13 uses for coconut oil – from cooking and coffee, to haircare and protecting your teeth

It’s versatile AND smells good – what’s not to love? (Picture: Getty)

If you’ve ever complained about dry skin or frizzy hair out loud, chances are someone’s screamed ‘coconut oil’ at you in response.

That’s because the oil, derived from the flesh of coconuts, is often touted as a miracle skin fix, or hair wonder-cure by beauty bloggers and wellness gurus alike.

Indeed, the coconut fruit – yep, a fruit, not a nut – is incredibly useful. Coconut water and milk is often considered very healthy, while the oil is truly multi-purpose.

It can help with everything from cooking and baking to skincare – even forming the basis of medicinal folk remedies to help your teeth.

You’ll find it in loads of toiletries’ ingredients already, and jars of the stuff are seriously cost-effective, ranging from £3 to £10 a piece. It’s available in balm form or as raw ‘virgin coconut oil’.

Sold? Want to give it a try yourself? Here’s 13 things you can do with a humble jar of coconut oil.

Cook with coconut oil

You can replace vegetable, olive and sunflower oil with coconut oil in your cooking.

It also works for baking recipes, and can be used to grease baking tins before a mixture is poured in.

Coconut oil can be used in cooking and baking (Picture: Getty)

Vegans will pleased to know it’s an effective replacement for dairy-laden butter in some recipes.

Keep in mind that it’s high in fat, so it’s also high in calories. There are over 100 in just one tablespoon, according to Healthline. So, use sparingly.

In a 2017 report, the American Heart Association suggested we all chill out a bit on the coconut oil in cooking – as it does contain a higher percentage of saturated fat than some types of lard.

The British Heart Foundation has similar views, and suggests having it every now and again.

Add a drop to your coffee

A dash of coconut milk in a latte or a bottle of coconut water is an easy way to drink coconut – but some recommend adding a drop of oil to coffees, too.

Aim for one tablespoon per cup to reap the health benefits – which include potentially boosting your metabolism and helping your body stay in ketosis, a fat-burning state, thanks to fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), Healthline reports.

One 54-year-old woman credited exactly this technique for keeping her skin young and glowing.

FYI: a coconut oil-infused coffee can’t act as a replacement for a proper breakfast.

Coconut oil comes from… wait… you guessed it! (Picture: Getty)

It’s an effective eye make-up remover

Moving on from its benefits in the kitchen, you might find coconut oil similarly useful on your dresser.

You’ll just need to rub a small amount between your hands, wipe on your face, then use cotton pads to remove it.

If you’ve got very oily skin naturally, though, perhaps this isn’t the solution for you.

Use it as a night cream for your eyes

Others recommend the benefits of using a smidge of coconut oil around your eyes – with or without make-up to remove – as a night cream.

Again, it’s probably not an ideal option for people with naturally oily skin.

Some like to use it all over the face, but others recommend only those with very dry skin use it on the face.

For oily skin types, or those with acne, it doesn’t come recommended as it can clog your pores.

Coconut oil can be used as a moisturiser (Picture: Getty)

Try as a body moisturiser for dry skin

Keep in mind that it can have a pore-blocking effect elsewhere on the body, too.

But all that said, coconut oil on its own – or as an ingredient of your moisturisers – can have a soothing effect on dry skin, and can be used all over the body.

It’s widely-regarded as a substance that can help improve the appearance of dry skin, as well as help soften it.

Many sources cite the potential dermatological benefits of using coconut oil all over your body – including internet whispers of it potentially helping eczema sufferers.

One clinical trial, with findings published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2013, did find that the regular application of virgin coconut oil helped to reduce atopic dermatitis (eczema) symptoms – and had anti-inflammatory effects.

But this study was talking about ‘virgin coconut oil’, which is a slightly different type of the oil, compared to the stuff we get online and in shops.

We’d say don’t try any rogue eczema treatments until you’ve spoken to a medical professional – but no harm in asking your GP or dermatologist if it’s worth a shot.

