But coconut oil has so many other benefits that even if you’re enjoying it in moderation, a jar may not last long! Take a look at these ways to use coconut oil from head to toe.
As a Natural Treatment to Soothe Eczema
If you’re hoping to help tame an eczema flare-up, you may want to give coconut oil a try. Thanks to itchy skin, scratching can potentially introduce staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, which requires antibiotics). On the other hand, “Research showed that applying [coconut oil] daily on your skin for a month led to a 95 percent reduction in staph on the skin,” she says. Coconut oil is rife with lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antifungal activity that fights harmful bacteria. As a moisturizer, it may also help repair the skin’s barrier, which is your body’s first line of defense against infection.
As a Treatment for Acne
Along with the many other benefits of coconut oil’s antifungal and antimicrobial properties, early research indicates it may be “a reasonable option for patients with mild to moderate dermal infections, especially acne vulgaris caused by P. acnes.” While coconut oil, like any other, is comedogenic, which means it can clog pores, research has also found it has anti-inflammatory effects, may protect the skin from UV radiation, and may enhance the skin’s natural function as a barrier against environmental harms. So if you have sensitive skin or are prone to acne, consult a board-certified dermatologist before trying it.
As a Moisturizer
Where coconut oil shines is when it’s applied to your skin. Coconut oil can be a great natural hydrator that contains no added fragrance or other ingredients that can cause irritation. The compounds in coconut oil are safe and highly effective for restoring moisture to skin,
Research has found that applying coconut oil to skin twice a day for two weeks significantly improved skin hydration and was as safe as other oils. You can use coconut oil to relieve irritation and inflammation, and to decrease the risk for bacterial infections, Low Dog adds. When you get out of the shower, heat up some in your hands and rub it into your legs, the backs of your arms, or other rough, dry spots.
For Better Oral Health
A technique called oil pulling (involving swishing oil around in your mouth) is often done with olive oil, something that has benefited patients with gum problems or plaque overgrowth. But you may want to try it with coconut oil, too.
There’s some reason to believe that coconut oil would probably be beneficial to the oral microbiome and oral health in general. The benefits may be due to coconut oil’s lauric acid, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent the formation of dental cavities, according to a review published in 2017 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. The review found that while oil pulling is no replacement for regular dental care, it does appear to improve oral hygiene when done correctly and regularly.
To Prevent Athlete's Foot
The same antifungal components of coconut oil — specifically lauric and caprylic acid — may help prevent other fungal infections, including athlete's foot. Preliminary research has found encouraging antifungal activity in these compounds, but further research is needed to determine how safe and effective they may be in humans. Still, if you hit the gym a lot and are worried about the risk of athlete’s foot.
We recommend rubbing coconut oil into your feet before bed. (Cover up with socks because it can be greasy.) As a bonus, slathering your feet with coconut oil will help moisturize them, and heels tend to be prone to dry, cracked skin. Remember that the best ways to fight gym fungal infections is to wear shoes or slippers when showering and to thoroughly dry the skin before putting on your socks and shoes.
As a Hair Treatment
When applied before or after washing, coconut oil may help reduce the risk of damage from combing your hair, notes research. In a study of three oils, it was the only one found to reduce the protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair when used before and after washing hair. One possible explanation: The lauric acid in coconut oil can easily penetrate hair proteins to aid in protecting your locks. Just use the oil sparingly — otherwise you risk looking greasy (even though your mane will be well moisturized).
There’s also more recent research that coconut oil may help combat dandruff. A study published in 2021 in Scientific Reports found that coconut oil may help improve the health of the scalp microbiome (possibly because of its antifungal, antimicrobial properties). After treatment with coconut oil, the scalp of women prone to dandruff had an increase in microbes that were negatively correlated to dandruff. More research is needed, but the occasional coconut oil hair mask probably won’t hurt.