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Coconut Oil - Skincare Myth or Magic?

Over the last decade or so, the rising fad of coconut oil has become a mainstream product with uses ranging from cooking benefits to beauty care. But do we really know all that there is about this seemingly healthful oil? Even though studies support coconut oil and weight loss, the knowledge of just how beneficial it is for our skin is a bit more debatable.

Claimed Benefits

Before we really delve into the skincare aspect of this oil, let's chat about the health benefits that are widely followed today.

We have two types of cholesterol in our bodies: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. HDL can help reduce levels of LDL and high levels of HDL may help boost cardiovascular health. Don't worry, I'm not here to give you a lesson on cholesterol, I just want to lay some groundwork to help understand this oil.

Some researchers have made the argument that medium-chain triglycerides, which are a component of coconut oil, have been known to help boost levels of good cholesterol. Consuming one tablespoon twice a day has been proof of this benefit. But this is not a one-size fits all type of deal. It's more about trial and error and understanding more before just diving in.

Coconut Oil for Weight loss

There has been a long-term belief that coconut oil is a better, "healthier", alternative to other cooking oils. While this may hold true in some capacity, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 121 calories which is more than lard and butter.

When more fat is added to our diet and we are not complimenting it with a change in caloric intake, then ultimately we are not going to see any weight loss happening. The goal would be to use a smaller amount of the oil, don't consume on a daily basis, or portion out your food slightly smaller should you choose to use this oil more often.

It may be hard to truly find the bottom line of whether or not coconut oil helps aid in weight loss - yet it can add some flavor and nutrition to food when used the right way.

Beauty Products

As trends develop, there will always be someone who takes it one step further. What I mean by this is, it is not that uncommon to take a typical item that is consumed and find some way to use it externally. Think of avocados, eggs, yogurt and even mayonnaise, all of which have been known to bring some extra goodness to our beauty routine. But what does this high saturated fatty oil do when applied to the outside of our skin?

For Blemishes

Unfortunately, there is not enough research just yet to have an overall answer to this question. BUT, coconut oil may yield components that can help reduce inflammation in the body which would result in helping reduce acne.

When you add that in with the antimicrobial properties of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil, it has been shown to kill off the strain of bacteria that is linked to acne. To get the best results, the oil should be applied directly to the infected area, not all over.

A study was done in 2019 that showed virgin coconut oil helped to suppress inflammatory markers and protect the skin by enhancing its overall barrier function. The flip side of this, the test was done in vitro and therefore more research must be done.

After the oil is absorbed into our skin and connective tissues, it can also be known to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This happens because the fatty chains will work to keep the connective tissue strong and supple.

For Moisture

This is probably the most known use for coconut oil - to moisturize the skin. If you suffer from eczema, you can really reduce drying of the skin AND even help decrease future outbreaks when using coconut oil!

During the day, our skin loses water through a process called Transepidermal water loss (or TEWL), which is when water evaporates through the skin to the external environment. Clearly something we want to try to avoid best as possible! Extra virgin coconut oil has been found to significantly reduce levels of TEWL!

When you keep your skin hydrated, you are helping to preserve the function it has as a barrier to keep out bacteria, promote the healing of scars and help maintain overall skin integrity.

For Wound Healing

This is an area where in fact, a lot of research has been done already regarding coconut oil and wound healing.

It has been found that treating wounds with virgin coconut oil has been known to speed up healing, improve antioxidant status and increase levels of collagen, the important protein that keeps our skin tight and healthy.

If you are a burn victim and are on antibiotics, combining that with topical use of coconut oil can work to speed up the healing process PLUS we already know of the antimicrobial properties, which is just an added bonus.

Who Shouldn't Use it?

Just like with most products or fads out there, it may not work the same for everyone. Those of us who struggle with oily skin may want to steer clear due to blocking our pores and causing breakouts.

Trial and error is really the only way to assess and know if this product works for you in some way. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to use a patch test to see if irritation occurs before lathering up your face with it OR just stick to consuming it with your food.

Skin experts also mention that if you are prone to congestion and pesky breakouts, coconut oil would be ideal for you. Yet if your pores clog easily and blackheads make your life a living hell, maybe stick to your normal moisturizer.

If you don't have breakout-prone skin, coconut oil is fine to use daily in your routine. Reach for this product instead of your go-to facial or body cream, it will be the perfect fit for those who don't want to spend a lot of time getting ready.

Final Thoughts

Research suggests that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties as well as moisture locking benefits. I know that I mentioned quite a few positives regarding this product when applied topically, but it is important to keep in mind that coconut oil is not meant to "cure" anything.

Be sure to reach for a purified, cold-pressed coconut oil in liquid form to achieve the most benefit from its use. Take time integrating it into a skin care routine and also be cautious when choosing to cook with it. There is such a thing of too much of a good thing and this saturated, fatty oil is one that can be overused easily.

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