101 Science-Backed, Evidence-Based Uses for Coconut Oil That Will Change Your Life
If you’ve been around the natural health & beauty community for any time, you’ve probably noticed that coconut oil is all the rage. From blogs to Pinterest, to magazines and books, it seems like everyone is raving about this natural oil.
Trust us, it’s not a fad.
And for beauty, cosmetic-grade coconut oil is soothing and moisturizing for your skin, and even works wonders for your hair.
As you’ll see on this list, its benefits and uses are practically endless. It’s healthy, natural, and safe for your skin, body, and even your shoes (check out #98). Whether you’re new to the coconut oil bandwagon or you’ve been riding shotgun for years, grab a bottle or two (or 10!) and check out all the ways you can use this wonder oil!
Body and Skincare
Coconut oil should be among your staple of beauty products if it isn’t already. For best results, choose a cosmetic grade when applying coconut oil topically.
Check out these great uses for your skin, body and hair.
- Moisturize Your Skin: Replace your regular lotion with the refreshing and healing powers of coconut oil. It’s safe for anywhere on your body and mixes well with essential oils for an aromatherapy benefit. All you need is a coin-sized amount—once applied, give it a minute to dry. You’ll feel the difference.
- Face Mask: Clear up your complexion with a homemade face mask! Mix 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of raw honey. Apply the mixture to the face (be careful, it warms and softens on your face and may drip) and wait 15-20 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.
- Diminish Wrinkles: We all are looking to get rid of signs of aging. Applying a bit of coconut oil to lines and wrinkles helps rehydrate, soften skin, and improve texture.
- Puffy Eyes: Make puffy eyes go poof! Well, it’s not magic, but applying a small amount of oil around your eyes at bedtime can reduce puffiness in the morning.
- Conditioner: There isn’t a better ingredient out there to moisturize your scalp, repair split ends, and add a healthy glow to your tresses. Here’s how to use it:
Place 2 teaspoons of coconut oil into a small container. Place that container into a larger bowl filled with water warmer than 76 degrees. This will soften the oil. Apply to damp hair and massage it into the roots. Comb oil through the rest of your hair. Wrap your head in a towel for an hour, then use a small amount of shampoo to remove the oil.
- Fight Dandruff: Instead of buying dandruff shampoos and conditioners, use coconut oil. Use it the same way as conditioner, but leave it in overnight and wash it out in the morning for a flake-free day.
- Improve Hair Growth: More than a moisturizer, coconut oil can strengthen hair and reduce breakage when used daily.
- Protect Hair from Sun: Use a bit of coconut oil in your hair in the morning by running your fingers through your hair and scalp, then brush evenly to add a layer of sun protection and frizz control.
- Detangle Hair: Tangled hair can be annoying and painful. Coconut oil can make tangle removal painless! Dampen your hair with water, apply coconut oil, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Then gently comb through tangles.
- Shaving Cream: If you’ve given up on shaving cream because it dries your skin, coconut oil is a perfect alternative. It moisturizes while helping the hairs stand up straight. This application is especially helpful for people prone to dry skin and razor burn. Why not make your own?
- Aftershave: Now that you use it as a shaving cream, go ahead and use it as an aftershave as well. It’s soothing and helps skin heal from razor burn.
- Lip Balm: It works well to moisten dry or cracked lips, especially in dry weather. It can also help protect against sun damage. For best application, use it in its solid state. You can apply it with your fingers the same way you would any other lip balm.
- Exfoliating Body Scrub: It serves as a great base for body and face scrubs. Try this simple recipe:
Melt about a half cup of coconut oil. Stir in 2-4 tablespoons of white or brown sugar and pour into muffin tins or soap mold. Put it in the fridge to let it solidify and cool completely before removing from the mold. Slice off a piece and use it to gently scrub and exfoliate your body after dampening your skin with water. Rinse off and apply moisturizer.
- Exfoliate Your Face. Mix coconut oil with baking soda in a 1-to-1 ratio and use it on your face. This is a great exfoliating agent, and will remove all kinds of dirt and dead skin cells from your face. Your complexion should be visibly brighter when you are finished.
