Before I start I should let you know that I absolutely love coconut oil! I use it to cook with and as a sun lotion on holiday to protect my skin and to get a darker, more even tan.
Coconut oil, with its high lauric acid content, is being promoted as a tool to fight off serious infections such as HIV(1), as well as to improve thyroid function, fight diabetes and to improve digestive problems such as Irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s Disease.
But, what might be of more immediate interest to many of you is that by eating and/ or applying coconut oil you could greatly improve your complexion and the quality of your skin!
Coconut Oil protects you from U.V. damage and softens wrinkles!
You often see women who have spent many years sunbathing left with brown patches, freckle like spots and an uneven skin tone – these are all signs of free radical damage.
What many people don’t realise though is that the route cause of these annoying blemishes is not the sun but the consumption of too many high omega 6 vegetable oils such as rapeseed, soybean and corn oil.
Aside from recking your skin, these highly unstable and inflammatory oils are a primary dietary factor behind many modern diseases such as liver cirrhosis, heart disease, elevated cholesterol and diabetes.
When too many high omega 6 oils are eaten regularly these fatty acids become dominant in the skin where they cause free radical damage – this damage is what leads to the signs of premature aging such as fine lines and age spots forming.
UV rays accelerate the process, but without the polyunsaturated fats this damage would not occur. Aside from premature aging, these dangerous fats are being more and more often implicated by researchers as being a primary cause of skin cancer.
Coconut oil, composed mainly of medium chain triglycerides, is very stable and not easily oxidised so it will not cause the free radical damage that refined vegetable oils do. If you largely cut these oils out of your diet and replace them with coconut oil, and other natural fats such as butter, these stable fatty acids will become dominant in your skin and you will not prematurely age like others around you.
In fact, one coconut oil benefit is that it can partially protect against the damage caused by commercial vegetable oils indicating that it can function as an antioxidant. Ray Peat writes about coconut oil’s antioxidant function:
‘To interrupt chain-reactions of oxidation is one of the functions of antioxidants, and it is possible that a sufficient quantity of coconut oil in the body has this function. It is well established that dietary coconut oil reduces our need for vitamin E, but I think its antioxidant role is more general than that, and that it has both direct and indirect antioxidant activities.’(2)
According to Bruce Fife, coconut oil benefits your skin when used as a moisturiser. By massaging coconut oil into your skin you can improve the connective tissue of the skin, this will prevent wrinkles from forming and will help to soften wrinkles that are already present.
So coconut oil benefits your skin by neutralising aging free radicals and by strengthening the connective matrix of the skin – this is a potent combination in protecting against and erasing wrinkles.
Coconut oil for a fantastic suntan!
If you spend time in the sun and want to maximise your suntan then you need to try coconut oil! I find that it noticeably increases how quickly and evenly I tan, offers protection against burning and makes your tan last much longer.
If you apply coconut oil frequently when sunbathing you will find that, not only will you tan more darkly, but you will peel much less. Peeling mainly occurs because the sun causes the skin to lose too much moisture. By applying coconut oil you can effectively stop this moisture loss – it will even protect your skin from getting dry after frequent swimming in chlorinated pools and in the sea.
As I mentioned earlier, coconut oil benefits the skin because it protects against UV damage and preserves vitamin e. Vitamin e is one of the primary skin antioxidants and is temporarily used up when you spend long periods in the sun. It is during this time that you are most likely to burn.
Anything you can do to preserve vitamin e, including supplementing with it, is a good idea if you want to minimise sun burn and sun damage. Coconut oil has a vitamin e sparing effect so it is a good idea to eat and apply coconut oil if you are planning on spending time in the sun. It is also very important to go out of your way to avoid deep fried foods as these use up vitamin e.
Other supplements you can take to improve your tan are l-tyrosine, copper, vitamin d and a high quality fish oil. It is also a good idea to take supplementary antioxidants, especially vitamin c, vitamin e and beta carotene, when spending long periods in the sun.
Coconut oil improves the skin’s natural acid mantle!
The skin has a natural protective barrier made up of sebum, sweat, dead skin cells etc. that protects us from external invaders such as mites, viruses, bacteria etc. This barrier also functions as an antioxidant, protects skin from water loss and maintains the correct hardness of protein (keratin) in the skin(3).
Many ‘mild’ soaps and commercial products actually damage this barrier by stripping away too much sebum and by raising the skin’s ph from its natural 5 up to as high as ph 12 (highly alkaline)! These products leave the skin open to infection, unable to retain moisture and more prone to developing conditions such as dermatitis and rosacea.
When applied, coconut oil benefits the skin by reinforcing this protective barrier – this is probably a major reason why people often find applying coconut oil benefits their skin problems greatly.
Coconut oil is a great natural exfoliant!
The problem with most over the counter exfoliants, and even natural exfoliants such as apple cider vinegar, is that they can be too drying and damaging to the skin.
The basic idea behind physical and chemical exfoliation techniques such as micro-dermabrasion and chemical peels is that if you damage the skin in a controlled manner the skin renewal process will be activated and the skin will grow back stronger and healthier.
This is great in theory but, for many people, frequent exfoliation only leads to their skin becoming dry and irritated, and in the long run to them suffering premature skin aging.
For people that believe the cosmetic industry propaganda telling us to use strong exfoliants every day, it may be worth reading about Nicky Taylor, 42, who decided to switch from using a stack of products each day to not washing with or using any products for six weeks:
Nicky writes, “I was amazed to find that the point when my skin looked its best was after a month of not using anything at all. As a result, I’ve become far more moderate in what products I use and what I am prepared to spend money on.’(The Soapless Experiment)(4)
…The experiment hasn’t convinced me not to wash anymore but it is intersting!
