10 Amazing Things You Can Do With Coconut Oil—Plus: What Do You Use it For?

Friends! If you’ve read the book or hung out here for a while you know we’re 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 pots.

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?

Comments
92 Responses to “10 Amazing Things You Can Do With Coconut Oil—Plus: What Do You Use it For?”
  1. Rose says:

    I’m so surprised you didn’t mention one of its best of all uses, (IMO), as a facial cleanser!
    I first heard about it via Jessa Blades NY green make up artist: http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/livia-firth/110131-livia-firth-eco-friendly-green-red-carpet-make-up-skincare-and-cosmetics.aspx.
    RMS beauty sells it for that purpose, or, of course, you can buy it (Organic, unrefined) at the grocery store. It is the best cleanser, leaves your skin soft, moisturized, and I don’t find it to be comedogenic at all. (Maybe if you left it on your skin as a moisturizer it would be more apt to clog your pores?) I just massage a small amount onto damp skin, then rinse with water, and then rub off gently with a clean dry washcloth. It’s really the best thing I ever used for my face, hands down.

  2. Lauren says:

    Does anyone who has acne sensitivity to coconut oil have recommendations for cleansers that do not contain coconut? I am having such a hard time finding one!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    @Laura, I can’t remember if this has coconut or not, but check out Acure Organics cleansers–and of course, Bubble & Bee.

  4. Rosemaria says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments on Coconut oil. I love it, and use it as a facial cleanser, for shaving, as a deodorant, and as a body moisturizer. One concern: has anyone found that they have developed milia (very tiny pearly white cysts) near their eyes, chin, nose, etc? I have developed a few, and am wondering if coconut oil might be the cause.

  5. Rachel says:

    I use it as a leg moisturizer after shaving. I started using it because my favorite product ever LaLicious body oil is made mostly from coconut oil and it was the only thing that worked. I used their body butter and oil but then I was hit by the recession and had to come up with something that didn’t cost $50/month or two. I do want to give LaLicious a plug, *if* you can afford it, it’s a great product which is totally natural. They carry it at Planet Blue in Malibu.

    Now that I found this blog, I am going to try it for shaving and see what happens.

    I’m not sure about using it as a facial cleanser, I realize some soaps come from coconuts but it looks awfully thick. I have (shockingly) been using the oil cleansing method (olive oil and castor oil) successfully since September and my skin keeps looking better and better but coconut oil really does look thick.

    @Rosemaria re: milia, I’ve always had that around corners of my mouth. I don’t think using oil on your skin causes it? Does anyone know how to get rid of it?

  6. Janice says:

    RE: @
    Rosemaria says:
    May 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm
    I enjoyed reading the comments on Coconut oil. I love it, and use it as a facial cleanser, for shaving, as a deodorant, and as a body moisturizer. One concern: has anyone found that they have developed milia (very tiny pearly white cysts) near their eyes, chin, nose, etc? I have developed a few, and am wondering if coconut oil might be the cause.

    I used coconut oil for mascara remover and cleansing for over a year. I did get several milia around my eyes in the delicate tissue. I’m still a huge fan of coconut oil, but have switched to grapeseed oil for makeup removal purposes.

  7. Meg says:

    If you like oils I can’t recommend Argan oil enough. I’ve used coconut oil but unfortunately it clogs my pores and gives me pimples. Argan oil is the only oil I’ve been able to use on my face which doesn’t break me out at all. I haven’t tried it as a full face cleanser, but I do use it to take off eye makeup so I guess it would work on an entire face. It also noticeably diminishes lines (especially when I use it like a mask, ie put loads on for an hour or so and then rinse it off).
    It’s also THE best thing I’ve ever used on my long hair, and I’ve used a lot of expensive products. (Argan oil is the active ingredient in Moroccan oil haircare, but it’s much more effective in the pure form.)
    Only downside is that it’s more expensive than coconut oil and doesn’t smell as nice.

  8. Lauren says:

    @ Elizabeth, thanks for the tip about Acure organics! Loves it!!!!!!

    Also, since coconut oil has caused many a breakout on my face, I now use Argan or Jojoba.. both awesome! I like the Argan just a bit more I think, but Jojoba is definitely cheaper. Either way, amazing treats for skin, hair, cuticles.. I could go on.. LOL!

