Nov 6, 2011

Coconut Oil: Health and Hair Benefits

Coming from a South Indian family, specifically from Kerala, there's no way I am not going to talk about coconut and coconut oil!  This is a place where elephants hauling large coconut tree branches isn't anything unusual and cooking food without coconut (and curry leaves) is quite unimaginable to most people - so yes, I just had to do a post on coconut oil.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition

Coconut oil is extracted from the white portion inside the coconut.  There are different ways of getting this oil out, but I have always used organic extra virgin coconut oil - made by sun-drying coconuts and expeller pressing the oil out.  It's unrefined, and in my opinion, the best in terms of nutrient concentration.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition

To be quite honest, I have never been that crazy about coconut oil.  Sure it's a somewhat regular part of my haircare routine, but until recently I didn't consider it that important health-wise.  Turns out, all the people in Kerala who swear by this amazing oil are actually absolutely right and here's why:
  • Coconut oil has a high saturated fat content - as do most oils that solidify at slightly colder room temperatures.  Though these are generally considered unhealthy, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid that apparently helps lower unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Because of it's ability to withstand higher temperatures, coconut oil is one of the few oils (another being unrefined mustard oil) that is great for cooking at higher temperatures.
  • With it's skin conditioning benefits, coconut oil is great for dry skin.  Plus it's antiseptic properties do come in handy in fighting minor skin infections.
  • When it comes to haircare, the reason coconut oil is so wonderful is because it has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft and actually prevent protein loss that happens with frequent shampooing.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition
Coconut oil turns into an almost white solid product at cooler room temperatures.  This melts
quite easily into a clear water-like oil with just slight warming.

While finding a space for coconut oil in your cooking might take some getting used to (I have added some recipes at the end of the post if you do want to try), it's easier to incorporate it in your skin and haircare routine.  Here's two ways to do this:
  • Coconut oil skincare:  Replacing the daily body lotion with a light coconut oil moisturization when the skin is still damp is ideal but the smell might not be for everyone.  Easier thing to do - incorporate it in a DYI body scrub.  Just mix finely powdered sugar and coconut oil to make a smooth paste.  Scrub wet skin with this and wash off - no need for a moisturizer after this.
  • Coconut oil haircare:  This is something most Indian girls would know quite well - a prewash coconut oil treatment for hair.  Massage your scalp and hair with warm coconut oil.  Leave on for a minimum of 20 minutes (I go up to an hour).  Wash off as usual.  You might need to shampoo twice to get all the oil out, but over time your hair will thank you for this.
Do you have any fabulous ideas for health and/or beauty from ingredients that you would find easily enough in the kitchen?  Do share, and I would love to try them out :)

Some recipes that use coconut/coconut oil:
Pumpkin Mulakushyam (Pumpkins cooked in lentil and coconut sauce)
Cucumber Pachadi
Manga Pulisseri (Mango cooked in Yogurt Sauce)
Ishtu - Vegetables stewed in Ginger-Flavored Coconut Milk Sauce

Similar Posts:
DIY Coffee-Sugar Scrub
Know the Ingredient

Note:  This article is not qualified medical advice - it's just information I have read and know of and what works for me.   Please consult a doctor before deciding to make changes in diet. 


  1. I remember my grand mother used coconut oil as her body lotion,she would add a bit of peppermint oil too which did not let coconut freeze in winters
    I actually cannot stand its smell ,but its the only oil that actually works for my hairs :/

  2. Peppermint oil? I never knew that! Now that you mentioned it, though, I remember my dad's mom used to make us heat coconut oil with peppercorns in it for her to use before she had her bath. We had to do it every single day - no making and keeping - and she would stand and supervise :D :D She is a very simple person, so it was not like she was bullying us or anything, but we always used to wonder what the purpose of doing it was..

  3. My friends used to always ask..why are you cooking food in hair oil :D :D not aware of Kerala or food from that part of the country naa. I think the more refined oils have stronger smells to them..not that the one we make at home doesn't but it's kind of different.

  4. Guess this was loooong due ma'am... :)
    Coconut oil in the DIY scrub is awesomest :D

    I havent had home made coconut oil, would love to, considering I quite like the Kerala dishes made in it esp with those big rice or appam :)
    Having a bg of TN and Andhra, I use the grated version (has to be white flowery) as garnishing in pretty much all my sides (poriyals or bhujia) and its milk in kurma and stew (HOW YUMM.. am going to get some fresh coconut now!)
    y rnt u my neighbor (the one who cooks and me the one who eats :p)!!

    My favorites from the kitchen - Dahi/Yoghurt, Honey, olive oil and Banana (Lemon if feeling oily) - all readily avail, can be used by themselves or in a DIY pack :D
    (umm Papaya, Almonds and Strawberry if avail and feeling luxurious ;) and Beer if its not in some tummy already!)

    sorry long one :p jus was excite to see coconut here he he.
    Happy rest of the weekend!

  5. you made an error..."Coconut oil has a high unsaturated fat content" i know you meant saturated, but i just wanted to let you know.

    I love using it on my damaged hair to give it a bit of tlc

  6. Hii Jilll..thanks a lot :D :D I did mean the other way round :D :D :D I want to go hide somewhere for like forever :D :D

  7. I am an oddity that way, Gaea..just hate the coconut garnishing. My mom cuts up small pieces of coconut, fries them in ghee and garnishes payasams....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...I hate it. I make her keep some aside for me before she ruins it that way :| :| :D :D :D

    Oh I don't like cooking on a regular basis...okay..leave out the regular basis..most days I hate just so lazy :D :D It's so much better when I am doing the eating and someone else is doing the cooking :D

  8. I love coconut oil but more in theory then anything else... :D

  9. I guess the smell just takes getting used to...I know a lot of people who just cannnnnnnot stand it :D

  10. Hi Radhika,
    I am From Kerala.. As from kerala, my family cant do without cocunut oil and for me, i love everythng about cocunuts. U knw, cocunut milk is very good for both body and hair. Its good for acne marks too. But i feel very lazy to use it, Whenevr i used it, i found my face fresh, brightnend and very soft...

  11. Hi Visakhi..I have never tried coconut milk for my skin/hair. How do you use it? It's such a big work for me to make ishtu once in a while because I have to make the coconut's such a lot of work..:D :D

  12. I remember when I was 7. Me and my Dad were very hungry and there was only frozen aloo tikki in the freezer and cooking oil was finished in the house. So we used Parachute coconut hair oil to fry that aloo tikki XD. That was the only "coconut oil cooking experience" I had XD.

  13. My hubby swears by the hair care point you have mentioned above :)

  14. It does work..I just need to remember to do it :)

  15. Crazypoplock - Aloo tikki in Parachute...OMG!!!!


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