Oil-pulling for your teeth is often done with coconut oil (Picture: Getty)

Give oil-pulling a go (to protect your teeth)

Oil-pulling is basically a traditional Indian approach to mouthwash.

This folk remedy essentially involves taking a tablespoon of oil – in this case, coconut oil – and swilling it for around 10 to 20 minutes, before spitting it out.

The benefits are apparently generally good oral health, as well as tackling the bad bacteria in our mouths that contribute to plaque build-up and bad breath.

There are some good studies backing this practice up, one of which was published by the US National Library for Medicine.

It found that the bacteria Streptococcus mutans (one of the main culprits) was significantly reduced in those who swilled coconut oil every day for more than two weeks, compared to those who didn’t.

Make a DIY lip balm or scrub

Coconut oil is used for cooking and skincare, so it only makes sense that you can also, if you want, use it as a lip balm.

It really is a wonder remedy… (Picture: Getty)

Many homemade lip balm recipes include combining the oil with beeswax, honey and nice-smelling essential oils.

Naturally protect your hair from the sun

Coconut oil is not a suitable replacement for suncream by any stretch.

But using it on your hair, or as part of a spray, can provide a small amount of protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

A study published by the US’ National Institute for Health says that: ‘Sesame oil resists 30% of UV rays, while coconut, peanut, olive, and cottonseed oils block out about 20%’.

There you go.

Control and style frizzy hair

The oil can smooth down frizzy locks, but it can also help prevent them.

Coconut oil, when applied, basically blocks off your hair from absorbing water.

When hair gets wet, it can later lead to a load of frizz, especially in hotter parts of the world.

Many will benefit from the use of coconut oil on the hair, but it doesn’t work for every hair type.

If you’ve got seriously damaged hair – be it from years of heat products or dyeing – then chat to your hairdresser before lashing on the coconut oil.

Use as a deep conditioner for your hair

Many hair conditioners contain coconut as an ingredient, particularly ones you leave-in for maximum impact.

Just look at Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula and Faith In Nature’s Coconut Conditioner.

Some beauty bloggers recommend coconut oil as an ingredient in your own homemade hair conditioner, too.

Coconut oil is often a useful hair conditioner (Picture: Getty)

Try it as a way to rescue dry nail cuticles

Yep, dry skin, hair and now… your cuticles. Just rub a tiny bit into dry or brittle nails to reap the moisturising rewards.

Plenty of existing nail products also contain coconut oil.

Substitute your usual shaving foam

Perhaps the most unexpected use on the list, coconut oil can be used during a leg shave. Apply a thin layer directly and then crack out the razor.

The abundance of fatty acid the oil contains makes it moisturising enough to be used in place of a shaving cream, gel or foam.

Expect it to have a positive affect on post-shave skin irritations and bumps, too.

Don’t let it sit in your razor, though. Make sure you clean your razor regularly to avoid oil build-up.

Go natural with a coconut oil deodorant

Last but not least, coconut oil is one of three ingredients that can be used to make a natural deodorant.

You’ll need baking soda, cornstarch (or an ingredient called arrowroot) and the coconut oil (from any jar) to get going – according to vegan blogger Cadrys Kitchen, who swears by it.

Some products that are sold with coconut oil, like US brand American Provenance, do point out that it is possible to get oily clothing stains as a result of using oil-based deodorant.

So we’d proceed with caution.

What can’t you use coconut oil for?

Well, as we’ve covered above – there are caveats to things you definitely can use coconut oil for.

Commonly, people search for how to remove coconut oil stains from their bedding, after sleeping in the product as a moisturiser. (Scrubbing in baking soda and washing in white wine vinegar seem to be the top solutions.)

As for the major no-gos, surprisingly coconut oil is not appropriate for use as a vaginal lubricant.

Sexpert Megan Barnett told ‘Coconut oil has antiviral and antibacterial qualities that could upset the vaginal flora. It can also clog the pores, which could cause skin irritation for some people.’

It’s also not suitable for use with latex condoms. Good to know!

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