  9. kelu says:

    I just wanted to quickly report back and thank Rebecca for encouraging me to try coconut oil on flaky scalp.

    For a couple of weeks now i put coconut oil on my scalp the night before washing my hair in the morning (with organic Cornflower Shampoo from Lavera (not sure if a recommendable one, there is just not much choice around where i live), then rinsing with ACV) and already the results are AWESOME.

    The flakes are pretty much gone, my hair feels so good, soft and shiny. And it smells great, too. I love it. My scalp still feels a bit itchy sometimes, but much less. I will just keep going for now.

    I also started using coconut oil on a part of my body that feels very itchy and kind of psoriasis like, it provides great relief. And i started using it as a night cream and am finding it really pleasant. Also works great on dry hands. oh, i really adore the smell. So, this is one great treat really!

  10. Kelly says:

    Hi. I am a licensed medical aesthetician (which basically means I am licensed to work on skin and also have training in the medical care of skin for tougher problems).

    @Rachel and @Rosemaria- coconut oil is a thicker oil and some skins will develop milia (those white bumps) because the molecule is too large and fatty to completely penetrate the skin so it becomes \trapped\ in the skin and milia forms. This may be different for different brands, however. Milia is a pain to deal with and I cant use coconut oil around my eyes and never recommend that people do. That area is too sensitive and cannot absorb larger particles. I have better luck with a tiny, tiny amount of castor oil around the eye area.

    To deal with milia, unfortunately is a pain in the rear. You can exfoliate the area daily and over time the bumps will come to the surface and go away on their own. The fast method is what an aesthetician will do to your milia in an office visit. You have to be very careful. On clean, dry skin, ice the area until numb. Stretch the skin with pointer finger and thumb of one hand and with your dominate hand, use a sterilized sewing needle and poke the milia. You can gently squeeze it out from there. I usually put the hole at the bottom end of the milia- being careful to stay within the skin and also poking the milia. Put the needle down- I then take a blackhead remover with a loop on one end and a bent loop on the other end- available at drugstores- and gently start right before the top of the milia while holding the skin tight and run the tool down the milia pressing firmly but not enough to damage the skin. The milia will pop out the bottom easily. If this does not work, repoke and start over. After the milia is gone, I wash my skin well and apply aloe over the area.

  11. clarissa says:

    Coconut Oil is great for healing cold sores/fever blisters! Also, great for soothing sunburned skin.

  12. Jen says:

    i love coconut oil. swear by it, actually. i started using it while i lived in India – started out using it like an eye cream, quickly moved to a full facial moisturizer, then full-body moisturizer. and now i use it as a conditioner :) HOWEVER, i have found that the smell doesn’t leave, and it seems as if it stays in your skin, sit in your hair and begins to be a bit rank. any suggestions?

  13. JOY! says:

    All of this AND have y’all discovered Oil Pulling?!
    O.M.G! Swish coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes before breakfast, spit it out – not down the sink, it’ll clog, and detox from these diseases and more!!!
    http://www.oilpulling.com/diseasescured.htm

  14. The only oil I cook with is coconut oil and it makes everything tastes delicious. We also eat it by the spoonful and use it for a moisturizer. I actually add my natural essential oils to it. Wonderful!

  15. Kerri Renee says:

    As an add-on to the cooking recommendations-

    We use it for making the most delicious popcorn ever, and it is waaay better for you than butter and gives the popcorn a great taste. We just sprinkle on a tiny bit of salt. ;)

  16. Neha says:

    Hey, so how long did it take for your breakout from coconut oil to go away…because I am dealing with it right now :( it’s been a month after i stopped it, but i used it as a nightly moisturizer for a little over a month- so i am way worse off than you. I started getting these little whiteheads on random parts of my face :(

  17. Pen says:

    All I use anymore is coconut oil.I tried using veg oil once to fry some chicken tenders and it was just not the same. I’ve grown so used to using coconut oil and enjoy it too much.

  18. Bonjie says:

    I love using coconut oil as a moisturizer for my legs, arms, feet & face too. I have used it successfully for help with Psoriasis issues, cuts, burns, and athlete’s foot, etc. When my hair is looking dry & frizzy I rub some on my palms and lightly apply to my hair being careful not to apply too much or it will look oily. I’m using it also as an antibacterial mouth rinse. I use a half tsp in my mouth, coating my teeth and swishing it around, holding it for 20 min – 1/2 hour and it whitens my teeth! It is also supposed to help with gum disease and loose teeth but I’ve only done this for 2 weeks now, so I’m not sure yet if this works. I read about this online & its called “oil pulling cleansing” for teeth.

