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Ten Amazing Things You Can Do With Coconut Oil

If you've read No More Dirty Looks, or our blog, you know my co-author Amanda and I are fond of oils, and coconut oil in particular because it’s...

If you've read No More Dirty Looks, or our blog, you know my co-author Alexandra and I are fond of oils, and coconut oil in particular because it’s an amazing and cost-saving multitasker that has lots of qualities to recommend it.

It’s a rich moisturizer, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, it’s antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial, has a decent amount of antioxidants, and it smells like baked goods. What’s not to love? Well, some stuff.

You can get it at any good health food store in the cooking oil section, just be sure to spend the extra buck or two to get raw, organic, virgin coconut oil. Now, without further ado: Here are the 10 specific things I’ve tried it for, with honest assessments of how that worked for me:

1. For cooking at high heat. Coconut oil has earned itself a bone fide health halo, which you can read about here. Because some oils are not safe at high temperatures, I’ve swapped in coconut for a lot of my roasting, and some frying. I have tried and liked it in the oven for potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussell’s sprouts, carrots, asparagus, broccoli rabe, red onions, and other veggies, too. I’m not fond of how it tastes with eggs or mild-tasting white fish—but it’s great with salmon.

2. As a cheekbone highlighter. Sweep a little on top of makeup (sounds weird, go with it) and leave it alone. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why Rosemarie Swift, of RMS Beauty, uses it in her amazing Living Luminizer, “Un” Cover Up, and Lip-2-Cheek posts.

3. To shave my legs. So good! You get a real close shave and don’t have to worry about moisturizing after.

4. As a deep-conditioning hair treatment for my totally wrecked ends. There’s a reason lots of conditioners use coconut oil: According to this study, coconut oil is better able to penetrate the hair than is mineral oil (shocking!) and sunflower oil—which is good news because I’ve been dealing with a little heat damage over here. Because I don’t want to cut off the damage—I’m liking my hair long right now—I’ve been trying to get the ends looking OK as I grow it out. Knowing full well there is no way to physically repair fried ends (I even confirmed this with a cosmetic scientist named Colin, who isn’t a clean guy, but he’s nice and he’s smart) I’ve been loving this method: once a week, I sleep with a handful of coconut oil in my hair. I rub it in, comb it, pile it in a loose bun on the top of my head, and call it a night. In the morning I shampoo and it seems to make a big difference in the look and feel of my ends.

5. To take off my eye makeup. Put a little on a cotton ball or a piece of toilet paper and sweep it over your eyes gently. It even works on waterproof mascara.

6. As a personal lubricant. Saucy! Let’s be brief: It totally works by yourself or with a buddy, but it’s not compatible with condoms (oil + latex = babies).

7. As a face moisturizer. I do not like this. I’ve read about acne-prone women who have used it to great effect because it’s naturally antibacterial, calming, and moisturizing, but I won’t put coconut oil—or any product that contains it—anywhere near the part of my face that breaks out (hi, chin). I tried the oil-cleansing method when we were writing the book and I got the absolute worst cystic acne ever which, yeah, yeah, might not have been the oil’s fault, but did I want to wait another month to find out? Hells no.

8. As a body moisturizer. See above (shaving). I recently met my friend Jessica at yoga and before class started she yanked up her pant leg and told me she’d been using coconut oil on her whole body. How’d they feel? So soft. So! Soft! And the smell doesn’t linger, for the record.

9. As a day-time hair tamer. Cute on your ends but I wouldn’t put this on the top of your head, especially if you’re blonde, because it looks really, really greasy.

10. Gluten-free and vegan baking. It’s a staple. It tastes really good and, it seems to me, is the only thing that can mask the chalky taste you get with most gluten-free baking. (Mmmmm Babycakes.)

What am I missing? Or what have you tried and loved—or hated?

This is part of a series inspired by No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, by Siobhan O'Connor and her co-author Alexandra Spunt.

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