Coconut oil has become something of a health and beauty phenomenon. From brightening teeth to making hair glossy, the multiple benefits have made it one of the most talked about natural products of recent years.
However, because it's also a source of saturated fat, it's wise to choose your coconut oil carefully.
"Not all coconut oils are the same," warns Susan Curtis, Natural Health Director at Neal's Yard Remedies. "You should always buy the best quality you can afford. Avoid the odourless, flavourless, "pure" refined types and opt instead for the organic, cold-pressed, virgin oil."
Coconut oil is a brilliant moisturiser. Why should you use it over your regular branded product? Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder explained the benefits to Huffington Post Style.
"Commercial brands of moisturisers contain petroleum-based ingredients that can suffocate the skin," Snyder said. "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." If the thought of putting an oil-based product all over your face doesn't appeal, try applying to just the eye area or lips.
2. It's a great conditioner for hair
If you're fed up with your hair looking dried-out and lacklustre, try using coconut oil as a mask or leave-in conditioner. The antioxidants and vitamin E found in coconut make it brilliant at strengthening damaged locks. It's kind on the scalp, it will improve volume and shine and it can also tame frizz. Best of all, the tropical scent smells so good, you'll feel like you're on holiday.
Want to use it as a mask? Curtis recommends the following:
"Apply a couple of teaspoons to your hair. Comb it through and wrap in a towel or turban, or just a shower cap. Leave for an hour or two, at least – or if you are feeling very ambitious leave overnight. Follow with a shampoo as usual with a gentle, good quality organic product."
3. It's a 'healthy' type of fat
"Coconut oil is a source of saturated fat, but recent research has indicated that not all saturated fats are the same and not all increase the risk of heart disease," says Curtis. "Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), especially lauric acid. Studies show that the lauric acid in virgin coconut oil can improve cholesterol levels by decreasing low-density cholesterol and increasing high-density cholesterol in serum and tissues. MCFAs are more easily digested than some other types of fats, making them helpful for those suffering from digestive diseases."
4. It improves oral health
Coconut oil is one of the most popular products used in 'oil pulling,' an Ayurvedic practice which involves swirling oil round your mouth then spitting it out. What's the point? This detoxifying process is said to reduce bacteria and whiten teeth. Some regular 'oil pulling' users claim it helps with acne, allergies and migraines.
5. It boosts the immune system and increases metabolism
Lauric acid, the healthy fat in coconut oil, has antibacterial properties. As well as making it great at fighting viruses, research has proven the medium-length fatty acids also help to speed up metabolism (the liver metabolises them faster as they're used for energy and aren't stored as fat in the body.)