Coconut oil has been used since ancient times for various skin related issues. It has been known to keep skin smooth and soft. It has been used in many regions such as Southern parts of India, Sri Lanka, etc. It is also considered to be the beauty secret of Polynesian women who despite facing harsh sunlight have beautiful skin.
Coconut oil is great for skin because of many reasons, first and foremost it is natural and free from toxic chemicals (in most cases), its small molecular structure is easy to absorb by the skin and it has natural creamy texture too. It is because of all these properties coconut oil is used for various skin ailments (dryness, rashes, wrinkles, etc.), it is used in soaps, shampoos and conditioners. It is even used as lip balm!
Free radicals – biggest enemy of healthy skin
Before understanding how coconut oil helps our skin, it is important to understand what causes skin damages at the first place.
Some key reasons are:
Free radicals: Free radical attack is one of the key reasons why our skin develops wrinkles as we get older. Free radicals attack the connective tissues (these are responsible of elasticity and smoothness of our skin) of our skin causing it to sag. Free radical activity on skin also leads to formation of aging spots or liver spots. In extreme cases this can also lead to skin cancer and other serious skin diseases.
Free radicals formation is enhanced when we smoke, it is even observed to enhance when we use oxidized vegetable oil (which is known to be part of both our food and cosmetics we use). If your body is already deficient of anti-oxidants these additional free radicals will cause greater harm. Further body will have to allocate anti-oxidants to fight them thus exposing other parts such as skin etc. prone to free radical attacks.
The best way to fight free radical attack to include anti-oxidants rich food (Vitamin A, E and C) and use cosmetics / oils which are not oxidized easily. Coconut oil is one such oil.
Benefits of coconut oil for skin
Benefits of coconut oil to skin are numerous. Some most important and popular ones are given below:
Coconut oil for youthful skin : Coconut oil has small molecular structure and thus easily absorbed by our skin. Coconut oil then does two very important things to make skin look younger – 1) it helps removal of dead skin cells 2) strengthening underlying connective tissues.
- Removal of dead cells: Do you know that our skin actually consists of layers of dead cells at the surface? These dead cells constantly keep falling and new cells take their place, that's why superficial scar marks lighten and then fade away. As we grow old body's ability to shed dead cell decreases and thus skin becomes dull and rough. Coconut oil helps in removal of these dead cell and the skin again looks young, smooth and soft.
- Coconut oil also strengthens the connective tissues and thus limits their damage leading to a healthy skin.
Coconut oil and for dry and cracked skin : Dry skin is a common problem with many people. Coconut oil has proved to be very beneficial for dry skin treatment. It is well absorbed by body. Apply it in small amounts multiple times in a day and skin will become smooth very soon. It is important that one keeps reapplying coconut oil on dry skin until the condition improves (this is what exactly we do when we apply dry skin lotions). In many cases the dryness can be severe, it can also lead to cracking. Coconut oil is found to be great healer in that situation too. Apply in liberally (unlike in normal case where you apply small amounts) before sleeping on to the affected area before sleeping. To ensure coconut oil does not spoil clothes etc. wrap a plastic around the region. Plastic will not absorb the coconut and ensures all of it goes to the skin.
Coconut oil for germ care : Our skin is a home of many microbes, some of them are very useful and others harmful. The skin is more than just a covering, skin ensures that it creates an environment which is inhospitable for most of the harmful germs waiting to enter in our body through cuts, bruises, etc. One of the most effective weapon available with our skin to fight external harmful germs is its pH. Our skin is slightly acidic (pH 5) which creates an environment in which most harmful bacteria cannot survive. So how does our body do this?
- Sebum : Sebum is the oil produced by our body to keep skin soft and smooth. It is natural way to ensure our skin does not get dry. Another very important use of sebum is that is a food to beneficial bacteria (lipophilic bacteria) present on our skin which break this triglyceride (3 fatty acids joined with a glycerol molecule, sebum is predominantly triglyceride) into free fatty acids which have powerful anti-microbial properties and destroy harmful bacteria present on our skin.
- How coconut oil helps : coconut oil is also made of medium chained triglycerides which also act as good feed for bacteria and thus producing anti-microbial activity on the skin. It is interesting to note that not all oils you put on your skin will have this affect, the oils need to be small / medium chained fatty acids else they will not be broken down by the bacteria.
Using coconut oil after taking bath : Most of us believe we are disinfecting our skin by washing our skin with soaps / shampoo. This is partial truth, when we use soap etc. we do remove harmful bacteria but also remove the protective oil layer, our skin's pH balance is also disturbed. Thus making it prone to microbial attack. It takes time to regain its original state. Applying coconut oil after bath to skin helps as it acts as feed to bacteria and helps in regenerating free fatty acids.
Dermatitis and acne : Many people have used coconut oil (pure / virgin coconut oil) for treating various skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis. Regular use of coconut oil have proved to be beneficial in controlling conditions which were otherwise not curable using conventional medicines.
Massage oil : coconut oil is a great massage oil as its easily absorbed by body. It helps in developing healthy skin and soothing of muscles.
Coconut oil as suntan and sunscreen lotion : Coconut oil has been used since ages as a very effective suntan oil. It effectively helps protecting from sunburns.
Insect bites : applying pure / virgin coconut oil on insect bites such as that of ant, mosquitoes is found to be very effective. It not only stops itching, burning sensation but ensure the swelling subsides very quickly.
Fading of Scars : As coconut oil helps in skin nourishment by removing dead skin cells and regenerating new skin cells. This helps in lightning the scars left by injuries, bruises, etc.
As one can see, the coconut oil has so many amazing benefits to skin. The biggest benefit is it is both economical and without and side effects. But make sure you use pure / virgin coconut oil while you are using it on your skin.