Coconut oil has long been used as a moisturizer, and in general the biggest benefits are deep skin penetration, which can help the effects last longer; the potential to provide lasting relief from dry skin conditions and other topical irritations; and antioxidant absorption, which can help strengthen the skin’s natural defenses against environmental elements. Some studies have also shown that the moisturizer can also improve the skin’s own natural bacterial layer and, as such, might help ward off infections faster and better, too. The oil is generally thought to be suitable for skin, lips, and hair, and can be used by people of all skin types. Children and even infants can usually use it without incident. People with sensitive skin are usually advised to start slowly, though, and to test-run the oil on a small patch of skin before slathering the body in it. If there’s no reaction or irritation, it can then be used more widely.
Structural Basics and Why it Works
The benefits of this moisturizer are usually related to the structure of the oil, which has strong antioxidant properties and is made mostly from fatty acids. It has a number of uses in cooking and cosmetics generally, but it is this fatty acid structure that makes it a valuable skin and hair moisturizer all on its own. Additionally, it has a high proportion of lauric acid, which may be antimicrobial and naturally beneficial to the body’s protective antibacterial defenses.
Coconut oil is nearly 50% lauric acid, which is one of the components of breast milk that protects babies from infections. This fatty acid is believed by some to be antibacterial and antiviral. In addition to providing intense moisture, then, it may also be able to provide some protection, and may be able to form something of a seal or perimeter around the application area that prevents other elements from entering and reintroducing dryness.
One of the first things most people notice when using coconut oil as a moisturizer is the increased suppleness, elasticity, and general feelings of moisture and richness in their skin, their hair, or their lips. The oil is typically able to penetrate very deeply into the layers of either the skin or the hair follicle, which can help it provide moisture that persists for hours if not days at a time. Most other lotions and creams sit on the top of the skin or hair, and while they can provide some immediate relief, the results don’t typically last.
Looking for unrefined coconut oil moisturizer without a high water content may be more beneficial. A high water content plumps the skin tissues, making it appear that wrinkles have disappeared but the results are very temporary; reapplication must usually be constant, every hour or so, to keep the benefits coming. Coconut oil, on the other hand, has actual nutrients that have the possibility of making real repair to the skin. Lotions may be more beneficial if they contain more coconut oil than water, and extra-virgin coconut oil may be of higher quality than other grades.
Skin Condition Healing and Relief
Long-term use of coconut oil moisturizers may also help relieve symptoms of certain common skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, and acne. The molecules of coconut oil are small enough to penetrate the skin and break down bacteria that may be causing an issue. When used on the hair as a conditioner, it can soften the hair and can also be effective when used to reduce dandruff.
The antioxidants in coconut oil moisturizer are nutrients and enzymes that are capable of counteracting oxidation in human tissue. Oxidation is when stress produces free radicals, or harmful molecules that can damage cells, proteins and even DNA. The antioxidants protect by blocking the oxidation process and neutralizing the free radicals. Coconut oil is especially high in Vitamin E, an antioxidant that is especially good at protecting cell membranes. Vitamin E can also help repair visible skin damage such as scars, stretch marks, wrinkles and age spots.
Protection Against Infection
Healthy skin has an acid layer protecting it from infection, with sweat and body oils also promoting healthy bacteria. This healthy bacteria helps convert acids into antimicrobials that fight infections. When coconut oil is present on the skin, the friendly bacteria breaks it down the same way it does the natural body oils, creating an even stronger protective layer against infection.