Aromatics Wellness Blog

A quick guide to coconut oil: science, uses & benefits

Why coconut oil is a popular carrier & how to use it—with or without essential oils!

Coconut oil is one of the most popular natural aromatherapy products.

You can use it alone—right out of the jar!—to moisturize and protect your skin. It also makes a perfect carrier for essential oils, and it blends easily with other butters, oils, and carriers. It’s incredibly versatile!

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is pressed from the flesh of coconuts in the tropics of Mexico.

Coconut oil has a silky, smooth texture and absorbs easily into the skin. In warm temperatures, it’s loose and liquidy. In colder temperatures (or if you store it in the fridge), it turns solid and white. Both states (liquid and solid) are safe for skin and resist rancidity. And both states have a fresh, tropical aroma!

Virgin, refined & fractionated

Oil pressed from fresh, unprocessed coconut “meat” is called “virgin”. “Refined” coconut oil is usually made from dried coconut meat that’s undergone processing to adjust its properties and reduce its aroma.

Coconut oil can also be “fractionated,” meaning it’s been heated beyond its melting point. This causes some of the fatty acids in the oil—you might say a “fraction” of them!—to stay in liquid form even when they’re cooled.

At Aromatics, our coconut oil is certified organic, extra-virgin, and unfractionated! You can even cook with it... or eat a spoonful directly from the jar!

Safety tip! We don’t recommend eating coconut oil that has essential oils blended into it. Using essential oils internally requires specific training to ensure safety.

Coconut oil science

Coconut oil contains more lauric acid than any other plant-based butter or oil.

The lauric acid content makes it super-soothing for dry, irritated, and damaged skin (especially skin that’s been burned), and even helps protect vulnerable skin from germs. (Lauric acid has purifying effects.)

Coconut oil is also rich in myristic acid which can soothe muscles and joints, and the antioxidant vitamin E, making it helpful for repairing damage and reducing signs of aging.

coconut oil science

Coconut oil uses & benefits

As a moisturizer, coconut oil deeply penetrates and softens the skin (it’s an emollient), and it’s gentle enough even for sensitive skin. It protects your skin’s barrier, meaning it helps your skin retain valuable moisture while preventing damage from environmental issues—like the weather, pollution, and harsh chemicals that may be in your home.

It can soothe irritated, itchy, or damaged skin, and it’s a popular choice for some people who struggle with ongoing skin issues. Just make sure to test it on a small area of your skin before using it more extensively.

Pro Tip:
A small amount of coconut oil goes a long way! Just a dab on your fingertip can cover your whole arm.

Your hair will love coconut oil, too! Try working a small amount between your hands and using it as a leave-in hair conditioner, or use a bit more for a deep conditioning treatment that you wash out.

Coconut’s antioxidant effects make it a valuable anti-aging oil, too. It works well in creams for mature skin.

It also makes a soothing ingredient for homemade muscle butters and joint care salves. Try blending a few comforting essential oils into pure coconut oil, like juniper berry oil (Juniperus communis) and ginger oil (Zingiber officinale), and gently massaging your muscles and joints.

While some people love coconut oil for acne care (it can purify the skin), others say it clogs their pores. Everyone’s skin is different! While coconut oil is typically mild and light enough for the body, you might want to test a small area of your face before using it as a facial cleanser, moisturizer, or anti-aging oil.

Coconut oil recipes

Keep learning!

Coconut oil is one of our 10 Most popular, must-have carriers. But what is an essential oil carrier anyway?

Essential oil carriers are natural vegetable oils, butters, waxes, and other substances that you can apply to your skin—either exactly as they are or in blends. We call them “carriers” because we use them to dilute essential oils.

Why should you dilute essential oils in carriers?

Using a carrier is the safest way to apply essential oils to your skin without risking reactions like irritation and many carriers have their own skin-nourishing benefits, too.

Understand which oils, butters, and other carriers to use for your aromatherapy products in our learning guide, Essential oil carriers. LEARN MORE

REFERENCES

Boateng, L., Ansong, R., Owusu, W. B., & Steiner-Asiedu, M. (2016). Coconut oil and palm oil's role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana medical journal, 50(3), 189–196.

Bobiński, R., Wyszomirski, M., Machnickam, A., Pielesz, A., Kawecki, M., Waksmańska, W., Staniszewski, L. (2020) The Effect of Lauric Acid on Pathogens Colonizing the Burn Wound: A Pilot Study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2020 Mar;26(2):23-27. PMID: 31634869.

Darr D, Dunston S, Faust H, Pinnell S. (1996) Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreens as topical photoprotectants. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. Jul;76(4):264-8. doi: 10.2340/0001555576264268. PMID: 8869680.

DebMandal M, Mandal S. (2011) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): in health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine. 2011 Mar;4(3):241-7. doi: 10.1016/S1995-7645(11)60078-3. Epub 2011 Apr 12. PMID: 21771462.

Intahphuak, S. Khonsung, P., Panthong, A. (2010) Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, an antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2010 Feb;48(2). Doi: 10.3109/13880200903062614. PMID: 20645831

Keen, M. A., & Hassan, I. (2016). Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian dermatology online journal, 7(4), 311–315. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.185494

Lima, R., Block, J., (2019) Coconut oil: what do we really know about it so far? Food Quality and Safety. V3. 10.1093/fqsafe/fyz004

Nair, MK., Joy, J., Vasudevan, P., Hinckley, L., Hoagland, TA., Venkitanarayanan, KS. (2005) Antibacterial effect of caprylic acid and monocaprylin on major bacterial mastitis pathogens. Journal of Dairy Science. 2005 Oct;88(10):3488-95. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(05)73033-2. PMID: 16162522.

Nakatsuji, T., Kao, MC., Fang, JY., Zouboulis, CC., Zhang, L., Gallo, RL., Huang, CM. (2009) Antimicrobial property of lauric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: its therapeutic potential for inflammatory acne vulgaris. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2009 Oct;129(10):2480-8. doi: 10.1038/jid.2009.93. Epub 2009 Apr 23. PMID: 19387482; PMCID: PMC2772209.

Pupala, SS., Rao, S., Strunk, T., Patole, S. (2019) Topical application of coconut oil to the skin of preterm infants: a systematic review. European Journal of Pediatrics. 2019 Sep;178(9):1317-1324. doi: 10.1007/s00431-019-03407-7. Epub 2019 Jul 2. PMID: 31267223.

Varma, SR., Sivaprakasam, TO., Arumugam, I., Dilip, N., Raghuraman, M., Pavan, KB., Rafiq, M., Paramesh, R. (2018) In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2018 Jan 17;9(1):5-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012. PMID: 30671361; PMCID: PMC6335493.

Vysakh, A., Ratheesh, M., Rajmohanan, TP., Pramod, C., Premlal, S., Girish, Kumar B., Sibi, PI. (2014) Polyphenolics isolated from virgin coconut oil inhibits adjuvant induced arthritis in rats through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. International Immunopharmacology. May;20(1):124-30. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2014.02.026. Epub 2014 Mar 6. PMID: 24613207.

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