Coconut oil commonly gets namedropped as the latest super-good-for-you miracle product. Admittedly, a year ago we'd barely heard of coconut oil. Maybe in our vegetable green curry or as an ingredient relegated to the shelves of the local health food store, but not something we were putting on our face. Not yet at least.
But when we started our beauty street style column about a year ago, we could barely go a week without one of the girls we photographed naming coconut oil as her go-to beauty product. Our glowing, shiny-haired subjects rattled off the different ways they used the super oil: as a nourishing face cream, repairing leave-in conditioner or beachy-scented body moisturizer. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: It's actually beneficial in raising metabolism and boosting immunity, too.
How were we so late to the party on this one? Is there anything coconut oil can't do? We turned to celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder (an early champion of the ingredient) to fill us on all the awesomeness that is coconut oil. Keep reading for our top seven picks.
Why coconut oil is better than the average face moisturizer. And hair serum. And body lotion: "Commercial moisturizers contain lots of water, which makes you feel like your skin is being moisturized. But as soon as the water dries, your skin becomes dry again. Also, many commercial brands of moisturizers contain petroleum-based ingredients that can suffocate the skin. In contrast, coconut oil provides deep and real moisture. It helps strengthen underlying tissues and helps remove excessive dead cell on the skin's surface that makes your skin rough and flaky in texture. It also great for shine and as a natural moisturizer for your hair.
Tip: Rub a dime-sized amount (a little goes a long way with this stuff) of coconut oil on to dry ends to hydrate and tame frizzy flyaways. On your face, apply as you would your normal moisturizer. While it tends to have a greasier consistency (at first), it's fantastic at absorbing quickly into skin. A spoonful is enough to hydrate your entire body; swap it in for your current lotion.
What to look out for when purchasing your first jar: "Look for extra virgin, that has not been hydrogenated, bleached, refined or deodorized.
Organic will ensure 100 percent non-GMO, which is also preferable. Coconut oil is best consumed in moderation, in its virgin or unprocessed form. It is vital that we consume coconut oil in a totally unrefined state. If it has been refined in some way, which could include processes such as bleaching or deodorizing, it becomes much harder on our liver.
Tip: The good news is that with the oil's growing popularity you can find it pretty easily -- from Whole Foods to the Vitamin Shoppe to Amazon.
How to properly store: "You don’t have to refrigerate it. I keep some next to my bed, and also a separate bottle in the kitchen in the cupboard. If you store below 76 degrees Fahrenheit it will solidify, and above that temperature it will liquefy."
Why it's also a fantastic cooking ingredient: "If there is a dish that you would like to cook with a small amount of oil, coconut oil is a great choice because it has a lower smoke point than other oils. In other words, because it is nearly a completely saturated fat, it is much less susceptible to heat-induced damage and will stay stable at higher temperatures. It’s also great in baking. While coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is cholesterol free and trans-fatty acid free and has actually been shown to help lower cholesterol levels due to its ability to stimulate thyroid function.
Tip: Supermodel Miranda Kerr is a big fan of coconut oil, and adds it to her salads and in her green tea. She sees the effects by way of shiny hair and breakout-free skin.
Coconut oil's origins: "In parts of the world, using coconut oil on your hair and skin has been an ancient practice. When I started traveling to Asia, I would buy coconut oil in little markets in Thailand and the Philippines and the women selling it to me would always point to my hair and rub my forearm, to indicate where to use it."
Bonus health benefits that we probably don't even know about: "Virgin coconut oil is composed of medium-chain-length fatty acids, or triglycerides MCTs, which are shown to have many health benefits, including raising the body’s metabolism, and acting as an antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial agent."
CORRECTION: An earlier version stated incorrectly that coconut oil has a higher smoking point than other oils.