Let’s work backwards. When you think about the health benefits of coconut oil, we’re going to guess that the last thing that comes to mind is rubbing the edible plant grease all over your face. Or your arms. Or coconut oil for your hair. But a growing body of research, countless experts, and an army of natural-beauty devotees swear by the stuff for just about everything. Are they onto something?
Yes, according to our experts. Coconut oil is used in many natural beauty products, and for good reason: It’s naturally antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil for skin is an excellent moisturizer, it can penetrate hair better than other oils, and, well, it smells like cookies.
“Yum,” says Tieraona Low Dog, MD, director of the fellowship program at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. “Is there anything more luscious than coconut oil?”
We can’t think of anything. But we can think of 10 amazing uses for it in your very own home that don’t require spending a fortune on store-bought products. In fact, all you need is one thing: Raw (and preferably organic) virgin coconut oil.
Here, count on two hands our completely natural DIY beauty tricks with coconut oil.
1. To soothe dry hands
This won’t work for dry digits when you’re on the go, but at home, coconut oil for skin can work wonders on your dishwashing-parched hands. You can get a jar at your local grocery store, or try this organic coconut oil from Coconut Revolution. “I keep a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil by the kitchen sink and put a little on after washing my hands to keep them soft and moist,” says Low Dog. And if you cook with coconut oil—you can sub it for butter in baking recipes because it’s solid at room temperature—scoop out a little extra for your hands, too. “Whenever I cook with coconut oil, I make sure to moisturize my hands with it too,” says Katrine van Wyk, a holistic health and nutrition coach based in New York.
2. As a cheekbone highlighter
Nothing perks up a tired face like a little highlighter, but you don’t need store-bought products to achieve the same effect. Simply sweep a small amount of organic coconut oil on top of makeup and leave it alone. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why many natural makeup brands use it as a base ingredient in their formulas. If you’re looking for a more portable option, try the cult favorite Living Luminizer by RMS Beauty, which has a coconut-oil base and light reflecting pigment.
3. To shave your legs
Conventional shaving cream is an expensive cocktail of chemicals that you don’t need to get a nice clean shave on your legs or underarms. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is inexpensive, naturally antimicrobial, and smells divine. Plus, its skin-soothing properties will leave your legs looking hydrated (but never greasy).
4. As a deep-conditioner
There’s a reason many conditioners contain coconut oil: It’s better able to penetrate hair (and prevent protein loss) than mineral and sunflower oil, according to research. “I use coconut oil for hair and on my skin for deep conditioning,” says Tasneen Bhatia, MD, an integrative doctor and owner of the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine. Apply a quarter-size 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, shampoo as usual with a gentle cleanser.
5. To remove eye makeup
Yes, coconut oil even works on waterproof mascara! Put a little of this Organic Coconut Oil for Beauty 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.
6. As a body moisturizer
A recent animal study found that when applied topically, virgin organic coconut oil for skin can speed up wound healing, and a human study found it to be effective in increasing hydration and reducing water loss in seriously dry skin. Sounds like a recipe for a really good lotion to us! It’s a health-expert favorite, too. Says Wyk: “It smells delicious, is very affordable, and leaves my skin feeling nourished and smooth.”
7. To clean your face
Because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, moisturizing and, according to research, great for atopic dermatitis, 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 cleanser. (If you’re adult-acne prone, avoid this technique unless you know your skin tolerates coconut oil.)
8. To add shine
Smooth a tiny amount of organic coconut oil onto your ends of your hair to add a little shine, or on flyaways if you have dark hair. Remember that a dab will do you: Any more and your hair might appear greasy.
9. In a luscious body scrub
Here’s a little DIY beauty secret: That store-bought body scrub you save for special occasions? It’s a waste of money. That’s because you can make one yourself with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. Low Dog agrees. “I love to do this. It’s wonderfully moisturizing, great for the skin, inexpensive, and blissfully absent of chemicals you can’t pronounce!” To make your own, Low Dog suggests melting ½ c of coconut oil at very low heat. Pour it over 1 c of brown sugar or salt and stir well. If you have some on hand, add in five drops of your favorite essential oil or some pure vanilla extract for a scrub so fragrant you’ll want to eat it.
10. For a little rubdown
Many store-bought massage oils have either coconut or jojoba oil as their base. Cut out the middleman and go straight to the bottle. It’s slippery, skin-friendly, and coconut oil for skin moisturizes, too.