Monday, August 6, 2012

12 Ways to Party with Mr. Coconut Oil

Today I'd like to talk to you about a very good friend of mine: Mr. Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is moisturizing, naturally antibacterial/antiviral/antifungal, very affordable, packing lots of vitamin A, C, and E, and a buttload of antioxidants.... plus, it's delicious. Unless you are one of those people who can't stand the scent or is wildly allergic to it, I strongly recommend you arrange a meeting.

Specifically, I've been relying on the good Doctor:

....but I'm sure any nice organic virgin oil is fine. I'm actually slightly less enamored with this one now that it's almost gone and I can't fit my hand in the jar to get the last of it out. Needs a bigger opening, darnit!

1. Moisturize.....everything.
This stuff works as lotion, massage oil, cuticle and nail oil, lip "balm" (y'know, except the part where it's liquid and not a balm)... I've even heard it's great for dry noses in the winter, just grease up a finger and jam it on up there. Hope you like the smell of coconuts! As oils go, coconut is on the lighter side and absorbs easily, though it's easy to go overboard, so start with just a dab. You can also drop some in the tub and have a nice moisturizing soak (just beware of slippery tubs.) Apparently it's safe for use on pets, too (though I'd do a little more research before using it on them or giving it to them, just in case.) It could be great for cracked winter paws, provided my dogs don't decide to lick it off immediately. Already moisturized your entire body (and your pet's?) Try conditioning wood or leather with it.

2. Oil-cleansing (and make-up removal)
Have you heard of oil cleansing? That site talks about it at length (and uses a different sort of oil) but the basic premise is this: rub oil into your face, let it dissolve the gunk in your pores, wash it off. I go a step further and let it sink in overnight, which I figure means it's doubling as a night time moisturizer. Then when I shower in the morning, the skin-gunk is nice and ready to rinse away. Coconut oil is also great for removing make-up, though you will be left greasy so it's definitely more of an end-of-the-night remover, not a "oops I messed up" remover.

3. Hair Treatment
Coconut oil apparently rocks for hair. According to an article in the Journal of Cosmetic Science:

"The findings clearly indicate the strong impact that coconut oil application has to hair as compared to application of both sunflower and mineral oils. ...

Both sunflower and mineral oils do not help at all in reducing the protein loss from hair. This difference in results could arise from the composition of each of these oils. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.

Mineral oil, being a hydrocarbon, has no affinity for proteins and therefore is not able to penetrate and yield better results. In the case of sunflower oil, although it is a triglyceride of linoleic acid, because of its bulky structure due to the presence of double bonds, it does not penetrate the fiber, consequently resulting in no favorable impact on protein loss."

So that seems like a good thing. It will of course, make your hair greasy, so this is another thing to do before you wash, or possibly overnight. I always end up getting it all over my hair when I'm doing the nighttime moisturizing thing anyway.

4. Deodorant
Please allow me to direct your attention back to this tutorial. True, I will probably try pure shea butter next time, but the coconut oil has worked well and I've enjoyed having armpits that smell like delicious desserts.

5. Perfume?
Ok this one's kind of cheating, because pretty much any one of these things will leave you smelling coconutty anyway. But provided you get an oil that hasn't be refined beyond the point of smelling, it does linger. Bad if you don't like coconut-smell, good if you do (I will say that I really dislike fake coconut smell- this is a breed apart.) I quite enjoy waking up in the morning and realizing that my feet and legs still smell edible from the oil I slathered on last night. So even if you didn't use coconut oil for anything else, you could totally dab a little on for the scent.

6. Hairspray
Mostly water + blob coconut oil + blob aloe + small blob hair gel + generous pour of sea salt + spritzer bottle = really nice, nourishing hair texturizer. I use this almost every day now and it actually seems to have made my hair softer, plus it gives it that nice scruffy-beachy-look. Totally smells like a beach, too.

7. Temporary tattoo removal
Ok I realize this isn't a problem that most adults have. But I recently went to a circus-themed party as the "Temporarily Tattooed Lady" and believe me when I tell you I know a thing or two about fake tat removal.

Step 1: Slather some coconut oil on that sweet ink. Let it soak in.
Step 2: Rub it a little. If you're lucky, it'll totally dissolve at this point and come right off. Maybe 1/6th of the tats in that picture did that. If not, proceed to...
Step 3: Get in a very hot shower (or bath if bathing with little tattoo bits doesn't squick you out) and hang out there awhile til you're feeling all good and steamy. Don't wash the oil off, but don't be afraid to get it wet either. Scrub the the tattoos enthusiastically with a rough washcloth. Pretty much all of them came off this way, though some required more elbow grease than others. Afterwards, regular ole soap should help rinse away the sticky scumblobs. Be prepared to clean the tub if you're removing them in great quantity.


