As a type of food, coconuts are extremely versatile. Many people find the meat from coconuts delicious in all kinds of dishes, from pies and cakes to curries and toppings. Coconut water is used in beverages and candies, too. The husks from coconuts can even be used for fuel.
The oil from coconut may also have several health benefits. Studies suggest, for instance, that virgin coconut oil can help children suffering from pneumonia recover from symptoms faster [source: Gordon]. There's even debate over whether or not it can help you lose weight, although it's difficult to ignore high levels of fat and unhealthy cholesterol in coconut oil [sources: Zeratsky].
Among its various uses, however, coconut oil is also a popular ingredient in cosmetics. In Eastern regions, particularly Asia and the Pacific Islands, coconut oil is a traditional ingredient in many skin care products. Aside from its uses in styling products, lotions and makeup, it has long been one of the key base elements used in cleansing soaps. Soaps are typically made from different kinds of fatty acids, and coconut oil is one of them. One reason you'll find it so often in soaps and cleansers is because of its ability to produce lather, which is often rich and foamy. Soaps with around 10 percent coconut oil tend to increase the volume and so-called "creaminess" of lather [source: Collins]. Some users also claim that coconut oil can also unclog pores, dissolving the dirt and sebum buildup that's a major factor in acne outbreaks, but there isn't much scientific evidence to back this up.
The benefits of coconut oil may go even further than our taste buds and skin cleansers. Recent studies have found that monolaurin, an extract from coconut oil, may work as an excellent anti-microbial when used as a preservative in foods, providing an effective barrier against harmful microorganisms [source: ScienceDaily].
If you want to learn more about coconut oil and skin care, crack open the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Collins, Royal. "Skin cleansing compositions containing alkaline earth metal carbonates as skin feel agents." U.S. Patent 4,557,853. FreePatentsOnline. Dec. 10, 1985. (Sept. 24, 2009)http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4557853.html
- Gordon, Serena. "Coconut Oil May Help Fight Childhood Pneumonia." U.S. News and World Report. (Aug. 25, 2009) http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/healthday/2008/10/30/coconut-oil-may-help-fight-childhood-pneumonia.html
- Institute of Food Technologists. "Coconut Oil Extract May Be A Weapon Against Food Bacteria." ScienceDaily. Sept. 10, 2009. (Sept. 24, 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908103931.htm
- Mayo Clinic. "Can coconut oil promote weight loss?" (Aug. 25, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss/AN01899