Everyday Uses for Coconut Oil

One of the most popular health trends in recent years, coconut oil is said to rev up your energy and keep you healthy from head to toe. Many fans of coconut oil claim that it can also help hydrate skin, smooth frizzy hair, and boost your wellbeing, thanks to its high content of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid, and antioxidant properties.

But while evidence for its health benefits is still limited, coconut oil is a lower-cost natural option for many common skin, hair, and wellness concerns and a good alternative in dairy-free and vegan cooking. Here are some clever ways to use this multi-tasking ingredient every day.

Be sure to read Don't Make These Mistakes When Using Coconut Oil to avoid common errors people make when DIYing with coconut oil.

To soothe a sunburn.

Coconut oil may help to soothe minor sunburns.
Coconut oil may help to soothe minor sunburns.. PeopleImages.com/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Soothe a mild sunburn by applying aloe vera gel to skin. After it has dried, gently apply a tiny amount of liquified coconut oil over it. Place an old sheet over your bedding to avoid oil stains. Lifestyle blogger Michelle Phan has this DIY sunburn soothing recipe using coconut oil.

As an exfoliating sugar scrub to buff your skin.

Coconut milk, whole coconuts, coconut oil, and toasted coconut, studio shot on turquoise background
Jodi Pudge / Getty Images

A sugar scrub helps to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells and tends to be more gentle than salt. For a simple scrub, mix equal parts sugar and melted coconut oil, rubbing rough patches of skin with the mixture (avoid delicate skin). Wellness Mama also has a sugar scrub recipe with variations such as a vanilla brown sugar scrub.

Other options include this coconut and lemon sugar scrub on Mind Body Green and this interesting coffee coconut exfoliating cube recipe on the Free People blog (just be careful not to wash the ground coffee down the sink as it may clog the drain).

As a DIY massage oil to soothe tired and sore muscles.

Coconut oil as a massage oil.
Use it as a massage oil.. Portra Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

For an easy massage oil, warm some coconut oil between your hands. Although most massage oils are liquid, the heat of your hands will melt the coconut oil.

Related: 10 Massage Questions You're Too Embarrassed to Ask

To help prevent stretch marks.

Woman applying body cream.
Coconut oil can help to keep skin moisturized.. Bellurget Jean Louis/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are many reasons why stretch marks develop (including genetics), but keeping skin hydrated, moist, and supple may help to prevent them.

For bug bites and itchy skin.

Scratching itchy skin.
Coconut oil may help to ease itchiness.. Lea Paterson/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

When applied directly to a small, non-infected bug bite or other areas of itchy skin, coconut oil may help to ease the itching sensation. Some people also swear by apple cider vinegar to stop the itch.

To prevent nosebleeds.

Woman blowing her nose.
Coconut oil is sometimes dabbed inside the nostrils.. Iloveimages/Cultura/Getty Images

Dry air and allergies are among the common causes of nosebleeds. To keep nasal membranes hydrated, a humidifier can keep the air moist. Applying a thin coating of a moisturizing ointment like coconut oil to the inside of your nose may also help. Dab it gently with a finger just inside the nostrils.

In dairy-free cooking.

Coconut oil in pie crust recipes.
Coconut oil makes a flaky, dairy-free crust.. Breanna Peterson Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Coconut oil can be used in many dairy-free recipes as a substitute for butter. It makes a flaky crust and is great over popcorn as an alternative to butter. Whole Foods Market has some ideas on cooking with coconut oil. Other recipes to check out are 101 Cookbooks Healthy Cookies Recipe, this Coconut Maple Granola, and Gluten-Free Goddess' Dark Chocolate Brownies.

In vegan cooking.

Woman frosting cupcakes.
Coconut oil can be used in many vegan recipes. It is a good alternative to buttercream.. Hero Images/Getty Images

Coconut oil can be whipped into a fluffy texture and used as a delicious alternative to buttercream. Also use it to sauté greens and try Thomas Keller's chocolate shell ice cream topping (using vegan chocolate) and drizzle it over frozen coconut or almond dessert.

