Ten everyday uses for coconut oil

Daniel Coughlin / 03 May 2016

A multi-tasking marvel, virgin coconut oil has become a must-have for the health-conscious. Find out what it can do for you.



Not many people had even heard of the stuff a few years ago but thanks to a glut of media coverage and endorsements from celebrities like Nigella Lawson and Elle Macpherson, sales have skyrocketed since 2014.

While solid scientific evidence is fairly thin on the ground – partly because there haven't been that many studies into its benefits – many people swear by coconut oil for all sorts of things. Here are the 10 most tried-and-tested uses.

Coconut cooking oil

The obvious one. Coconut oil boasts a high smoke point, so it's ideal for high temperature cooking and doesn't degrade when heated like olive oil. Although it's packed with saturated fat, coconut oil contains healthier medium-chain fatty acids that may offer a myriad of brain and heart-protective benefits, including the ability to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Still, dieticians suggest you use the oil sparingly given its high calorie density.

Related: Learn more about the health properties of different oils

Moisturising with coconut oil

When it comes to keeping their complexion smooth, supple and hydrated, many people turn to all-natural virgin coconut oil over shop-bought moisturisers, and science backs this up to some extent. A 2004 study by researchers at the Makati Medical Center in the Philippines found that coconut oil boosts the moisture and lipid content in the skin. If you're susceptible to dry skin, try applying coconut oil to the affected areas.

Related: Does your moisturiser work?

Wound ointment

Research from the University of Kerala in India suggests that coconut oil can speed up wound healing by increasing collagen turnover and dampening down inflammation. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid which has been shown to have potent antibacterial properties and may be just the thing to apply to a minor scrape or graze if your skin doesn't tolerate commercial antiseptics.

Using coconut oil as deodorant

The bacteria-killing lauric acid in coconut oil helps neutralise body odour, so it's no wonder many people use coconut oil to stay fresh in place of commercial antiperspirant deodorants. It's worth bearing in mind however that while coconut oil will help kill the whiffy bacteria, it's not an antiperspirant and won't prevent you sweating. But at least you won't get those unsightly white marks on your clothes.

Coconut oil mouthwash

Coconut oil pulling is achingly fashionable right now but is it really beneficial to oral health? Rather than a passing fad, swishing coconut oil around the mouth is an ancient Ayurvedic cleansing technique, practised in India for centuries. While it shouldn't replace your twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and regular flossing regime, coconut oil pulling has been shown to help improve gum health, eliminate bad breath and reduce cavities.

Related: Caring for ageing teeth

Coconut oil hair conditioner

Hankering after luscious, healthy-looking locks? Coconut oil is a tried-and-tested deep hair conditioner. In fact, if you check the ingredients label on your favourite shop-bought product, coconut oil is likely to be high up on the list.

Due to its unique chemical composition, coconut oil gets right into the follicle, taming frizzy tresses and offering much-needed moisture to frazzled heat-damaged hair. Use in place of your regular product or leave on overnight if your locks are super-parched.

Related: Hair care for the over-50s

Eye make-up remover

Commercial eye make-up remover can be very drying on sensitive skin. Cue coconut oil. It actually makes for a very effective alternative, believe it or not. And best of all, thanks to its wonderful hydrating properties, you won't even have to moisturise after you've removed your slap. Simply rub a little oil gently around the eye area and swipe clean with a cotton pad to finish the job.

Related: Basic skin care tips

Shaving cream

Lubricating razor blades with ease, coconut oil is an excellent shaving cream substitute. As long as you apply the oil liberally, the razor should glide over your skin, moisturising all the while.  A lot of commercial shaving creams contain ingredients that may irritate sensitive skin such as menthol and harsh fragrance, so opting for coconut oil instead may be a wise move if you have a reactive complexion.

Using coconut oil as cuticle oil

Beauty therapists in the know are using coconut oil instead of the usual cuticle oil and for very good reason. “Coconut oil works well to soften cuticles, moisturise hands and prevent hangnails,” says nailcare expert and dermatologist Dr Ava Shambam.

Coconut oil is 100% natural and suitable for sensitive skin, and best of all, it's a lot more affordable: at between £6 and £10 for a tiny tube, cuticle oil doesn't tend to come cheap these days.

Coconut oil as a lip balm

Prone to chapped lips? You'll know that finding the perfect nourishing balm can be a bit of an effort.

While coconut oil lacks added SPF – ideally you should use lip balms with UV protection at this time of year – it makes for an ultra-moisturising treatment and could very well be your ultimate lip saviour, especially if you're sensitive to fragrance or chemical dyes, which are commonly added to commercial balms.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.