    Trader Joes has started selling a wonderful fragrant extra virgin coconut oil for 5.99 – 16 oz jar

    Also, the photo above looks inaccurate because coconut oil is pure white when solid and clear like water when melted, not yellow like butter!

  19. Karla says:

    Which brand(s) of coconut oil do you use? I have Louana and there is no smell, no taste. I’ve been using as a body lotion. I made a fried egg, over easy, this morning with the oil and there was no smell, no taste. The ingredients listed on the container is “coconut oil” period. Nothing else. I wouldn’t mind a bit of a “beach coconut” smell, but there is absolutely no odor or taste. Not even a cooking oil taste. I even drizzled it on my toast!

  20. maryellen says:

    I’m so confused when everybody keeps mentioning the smell. Organic or virgin organic coconut oil has a very subtle hardly noticeable smell that seems to fade once it’s been on my skin for a little while. If the smell bothers you, it can be mixed with a couple drops of essential oil. Just do your research first because essential oils should never be used without verifying that the particular oil you want to use is safe with your own body needs.

    It’s been great on my face, the only oil I can put on my face without bad effects or breakouts. It is important to be careful in the sun afterwards, especially if you’re Caucasian or light skinned…it’s NOT sunscreen and will actually attract the sun like any oil. I cannot believe how soft my skin is after I use it! I’m sensitive to most/all lotions and coconut oil has been amazing. I do think it works better if it’s warmed (carefully) to the point where it is a liquid rather than a solid.

    I have a lot of skin problems and it seems to be great. Unfortunately, I’ve been too lazy to try it often enough to find out if it actually improves my skin over time. I’d love to post results after I’ve used it consistently every couple of days or so. A little really does go a long way. Another thing I’d like to try is mixing it with some sugar or salt and using it as a scrub. I bet it would really soak into the skin then.

    I also use it on toast which is just as juicy as butter without the bad fats. I was very skeptical but it was delicious with a slight nutty flavor. It was also surprisingly energizing, so much so that I won’t eat it right before bed.

  21. willy3x says:

    I’ve been applying Trader Joe’s organic virgin coconut oil all over my body daily for 2 weeks in an attempt to reduce a persistent rash I’ve had for over 6 months. The coconut oil feels great but the rash is unaffected, likewise the continual itch. The oil turns my face red for a few minutes and my back burns a bit for a little while but otherwise it feels and smells good. I’ve tried several oher ineffective lotions, but coconut oil is the least ineffective yet.

  22. willy3x says:

    I’ve been applying Trader Joe’s organic virgin coconut oil all over my body daily for 2 weeks in an attempt to reduce a persistent rash I’ve had for over 6 months. The coconut oil feels great but the rash is unaffected, likewise the continual itch.THE K The oil turns my face red for a few minutes and my back burns a bit for a little while but otherwise it feels and smells good. I’ve tried several other ineffective lotions, but coconut oil is the least ineffective yet.

  23. willy3x says:

    I’ve been applying Trader Joe’s organic virgin coconut oil all over my body daily for 2 weeks in an attempt to reduce a persistent rash I’ve had for over 6 months. The coconut oil feels great but the rash is unaffected, likewise the continual itch.The oil turns my face red for a few minutes and my back burns a bit for a little while but otherwise it feels and smells good. I’ve tried several other ineffective lotions, but coconut oil is the least ineffective yet.

  24. mangomadness says:

    I coconut oil it as pre-shampoo hair mask and an ingredient in my DIY Body Butter (shea butter/coconut oil mix).

    I’d never use coconut oil on my face–It’s highly comedogenic.