As a body moisturizer for dry skin.

Woman applying body lotion.
Coconut oil is a common ingredient in DIY body lotions.. Bambu Productions/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Known for being hydrating, coconut oil is sometimes used as a body moisturizer. Smooth it over elbows and other areas where skin is rough. It can be used right out of the jar (try applying a quarter-sized amount after you step out of the shower), however some people find coconut oil on its own too greasy or waxy and prefer to mix it with other ingredients (one part coconut oil and one part aloe vera gel is a popular combination).

As a liquid hand soap.

Woman washing her hands.
Use it in a DIY liquid hand soap.. Veronique Beranger/The Image Bank/Getty Images

If you have an extra, unused bar of soap, PopSugar has an easy, three ingredient recipe for liquid coconut oil hand soap. The coconut oil adds a little extra moisturizer. If you add essential oils, use them very sparingly.

As a hand cream for dry, chapped hands.

Woman moisturizing her hands.
Use it to moisturize hands.. Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

For dry skin that can result from frequent hand washing and a lack of humidity, try mixing one part coconut oil and five parts hand cream or lotion in a bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Be sure to see your doctor if there is persistent cracking, redness, scaling, or other symptoms.

As a salt scrub.

A coconut oil salt scrub.
A coconut oil salt scrub.. Symphonie/The Image Bank/Getty Images

A salt scrub can help to exfoliate tough skin. This coconut salt scrub recipe by Wonky Wonderful on The Frugal Girls website calls for mixing salt and coconut oil in a 2:1 ratio.

As a luscious body butter.

Whipped body butter.
Whipped body butter.. Amanda Rohde/E+/Getty Images

For a simple body butter, place one cup of coconut oil into a bowl and mix it with a wire whisk (a blender tends to melt the coconut oil, resulting in a thin consistency). Spoon the mixture into a container or jar.

As a facial cleanser.

Woman applying facial cleanser.
Coconut oil can be used as a facial cleanser.. Sofie Delauw/Cultura/Getty Images

Place a dime-sized amount of coconut oil into your hands and rub it on your face in gentle circular motions, giving a massage as you go. Use a cotton pad to remove the excess coconut oil, rinsing any remaining coconut oil off with warm water. Be sure to do a patch test on sensitive or acne-prone skin. For a double-cleansing, follow it up with your favorite cleanser to remove any residue.

As a makeup remover.

Woman removing eye makeup.
Use it to remove water-resistant eye makeup.. Laflor/E+/Getty Images

Coconut oil can help to break up and gently remove water-resistant eye makeup. Rub one teaspoon of coconut oil between your fingers to soften it. Massage the coconut oil into your skin, and make gentle circles around your eye area with a cotton ball or pad. Wipe off any excess and rinse well with warm water. Avoid getting coconut oil in your eyes.

As a face mask.

face mask
Cultura RM/Brigitte Sporrer/Cultura/Getty Images

Best suited for dry skin, a weekly coconut oil and honey mask may help to keep skin hydrated and soft. Make a simple mask by mixing one teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of coconut oil in a small cup or bowl. Spread the mixture on the face, avoiding the eye area. Leave it on for 15 minutes, wipe it off with a cotton pad, and then gently rinse it with warm water.

Aa a highlighter for a natural glow.

Woman wearing illuminator.
Even J. Crew models use highlighter for a natural-looking glow.. PeopleImages.com/Digital Vision/Getty Images

For glowing skin, dab a little coconut oil under the eyebrows, on top of cheekbones, and on the cupid's bow (the dip above your upper lip). Apply it very sparingly or it will make skin look oily. Add light gold eyeshadow to the coconut oil for light-reflecting shimmer. The No More Dirty Looks website recommends INIKA's mineral eyeshadow in Lightening for the added shimmer.