8. Tattoo aftercare (and healing in general)
Speaking of tattoos, I recently got a little ink test done (a tiny dot of a tattoo to see if my skin would react negatively to the ink) and used coconut oil during the healing process with success. (Don't tell my tattoo artist, who wanted me to use crap-laden Lubriderm. Ew.) The key is to put it on really, really thinly- like wipe some on, then dab gently it with a clean paper towel (never fabric- you want something borderline sterile) until it's no longer shiny. You want it to breathe. Now, obviously this was just a little dot, and I'll report back after I use it for the actual tattoo...but from my googling, it sounds like I'm definitely not the first, and I feel much better putting something natural and food-grade on my mashed-up flesh than something full of nasty chemicals. It also sounds like it's great for just about any skin-healing you need to do. I regularly put it on my constantly-irritated legs and it does seem to soothe the beasts. Folks with skin conditions like eczema have reported some success as well.

9. Lube
Family members look away! I have not actually tried this, but from what I've read, coconut oil is a fine, ah, "personal lubricant." Obviously you're not going to want to mix it up with latex (oil melts latex or something. Not sure if that includes vegetable oils or just mineral/petroleum but I don't think you want to be the one to try it, amirite?) Now, I would've thought that having something edible up in your lady business was an invitation for trouble, but apparently you can actually use it to TREAT yeast infections and other nasties. Hot damn. (Plus, it's legitimately safe to eat and doesn't taste bad. That's probably handy.)

10. Make soap
I haven't yet delved into the world of proper soapmaking (lye, scary,) but coconut oil is a super useful ingredient for folks who do! Lends lather and hardness, two fine qualities for soap to have.

11. Get rid of those upper arm bumpies
Y'know, the "chicken skin", aka Keratosis Pilaris. Turns out coconut oil helps with that! Some people recommend eating it for this purpose but I'm not sure how that's supposed to help, besides just being generally good for your health. But I stumbled across this article the other day and when I looked down at my own arms I realized, hey, mine are almost totally gone! Cool! I've had those stupid bumps forever and totally got rid of them by accident. Maybe it's the same idea as the oil-cleansing, and it dissolves away whatever skin and oil and gunk causes the bumps. Don't much care as long as it works. Woohoo!

12. Eat it, duh

Ostensible nutritional benefits of coconut oil:
- Rich in vitamins and antioxidents (ie shit that keeps you from aging and is generally great for you)
- Knocks out h.pylori and treats stomach ulcers
- Helps prevent Alzheimers
- Balances blood sugar
- Balances cholesterol
- Increased metabolism and weight loss (that one looks a bit dubious)
- Magical tropical unicorns will fly out your ass playing rainbow steel drums
- A whole bunch of other stuff you can read about here

Now, I'm sure the research is still out on some of those, notably weight loss and unicorns. But eating this stuff is probably not bad for you, in any case. On its own, it has a pretty mild, neutral taste (unexpectedly so, with such a strong sweet smell.) It apparently has the same number of calories as olive oil (even though it's white and frothy and looks like lard. Don't be fooled! It IS a saturated fat, but it's not as evil as the others.)

I asked Travis for a coconut oil recipe, but apparently he usually uses the milk, so this is all he had:

Homemade "Magic Shell"
(Remember? That weird chocolate syrup that hardens when it hits your ice cream and then you crack it with a spoon?) This stuff is fun. It's also great when you're making homemade ice cream- just pour it in the ice cream maker and you have those delicious flaky chocolate "chips".

Anyway- put 1/3 cup coconut oil and 12 oz of whatever chocolate you want in a pan, preferably a double boiler. Heat it up til the chocolate melts, stirring all the while. Remove from heat. Booyah. This stuff will be liquidy at room temperature and then harden when it hits something cold.

But if that doesn't suit you, here's like, a thousand recipes using coconut oil. You can also toss it in smoothies and stuff, or fry other things up in it.

Bonus, sort of: Sunscreen?
Some sources say this stuff is useful as sunblock. Others say not so much. One source noted that while coconut oil only blocked 20% of shitty-rays, cod liver oil blocked 90%. So if you're cool with smelling like fish, that's an option, I guess. That said, I bet that mixing coconut oil up with some zinc oxide and titanium dioxide would make a pretty sweet mineral sunscreen.

Any other suggestions for the wundernuss? Please do tell!


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