- Exfoliate Your Feet: You took care of your face, now show your feet some love. Mix coarse sea salt with coconut oil in a 2:1 ratio to scrub the soles of your feet.
- Exfoliate Your Lips: Exfoliation has no limit with coconut oil! Now it’s time to take care of the dead skin on your lips. Mix a teaspoon of coconut oil with two teaspoons of brown sugar or raw sugar to soften your lips.
- Makeup Remover: Safely remove makeup without irritating your skin or eyes. Coconut oil breaks down the makeup and wipes off easily. Apply with your fingertips and massage it over makeup in a circular motion. Rinse with water afterward and pat your face dry.
- Cheekbone Highlighter: Give yourself a youthful glow by highlighting your cheekbones with a little coconut oil after you apply makeup.
- Lotion Bar: Moisturize your skin by making a lotion bar.
Combine a cup each of coconut, shea butter and beeswax in a quart size glass mason jar with a lid and place in a small saucepan of water. Boil water until ingredients melt. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of Vitamin E oil. Gently stir by hand until essential oils are incorporated. Pour into molds. Allow the lotion bars to cool completely before attempting to pop out of molds.
- Deodorant: Why not make your own deodorant while you’re at it?
Combine ½ cup each of coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax in a glass mason jar with a lid and place this in a saucepan of water. Boil water until ingredients are melted. Remove from heat and add a teaspoon of Vitamin E oil, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, and ½ cup of arrowroot powder. Stir by hand until all ingredients are combined. Pour into muffin tins or other molds while still liquid. Allow to cool before removing.
- Massage Oil: You can use a massage right now, can’t you? Coconut oil is the perfect companion, combining moisturizing power with antioxidants that are great for your muscles and skin.
- Soften Elbows: If your elbows seem to always be dry or cracked, rubbing a small amount of coconut oil on them twice a day will help soften and smooth the skin.
- Heal Cracked Heels: Give coconut oil a crack at those cracked heels. The natural moisturizer can soften and prevent cracking when used regularly.
- Nail and Cuticle Treatment: You can’t get a manicure every day, but you can treat your cuticles with coconut oil regularly. Rub a small amount of oil into cuticles each night before bed. The oil will soak into your cuticles overnight and stimulate your nails.
- Reduce Stretch Marks: Though they may not completely disappear, rubbing some coconut oil on stretch marks can reduce their appearance over time.
- Mascara Brush Cleaner: Get rid of the buildup on your brush by soaking it in coconut oil for five minutes.
- Enhance Eyelashes: If your eyelashes are looking little limp, swab a small amount of coconut oil on them to give them some life.
- Remove Skin Wax: If you remove hair with wax, that sticky substance is hard to get off your skin. Not anymore! Apply some coconut oil and wipe it away with a warm washcloth.
- Personal Lubricant: For those intimate moments, it’s a safe and natural alternative to commercial lubricants, and often works better. Just DO NOT use with condoms, as it’s not compatible with latex.
- Diminish Varicose Veins: Regularly apply a thin layer of coconut oil to varicose veins and you’ll reduce their appearance.
- Reduce Cellulite: Apply coconut oil to the troubled areas regularly to see a difference in a few months.
- Bath Oil: There’s nothing like a nice, warm bath to relax after a long day. Add a bit of coconut oil to naturally coat and refresh your skin. You can also make these awesome bath melts and drop them in the tub:
Heat 1 cup of coconut oil on low for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 15 drops of essential oils. Mix well, pour into molds and let cool. Once cooled, pop the melts out of the molds and drop one in your bath and let it dissolve. Store the rest in a container in a cool place.
- Tattoo Moisturizer: You just got a new tatt and you want it to heal so that annoying itch goes away. Put on a little coconut oil to soothe it and keep it moisturized. It will make your ink stand out better too!
Food, Drink and Cooking
Yes, coconut oil is edible, and great for food as well as food prep (just don’t use cosmetic grade oil because it can be harmful to consume). There are two types of coconut oil: refined and unrefined (aka virgin).