  25. Kat says:

    I use Trader Joe’s organic virgin coconut oil as a shave lotion and as an all over body moisturizer, both yielding fantastic results. Apply it sparingly if you have to dress right away, but if you can hang around in a robe for 10-15 minutes, don’t be shy with it… it absorbs into the skin nicely, leaves it feeling soft and silky. Wash your hands with a little soap afterwards otherwise your palms and fingertips are oily. I like to shower at night and apply it liberally to damp skin. The scent is pleasant and subtle when applying, but it does not linger. I use it occasionally as a facial moisturizer before bed- applied very lightly -whenever my skin feels dry. It’s never caused a breakout for me, but then, my skin is a bit dry. I keep a small plastic bottle of it in my purse and use it on my lips all the time, it gives a nice glossy look. As a hand moisturizer, I squirt a drop on top of each hand, curl my fingers into a fist and massage it in using the tops of my hand and my knuckles.. sounds weird, but it keeps it off your palms. If you carry it in your purse be sure its in a tightly sealed bottle- if it leaks out, you’ll have a real mess. If it drips on clothing, best to spot clean it right away- i used a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid and it removed it completely. Coconut oil works great for slow roasting veggies. I have yet to try it in baking a cake or brownies, but I’m looking forward to that! All in all, I love the stuff and highly recommend it!

  26. Patty says:

    All of the above sound great. I just want to share a great snack I’ve made with it too…
    Using the Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, I heat until just melted, then add cocoa or carob powder and a little bit of stevia or xylitol, all to taste, and pour onto a wax paper or parchment lined plate or cookie sheet (depending on how much you are making) and put it in the refridgerator or freezer. Let harden fully, then drop the paper/parchment on the counter to break into “bark”. Enjoy and keep any leftovers in the fridge. I have also added shredded coconut and almonds for a great “Almond Joy” type candy. Yummm!

  27. Olinda says:

    Lauren,
    I use grass fed LARD. Works wonders for my oily, dry, and normal skin. It’s weird, but natural. Oil picks up oil. Put about a teaspoon on your hands and melt it by rubbing them together. Be sure to tie back your hair. Gently rub the lard on your face and neck massaging it in deeply. Have a hot wet wash cloth ready and squeeze it out. Lay it on top of your skin until just warm. Do this twice. Then gently rub your face with the washcloth, re-wet and squeeze out the washcloth in hot water. Continue until the lard is off your face, you do not have to rub hard. I do it about 2 times is all I need. Pat dry. This exfoliates your skin and surprisingly leaves it soft. I make my own eye cream and lightly apply it to my eyes. If you want to put moisturizer on your face you can,, but I don’t need to anymore. My facial skin has become better since I hav been using this method. My adult acne is almost gone. Believe me, I thought this was B.S. at first but I thought…why not? So glad I did. Hope it works for all of you too.

  28. natalie says:

    the reason i started buying coconut oil in the first place is because it is a great diaper rash cream. it is also safe to use to with cloth diapers because it has such a low melting point. it was only after i’d been using it on my son for a year that i read an article about it being great for your hair, so i 100% agree with you on that. my hair was in bad shape before, it has really helped

  29. Rob says:

    I use coconut oil for all my cooking and frying. Mix 1 tablespoomn into your favourite herbal tea 20 minutes before a meal. Great for helping with weight loss.

  30. Kathleen says:

    I’m so glad I pulled info about coconut oil up. I had some expired coconut oil that I bought for a recipe so I thought I’d google uses. I’ve been using it as an eye make up remover, and light moisturizer at night. I’m saving a ton of money. Works great. Skin soft, and more even tone. I’m prone to acne too! I guess all oils are not the same :)

  31. Hira says:

    Can we use pure coconut oil on face bcz i am not getting organic coconut oil…

  32. riess says:

    I use Dermalogica face care products and my Esthetician recommended organic cold pressed coconut oil as a moisturizer instead of their very expensive product. I love how smooth, soft and supple my deco, throat and face have become. I do use straight avocado twice a week. I am 54 and have minimal wrinkles but the coco has worked miracles on my sun mistreated chest!! Hey we gotta try cheap and natural theses days! Be beautiful, love Georgia Peach

  33. There are a lot of comments about coconut oil bringing out acne and blemishes, which it does, but generally as part of the cleansing process. Something that works really well for people with sensitive skin is making coconut milk powder into a thick paste and applying the paste to the skin. You can notice a visible difference to the skin almost immediately. I believe it works in a slightly different way to raw coconut oil because it still retains carbohydrate and protein.

    You need a pure coconut milk powder without the additives though. In New Zealand you can get it through Natural Abundance http://www.naturalabundance.co.nz/Coconut_and_palm_products/coconut-milk-powder

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