals, just dab a little coconut oil on a soft, clean cloth and apply to furniture. It will help repel dust and will not attract insects. Because the oil comes from a plant source, you don’t need to worry about it staining even your expensive furniture — the oil will actually nourish the wood, and no toxic fumes are left in the air!
18. Shine shoes: No need to use chemical polishes that can leave stains everywhere, or buy repair kits to spruce up your leather shoes. Instead, try rubbing some coconut oil with a soft cloth on your shoes, to shine, diminish scuff marks and make them look like new.
By Cynthia Sanchez. A graduate of the University of Washington, Cynthia has extensive experience writing about health and wellness topics for different media.