Refined coconut oil (extracted from dried coconuts) is tasteless and odorless and it can withstand higher temperatures. But the refining process often uses chemicals to bleach, deodorize, and in some cases, partially hydrogenate the oil, which creates trans-fats. However, some refined coconut oils use a more natural process, using just heat to refine the oil. Check ingredients to make sure you’re getting a safe one.
Unrefined or virgin coconut oil is taken from fresh, not dried, coconut and is extracted quickly without going through a refining process. It retains its flavor and odor.
Here are some uses and recipes for coconut oil in the kitchen.
- Cooking Oil: It’s one of the best oils for cooking because it’s able to withstand higher temperatures than other oils due to its high percentage of saturated fat. Thinking all saturated fat is bad? Throw away that 20th-century research. Some saturated fats are actually healthy. It gives food a great taste and texture.
- Grease Pans: Replace vegetable oil or Crisco with coconut oil for a healthier way to grease your pans.
- Creamer in Coffee or Tea: Whether you’re chugging coffee for a morning boost or sipping tea for afternoon relaxation, add a creamy mixture of coconut oil to revolutionize the experience.
Blend 2 cups of hot coffee, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a blender until oil and butter are melted and coffee is frothy.
- Sweetener: Trying to get rid of that sweet tooth? Coconut oil is slightly sweet so you can use it to replace sugar as a healthier option.
- Butter Replacement: Love to smother butter on that morning bagel or toast, but you know it’s not healthy? Substitute coconut oil instead for a healthy alternative that still tastes great.
- In Smoothies: If you love smoothies–and really, who doesn’t?—coconut oil is the perfect addition to them. Smoothies are easy to make and (mostly) healthy. Adding coconut oil improves their consistency. Try this recipe:
Combine 2 cups of coconut milk, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons Gelatin Powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ cup of strawberries and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Blend and enjoy.
- Salad Dressing: Not only does it add great taste to your bowl of greens, it helps your body better absorb all those great nutrients in your salad. Try this recipe:
- Mayonnaise: Mayo isn’t the healthiest condiment, but if you make it with coconut oil, you’ll feel a bit less guilty.
Combine 2/3 cup coconut oil, 2/3 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard, a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and four egg yolks.
- Prevent Freezer Burn: Is there anything worse than reaching in the freezer to dig into some leftover ice cream and finding a layer of freezer burn on it. Uhh! Coconut oil to the rescue! Before you put anything in the freezer, add a thin layer of coconut oil at the top of it. It will form a seal to prevent freezer burn.
- Preserve Eggs: Make your dozen eggs last longer by coating the eggshell with coconut oil. Studies show it preserves the quality of the eggs.
- Popcorn Topping: Add it as a healthy topping to your popcorn. Drizzle it along with some salt and make it a Netflix night.
- Removing food from dishes: Instead of using elbow grease for those hard to clean dishes, add some coconut oil to lubricate tough spots for an easier clean.
Health and Home Remedies
The antibacterial and antioxidants in coconut oil make it a great health and home remedy for many ailments. Make sure you use the food grade of the oil if you ingest it. For any topical uses below, fractionated coconut oil works great because its high concentration of capric and caprylic acids make it a powerful antioxidant and disinfectant.
- Fight Inflammation: Studies show that the lauric acid and capric acid in coconut oil help suppress inflammation. Plus it has no side effects like anti-inflammatory medicines.
- Cuts and Wounds: Use it as a natural antibacterial and antifungal cream to heal small cuts. Clean the wound first then apply a small amount of oil.
- Weight Loss: No, it’s not a magic weight-loss formula, but it can help you drop pounds if you substitute it for other fats.
- Curb Your Appetite: If you love food (and who doesn’t?), you may overeat from time to time. If you take a spoonful of coconut oil before meals, it will help you keep portions under control.
- Freshen Breath: Bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth, and the antibacterial properties in coconut oil will make sure no one runs away when you open your mouth.
- Aromatherapy: Coconut oil can be used as a carrier oil, helping your body absorb other essential oils and herbal extracts to help you relax and unwind. Fractionated coconut oil is best for this use.