Coconut oil benefits your skin because it gently exfoliates but will never cause damage.
The MCTs in coconut oil, after reacting with the bacteria naturally present on your skin, gently dissolve away the top layer of dead skin, leaving behind a fresher, more even complexion.
While the jury is still out on the dangers of long term use of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, coconut is a tried and tested skin care product that will only improve your skin quality in the long term.
Coconut oil benefits your thyroid to give you a glowing complexion!
A poor complexion is often an outward symptom of suboptimal thyroid function. A coconut oil benefit is that it has been shown to improve the conversion of t3 to t4 in the thyroid, revving up your metabolism and increasing your basal body temperature.
Dr. Stephen E. Langer describes how low thyroid function can cause skin problems:
‘With reduced blood supply, the skin cells are oxygen and fuel deprived. Further, waste products of the skin cells are not entirely removed – a sort of skin constipation.
Such an unhealthy skin cannot resist invading enemy bacteria that multiply and cause infection. Result? Pimples and boils erupt and refuse to leave. Bacteria such as staphylococci establish blackheads in the sebaceous glands and at the bottom of the hair follicles. Then come unsightly skin blemishes and merciless itching’ .
While this description is a bit extreme, you get the idea of how a slow metabolism can lead to tired complexion.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people find coconut oil benefits them, after having been taken for a couple of months, by making them feel warmer as well as by improving their complexion – these are both signs that their thyroid function has improved.
Coconut oil benefits problem skin:
Acne and Rosacea:
Surprisingly, coconut oil benefits many people with acne prone skin when used regularly as a moisturiser. Generally people massage coconut oil into the skin at night and wash the skin with a mild cleanser in the morning so that the skin does not appear at all greasy in the day.
Contrary to popular belief, if you over wash your skin you strip away the protective acid mantle on the skin leaving it more prone to infection. The skin then produces more sebum to replenish the sebum you have washed away – this irritates the pores and leads to more acne.
Coconut oil benefits the skin by reinforcing the natural acid mantle that is so important in protecting the skin from infections. Many find that by adding healthy oils such as coconut oil to their skin the sebaceous glands down regulate sebum production and their skin becomes less oily and more balanced.
Some people with small pores, however, might not be able to enjoy this coconut oil benefit as it might be too heavy for their skin. You need to try it and see if it works for you. It is worth keeping going for a week even if a few small pimples appear as this is a common detox reaction that some people experience before coconut oil benefits your skin quality.
Coconut oil benefits many with acne rosacea, primarily known for its symptom of facial flushing. It is recommended by naturopaths to use antibiotics or other remedies to stop any pimples first, and then to massage coconut oil into the skin every night for five to ten minutes – the redness, dryness and itching of the skin should vanish after a couple of weeks.(6)
Psoriasis, Eczema, and Dermatitis:
Many people swear by coconut oil for soothing and calming skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. The coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and provides immediate relief from itching and soreness. By maintaining a proper ph and lipid barrier to the skin coconut oil also protects against further infection and irritation allowing the skin to properly heal.
A lot of sufferers also find relief from these problems by taking a high quality omega 3 and/or lecithin supplement. A marine lecithin supplement called Psoriacalm, supplying both DHA and lecithin, has been shown to be very effective at curing psoriasis, and krill oil would probably be equally effective. (See krill oil benefits)
Coconut oil benefits people with dry skin greatly and provides lasting relief from this irritating problem that commercial moisturisers often fail to improve:
Dr. Loren Pickart of Skin Biology writes:
‘Formulations and moisturizers that are designed to push water into the skin, wet the outer skin proteins, and “puff up” the skin to make wrinkles and creases less obvious. The problem is that as such products loosen and wet the skin, they damage the skin barrier and permit easier access by bacteria, viruses, and allergens. The chronic wetness also inhibits the signals that tell the skin to send more keratinocytes to the surface.'(7)
Healing oils like coconut, jajoba, sesame and emu oil all actually improve the skin quality and its ability to retain moisture, healing the skin rather than providing a temporary solution.
According to Bruce Fife, ‘The real benefit of coconut oil will come with repeated use over time. While other lotions temporarily soften dry skin, they won’t heal it. Coconut oil will gradually soften the skin, removing dead layers, and encourage the growth of new healthier tissue.’(8)
Coconut oil is great for all kinds of minor scarring like pock marks, acne scars etc. You just rub it into the skin every night (and more often if you want to) and in a few weeks your skin texture should be much improved.
I don’ t think that coconut oil would work on deeper scars but it might be worth a try. if you opt for surgical scar removal procedures or laser resurfacing etc. then coconut oil would be an ideal moisturiser to speed healing time and to protect the skin while it’s in a vulnerable state.
I hope eating and applying coconut oil can really help to improve your complexion. It’s extremely cheap compared with over the counter products, will definitely not damage your skin in the long term, and has helped many people who experience skin difficulties.
If you find it too heavy for the face, try it on your body or hands. If the oil doesn’t suite your skin full stop, you can still gain many benefits through regularly using coconut oil in your cooking or through taking it as a dietary supplement.
If coconut oil doesn’t work for you don’t give up! There are many other great moisturising oils such as emu oil, jojoba oil or sesame oil to try that might better suite your skin.
Ed Clements is a fitness and health writer who offers advice to men and women explaining how to optimise hormone balance through diet, training, lifestyle improvement and through intelligent supplementation.
References and Footnotes
(1)Immune Restoration Handbook, Mark Konlee Page 88
(5)SOLVED, The Riddle Of Illness, Dr. Steven Langer, Page 112
(8)The Coconut Oil Miracle, Bruce Fife, Page 110
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