When you think about the health benefits of coconut oil, the last thing that probably comes to mind is rubbing the edible plant grease all over your skin and hair. But dermatologists, natural beauty devotees, and a growing body of scientific studies are starting to bring the plant’s potential to light.
“Coconut oil is comprised of a unique combination of natural fats, which makes it useful in treating the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. These fatty acids include linoleic acid (which is beneficial for acne-prone skin) and up to 50 percent lauric acid (which is hydrating and antimicrobial), he says.
Studies show that coconut oil—which is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts—may improve skin barrier function and repair, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, fight the signs of skin aging, and is just as safe and effective as mineral oil when applied as a moisturizer, per a 2018 review of research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
And, well, coconut oil smells like cookies. “Is there anything more luscious than coconut oil?” says Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health
We can’t really can’t think of anything—but we can think of amazing beauty uses for coconut oil that don’t require spending a fortune. In fact, all you need is one thing: Raw (and preferably organic) virgin coconut oil. Here, 23 natural, DIY beauty tricks with coconut oil for your skin and hair you’ll want to try ASAP.
Coconut oil for hair
Deep condition with a hair mask
Hair conditioners often contain coconut oil because it easily penetrates the strands and can even prevent protein loss. “I use coconut oil for hair and on my skin for deep conditioning,” says Tasneem Bhatia, MD, an integrative medicine physician and owner of CentreSpringMD in Atlanta, GA. Apply a quarter-sized dollop to your hair, comb it, and then pile it into a loose bun. You’ll want to place a soft towel over your pillow or sleep in a shower cap. In the morning, rinse with a gentle shampoo.
If you struggle with taming your mane, coconut oil can definitely help. Rub a small bit of coconut oil between the pads of your fingers and run through particularly frizzy areas to leave hair looking smooth and polished. As an alternative to straight oil, you can also use frizz-fighting serums that contain coconut oil (like this one from Shea Moisture) to nourish and strengthen hair.
Smooth a tiny amount of organic coconut oil onto the ends of your hair to add a little shine if you have dark hair. Remember that a dab will do you—any more than that and your hair might appear greasy.
Coconut oil can help lower the levels of yeast on the skin that drive inflammation, flaking, and itching associated with dandruff, says Dr. Zeichner. Try minimizing the problem with an ultra-moisturizing coconut oil treatment: Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil on the stove over a low flame. Once it liquifies, immediately remove it from the stove, so it doesn’t become too hot. Then, massage the oil into your scalp. If you have any leftover oil, you can use it to coat the rest of your hair. Let the oil sit on your scalp for 30 minutes and then wash it out with shampoo. (A shower cap will contain the mixture and prevent it from dripping on you while you wait.)
If coconut oil doesn’t seem to do the trick, go for a dandruff shampoo like Dove Dermacare Shampoo, which contains yeast-fighting pyrithione zinc, says Dr. Zeichner.
Coconut oil for face
Use as a first step face wash
Because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and moisturizing, many women swear by its use as a nighttime moisturizer for their face, too. Try the double-cleansing method: Simply rub the oil in circular motions all over your face and neck, giving yourself a gentle massage as you go. When you’re done, wash off the residue with your favorite gentle face wash.
Create a DIY face mask
What better way to pamper yourself than with a DIY face mask? Try this healing mask from the blog She Can’t Eat What?, which utilizes turmeric (known for its anti-inflammatory properties), lemon juice (to brighten with vitamin C), raw manuka honey (which can help treat acne), and melted virgin coconut oil for extra hydration. Apply to a clean face, leave on for at least 15 minutes, and relax! If you prefer to look for store-bought masks containing coconut oil for your skin, check out the ORIGINS Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask, which incorporates several plant oil extracts, including coconut oil, to hydrate skin as you sleep.
Remove eye makeup
Yes, coconut oil even works on waterproof mascara! Put a little on a cotton ball and gently sweep it over your eyes, paying attention to your under-eyes as well. The oil does a great job breaking down waxy, inky eye makeup, and leaves the delicate area hydrated, too. Once you’re done, wash your face as usual.
Dab on as eye cream
While there are plenty of hydrating eye creams on the market, coconut oil works in a pinch. If you’re dealing with dry under-eyes—whether it be from colder weather, dehydration, or simply getting older—using a moisturizing eye cream can completely rejuvenate your complexion. Simply dab on a light layer of coconut oil (use your ring finger to avoid tugging or applying too much pressure) to dry under-eyes to hydrate and protect the skin.
Make a DIY lip scrub
Tons of commercial lip scrubs include coconut oil—but you can easily make your own using coconut oil, brown sugar, and honey for a super moisturizing (and delicious) DIY version. Simply play around with the measurements of each ingredient until you find a consistency you like. Gently use as an exfoliating treatment (wash off as you cleanse or use a damp cloth to remove) before bed to wake up with softer, plumper lips come morning.
After exfoliating, moisturize your lips
Once your lips are silky smooth, dab them with a bit of coconut oil for added moisture and shine. You can add straight coconut oil (carried in a tiny container like a contacts case), create your own DIY blend, or buy an organic lip balm made with coconut oil, like the Alba Botanica Coconut Cream Hawaiian Lip Balm, which also contains jojoba, castor, apricot kernel, and sunflower seed oils, as well as aloe vera and other plant extracts.