- Boost Energy: Feeling exhausted? Coconut oil contains a unique form of saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides that provide an energy source for the body.
- Boosts Immune System: Adding coconut oil to your regular diet can help boost your immune system, which helps you fight viruses and infections.
- Helps Blood Circulation: Taking coconut oil and applying it to your body can help increase blood circulation.
- Thyroid Supporter: Studies show that regular coconut oil consumption supports healthy thyroid function.
- Relieve Constipation: Coconut oil is a natural laxative so it helps soften stools and speeds up your metabolism.
- Improve Bone Health: As a fat, coconut oil helps your body absorb vitamins and nutrients like calcium better. The better your body absorbs calcium, the stronger your bones will be.
- Fights Arthritis: With anti-inflammatory properties, it combats arthritis pain, which comes from inflammation in the joints. Take a couple of tablespoons daily for the benefit.
- Treat Fungal and Yeast Infections: The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil diffuse into cell membranes of various organisms and fight bacteria, fungi, yeast, viruses and parasite. Add 3-5 tablespoons of coconut oil to your daily diet and/or treat the affected area by applying a thin layer of oil to it.
- Treat Hemorrhoids: Get rid of the pain of hemorrhoids and take a seat in comfort by applying coconut oil as a treatment.
- Treat Athlete’s Foot: The antifungal properties make it the perfect foil to athlete’s foot. Rub it on your feet along with tea tree oil for relief.
- Treat Toenail Fungus: The unsightly enemy is no match for the antifungal phenomenon of coconut oil. Apply a small amount, several times a day, and you’ll see a gradual improvement.
- Lower Cholesterol: A tablespoon a day can drive cholesterol away! The high levels of lauric acid in coconut oil help boost HDL (good cholesterol), which in turn lowers bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Cold Sores: Applying coconut oil several times a day can stop the spread of sores and provide a soothing effect.
- Sore Throat Relief: Soothe an itchy and sore throat by dissolving a spoonful in your mouth and let it roll down your throat.
- Heal a Cough: Mix a teaspoon of honey with a half spoonful of coconut oil. Add hot water so it fills a quarter of a cup. Drink it hot and that cough will diminish.
- Insect Repellant: You may love coconut oil, but bugs can’t stand it. Slather some on to keep the critters away.
- Bug Bites: The warm weather often brings insects that find spots to bite you. The anti-inflammatory agents in coconut oil help relieve itching and irritation.
- Bee Sting Soother: Soothe that sting with a dab of coconut oil (after removing the stinger). It helps to reduce swelling and pain.
- Relieve Sunburn: Sunburn can be painful, but coconut oil can soothe it. Make this mixture: Mix a 1:1 ratio of coconut oil and aloe vera gel and put in the fridge to cool a bit. Rub it on the burned area for a soothing and cooling effect.
- Relief from Eczema: Soothe the itching from eczema flare up with coconut oil.
- Relief from Poison Ivy: Whether it’s ivy, oak, or sumac—pick your poison—coconut oil can soothe itching by applying it to affected areas. A warm bath with some coconut oil will make you forget you stumbled into that poisonous vegetation in the first place.
- Soothe Chicken Pox: Give your child some relief if he or she is suffering from chicken pox by rubbing the oil on the affected areas.
- Relief from Heartburn/Acid Reflux: Oh, what a relief it is! We’re not talking about Alka-Seltzer. Three tablespoons of coconut oil a day can improve digestive health and soothe your esophagus.
- Relief from a Toothache: Instead of reaching for the Advil, mix 1-part coconut oil with 2 parts clove oil, and apply to your gums with a cotton swab.
- Toothpaste: Mix 6 tablespoons each of coconut oil and baking soda with 25 drops of essential oil (spearmint is a great choice), and you have homemade, all-natural toothpaste.
- Mouthwash: Now that you have toothpaste, now use coconut oil as a mouthwash. It’s called oil pulling, and you use it in liquid form, “pulling” not swishing it through your mouth.
