In recent years, coconut oil has proved something of a cultural phenomenon. People can’t get enough of it, and that’s no surprise. One of the most versatile ingredients out there, you can use coconut oil for your hair and for your skin. Coconut oil can be a great addition to your life, especially in your beauty routine, where you can find everything from shampoos formulated with coconut oil to hair masks with this uber popular ingredient. What about coconut oil makes it just so good? Everything. Here’s everything you need to know about the superstar ingredient.
Coconut oil—also known as cocos nucifera—is an oil made from the inner fibers of coconuts. Once the inner flesh of the coconut dries out, it’s then cold-pressed to release its oil, which is a semi-solid texture not so different from petroleum jelly.
No one would blame you for confusing coconut oil with its cousins, coconut milk and coconut water—especially as coconut water has its own beauty benefits. But the three couldn’t be more different, and are definitely not interchangeable. While coconut oil is pressed or extracted from the inner flesh of the coconut, coconut milk is created by macerating that inner flesh and soaking it in water (and, sometimes, even in coconut water). Coconut water, on the other hand, is the clear liquid found in young, green coconuts.
In the beauty realm, coconut oil first became common in the manufacturing of soap, thanks to its moisturizing properties. Since then, it’s only gained popularity, and is now used as an ingredient in the formulas of a wide array of beauty products.
There are a few different ways to manufacture coconut oil, and that process matters when trying to figure out what coconut oil product is right for you. If coconut oil is deemed “refined,” this means that it was bleached, heated, or treated with chemicals. The alternative is cold-pressed extraction, during which those valuable fatty acids and antioxidants are more likely to remain intact. Your best bet: Look for sustain-ably-sourced, cold-pressed coconut oil in your beauty product formulas.
If you want to help keep your hair looking hydrated, look for shampoos and conditioners formulated with coconut oil extracts. Stashing a shampoo and conditioner in your shower with the relaxing scent of coconut can help to transport you straight to the tropics. (No flight needed!) But that’s just a bonus, since coconut oil’s moisturizing properties can also help provide hydration to your hair.
One of the benefits of hair products formulated with coconut oil is their ability to help manage noticeable frizzy hair and flyaways. Visible frizz is a telltale sign of dry-looking hair. Frizzy hair can occur when the outer-cuticle layer of the hair shaft is raised, allowing moisture to seep out. If hair is well moisturized you can help address this visible hair issue and help minimize the appearance of your hair frizz. Look for leave-in hair treatments formulated with coconut oil, to help manage frizzy-looking hair. Plus, the moisturizing properties of these products means that hair can look moisturized—that is, shiny and soft. Whether you’re addressing the appearance of dull or damaged hair, products formulated with coconut oil can help.
If you want to go the extra mile, you should incorporate products formulated with coconut oil into every step of your hair routine. A hair treatment product formulated with coconut oil can also go a long way into providing moisture to your hair. If your hair looks dry, damaged, or even prone to noticeable frizz, try a product formulated with an oil blend that contains coconut oil, avocado oil, argan oil, or jojoba oil. Since hair masks usually spend more time on your hair than your rinse-out products, they can help give your hair some moisture, as well. The same goes for a leave-in conditioner formulated with coconut oil, which has the potential to help condition hair with moisture, reveal shiny hair and decrease the appearance of frizz due to dryness.
Before diving into the details of how coconut oil can benefit the surface of your skin, it’s worth thinking back—maybe way, way back—to biology class. (Or, alternately, your last visit to the dermatologist.) The top layer of skin can help provide a protective barrier made up of lipids to help protect the skin from outside aggressors like pollution and bacteria. It can also help keep the good stuff, like moisture, in the skin where it belongs. If this barrier becomes compromised or damaged by these external aggressors, moisture can seep out of skin, which may lead to dry-looking skin. Research shows that skincare products formulated with coconut oil may help to improve the look of dry, rough skin.