As a lip balm to nourish dry or chapped lips.

Woman applying lip balm.
Coconut oil as a lip balm.. Philippe Regard/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Fight chapped lips with a coconut oil lip balm. Use it right out of the jar, dabbing it on chapped lips. Also try this easy DIY lip balm by Daily Mom, made from beeswax, coconut oil, vitamin E oil, and honey.

To soften tough skin on the feet.

A coconut oil foot scrub.
A foot scrub using coconut oil can help to soften tough skin.. Image Source RF/Zero Creatives/Getty Images

For an easy overnight treatment, exfoliate feet and then apply coconut oil to tough skin on the feet. Coconut oil can stain sheets, so be sure to put on an old pair of thick socks after using the oil to prevent the oil from getting on the sheets. For an exfoliator that can be used all over the feet, mix together one cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of coconut oil. Combine thoroughly and then massage it into the feet and allow the abrasive action to exfoliate tough skin.

As a shaving cream.

Coconut oil as a shaving cream.
Coconut oil for silky smooth skin.. Cathy Wong

Some people swear by coconut oil as a shaving cream for dry skin, saying that it leaves skin silky smooth. It can be scooped and applied directly to skin. Although coconut oil is solid, it will begin to melt on contact with skin. Use it sparingly—about one teaspoon of coconut oil per leg will do the trick. Be sure to wash your hands after applying the coconut oil to your skin otherwise you won't be able to get a firm grip on the razor.

If you prefer a more cream-like consistency, try using a whisk or immersion blender to whip the coconut oil or try a recipe for homemade shaving cream such as this coconut oil shaving cream recipe from Hello Natural.

As a lip scrub.

A coconut oil lip sugar scrub.
Coconut oil can be used in a lip scrub.. Stockbyte/Getty Images

Smooth dry, flaky lips with a brown sugar, coconut oil and honey lip scrub recipe from Honestly WTF.

As an undereye cream.

Woman applying undereye moisturizer.
Coconut oil as an undereye cream.. PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

The skin under the eyes is thin, making it prone to fine lines. For a DIY hydrating eye cream, try gently patting some coconut oil underneath the eyes. Apply it very sparingly and avoid getting it in the eyes.

To smooth frizzy or flyaway hair.

Woman with fly away hair.
A little coconut oil can help to smooth fly away hair.. Ryuichi Sato/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

To smooth flyaway or frizzy hair and add some shine, rub a tiny amount of coconut oil in between the fingers to warm it up. Smooth it onto the bottom couple of inches of hair and also use it to tame stray flyaway hairs. Don't use too much or it will make hair appear limp and greasy.

As a hair conditioner.

Woman washing her hair.
Use it to condition hair (before shampooing and rinsing).. Peter Cade/The Image Bank/Getty Images

For a hydrating conditioner, try mixing together two parts coconut oil and one part jojoba oil. Apply a small amount to wet hair, allow it to sit for several minutes, and then rinse it out with warm water. Shampoo as normal.

As a deep-conditioning hair treatment.

Combing in deep conditioner.
A deep conditioning hair treatment. Smith Collection/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Add shine to hair with a weekly hair treatment. Smooth a small amount to the ends of your hair (running your fingers through your hair to distribute it) and then cover it with a shower cap for at least 30 minutes. It can be kept on overnight, but be sure to cover up pillows with old towels. Rinse it out with warm water and then shampoo as normal. Michelle Phan also has this recipe for a DIY hair mask for dry, damaged hair.

To soften cuticles.

Coconut oil for cuticles.
Coconut oil is sometimes used to soften cuticles.. Gianni Diliberto/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Rub a bit of coconut oil onto nail beds and cuticles. For a more intensive treatment, dab coconut oil on nails before bed and put on gloves to prevent transfer of the oil onto bed sheets.

What is your favorite way to use coconut oil? Tweet me at @aboutcathy!

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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