- Remove Ear Wax: Use an eyedropper to apply two drops of coconut oil to help break up wax buildup.
- Get Rid of Warts and Moles: Rub coconut oil onto warts and moles and cover with a bandage. Do this regularly and they’ll diminish.
- Fight Allergies: Allergy season can be a nightmare, but coconut oil can make it a sweet dream. Dap a little on your nostrils for quick relief.
- Treat an Ear Infection: Never underestimate the antibacterial and antifungal power of coconut oil. Applying it to the ear can kill the infection.
- Stop Nose Bleeds: If you’re prone to a bloody nose, rub a little of it in your nostrils to combat the cracking that leads to bleeds.
- Prevent Lice: Your kid comes home from school and somehow has lice. No worries, dip a comb in coconut oil, run it through your child’s hair to chase lice away.
Pregnancy and Infant Care
Coconut oil can be a mom’s best friend as it has benefits for her and her infant. Whether carrying or taking care of a baby, here are ways coconut oil is a fantastic resource.
- Nipple Cream: Reduce irritation when nursing by rubbing the soothing oil on your nipples. It’s safe and great for your baby too!
- Nursing Boost: Speaking of nursing, by taking 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil a day, moms can increase their milk supply and nutrients.
- Prevent Morning Sickness: You can calm your stomach during pregnancy by taking a tablespoon. Make it a regular morning routine.
- Rub on Perineum: You can prevent, or at least lessen, tears to the perineum during birth by applying coconut oil to it daily in the months leading up to your due date.
- Moisturize Baby’s Skin: Babies have sensitive skin so coconut oil is a safe choice that won’t cause irritation. Apply a dab to dry patches, such as the creases of their neck, to keep them moist and protected.
- Stop Diaper Rash: The thick oil has antifungal properties to soothe the rash and acts as a barrier to prevent further irritation. Plus, it won’t make the rash worse like other rash creams.
Fixing Stuff Around the Home
We told you to keep plenty of this oil on hand. Tackle some household tasks with the amazing coconut oil!
- Remove Rust: It’s a great remedy for rust on household items. Apply a thin layer and let it sit for a few hours, then rinse with warm water.
- Get a Zipper Unstuck: You’re in a rush so you need to throw on some clothes and leave. But the stupid zipper on your jacket or jeans is stuck. Quick fix? Rub a little coconut oil on it and watch that baby glide!
- Gum Removal: Gum can seem impossible to remove from hair, carpet, shoes or anywhere else. Not with coconut oil. Use it to get rid of the gunk.
- Fix Squeaky Hinges: You can only deal with that squeaky door for so long before it drives you crazy. Instead of pulling it off its hinges, lubricate it with coconut oil for peace and quiet.
- Lubricate Kitchen Appliances: Keep all your small kitchen appliances—blenders, can openers, mixers, food processors and the like—operating optimally by rubbing a thin layer of oil on blades.
- Furniture Polish: It’s safe on wood and not toxic, unlike those polishes from the store. Rub a little on your furniture and watch it shine.
- Plant Shine: You’ve given your furniture a shine, now do the same for your indoor plants. Rub a small amount on plants’ leaves to give them shine and prevent dust buildup.
- Get Rid of Soap Scum: Does that hard-to-remove buildup on the sink and shower frustrate you? Apply some coconut oil to help scrub it away.
- Leather Shiner: Give those pumps, boots, or purses a fresh touch-up and shine by rubbing some of the oil on them.
- Leather Cleaner: And you thought you were just making those shoes look pretty. You just killed two birds with one stone: As you shine your leather, you’re also cleaning it.
- Remove a Ring: Sometimes a ring is hard to remove, especially if your fingers swell. Apply the oil to your hands and the ring, and it should come off easily.
- Coat Snow Shovels: Oh, the weather outside is frightful…but you still have to shovel. Apply the oil to the shovel to keep snow from sticking to it as you clear that driveway.
Wow! Is your head spinning? Why would you need anything else? Just fill every cupboard with coconut oil. OK, maybe not. But as you can see, the possibilities are limitless with this oil, so it’s best that you keep it well stocked.