Virgin coconut oil is everywhere these days, and users can’t stop talking about its benefits. You hear about how it works miracles for glowing skin and healthy hair, and how it’s a great plant-sourced ingredient for cooking. Some even say it helps them lose weight! But is VCO all it’s hyped up to be? And will it be safe and beneficial for you? Let’s take a more science-based look at this all-natural wonder oil.
WHAT MAKES VIRGIN COCONUT OIL "VIRGIN"?
The simple answer is that it’s pure and unrefined. It’s literally oil squeezed straight from coconuts. In the food products industry, natural substances are commonly “refined” or processed to achieve certain qualities. For example, refining coconut oil involves a deodorizing process to remove some of its scent and flavor. This makes it suitable for consumers who are used to cooking with tasteless oils. But since virgin coconut oil is unrefined, it retains its natural qualities, including a subtle nutty flavor.
Our VCO at Made Mindful is extracted from coco meat using mechanical equipment called the expeller press. Nothing is added to the oil, and it doesn’t go through any other processing. No lye, no bleaching, no heat deodorizing.
Oh, and you may also be wondering: What’s the difference between virgin and extra-virgin coconut oil? Nothing – they’re the same thing! Some brands are just “extra” in their labeling, likely taking a cue from the olive oil industry, where “virgin” and “extra virgin” are different grades. But in the coco oil market, these two labels both mean pure coconut oil.
Blending with your coffee.
Plenty of people have happily incorporated “keto coffee” in their diets.
Make your regular cup of coffee creamier and frothier by blending 1 ½ teaspoon of VCO in a blender for two minutes! Add in your favorite extras like cacao powder, nut milk, or cinnamon for a satiating morning drink. Of course, it’s wise to consult your doctor about your daily intake of saturated fat.
Whipping up smoothies. Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of melted VCO to your fruit and/or veggie smoothie. Blend together thoroughly and consume immediately.
USING VCO FOR PERSONAL CARE
Body moisturizer. After pat-drying from the shower, pour a dollop of VCO in the palm of your hand and massage throughout your body.
Makeup remover. Take a pea-sized amount of VCO and rub gently across your face to wipe away makeup. Rinse with warm water and follow with your cleansing routine. Alternatively, you can dip a cotton ball in a bit of VCO and gently wipe off makeup with it.
Lip balm. Dab lightly on lips until oil sets. Do this after showering and anytime your lips feel dry.
Anti-split end conditioner. After showering, apply a small amount of VCO directly to the tips of your hair. Gently run a comb to remove excess oil.
Hair moisturizer and strengthener. Before shampooing, massage warm (not hot) VCO on hair, taking care to avoid your scalp. Cover with a shower cap for 20 minutes. Shampoo hair as usual. You can do this routine two or three times a week, but less if you have oily or fine hair.
Anti-frizz leave-on conditioner. Rub a pea-sized amount of VCO between your palms then smooth over your hair, from mid-length to tip. Use any excess oil to relax stray baby hair at your roots.
Oil-pulling. This traditional Ayurvedic practice is said to ‘pull’ or draw out toxins from your body, particularly harmful bacteria in the mouth. You can try it before brushing your teeth. Swish a tablespoon of VCO in your mouth for 15 to 20 seconds, spit out, then proceed to brushing.
VCO FOR PRACTICAL HOUSEHOLD TASKS
Peeling off paper labels. Trying to peel the stubborn label off a glass jar or bottle you’d like to reuse? Soak it overnight in hot soapy water. Rub VCO on it, let it set, then scrape off. Wash the residue off and you’ll have a crystal-clear reusable jar in no time!
Cleaning up crayon smudges. If your toddler has just created a crayon ‘masterpiece’ on the wall or on a similar surface, don’t fret! Try rubbing off the crayon doodles with a washcloth dipped in VCO. It’s a non-toxic cleaning solution.
VCO BENEFITS: HEALTH AND BEAUTY
As VCO has a wide array of uses, it also offers a fantastic list of benefits! Most of these are due to the oil’s medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and fatty acids like lauric acid. Over the last decade, VCO has gained more attention from the medical community, and there’s been growing evidence of its hydrating and antimicrobial properties.
Check out these science-backed advantages of using virgin coconut oil.
- VCO may regulate appetite. Several studies support this, including one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that people who included coconut oil in their breakfast ate significantly fewer calories at lunch. This hunger-curbing effect can be helpful for those trying to lose weight or cut their daily sugar consumption.
VCO helps maintain youthful skin. In a double-blind trial, virgin coconut oil increased the skin’s lipids, which are natural fats that act as a protective barrier keeping impurities out and hydration in. Lipids are also essential in repairing skin damage -- they’re the secret to a smooth complexion that’s resilient from wrinkles and scarring.
In another study, VCO was seen to promote skin collagen production. Since collagen is a major building block of the skin, this suggests that VCO helps rebuild skin from damage and could potentially keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay (especially as we age past 30, when our natural collagen production slows down).
- VCO keeps skin hydrated. Dermatologists from the Philippines examined the effects of virgin coco oil on children with eczema. They found that, among other benefits, VCO was more powerful than mineral oil in keeping water within the skin. Well-hydrated skin means supple skin!
- VCO may treat skin infections. Numerous scientific papers present evidence that virgin coconut oil fights infection-causing bacteria on the skin. A 2019 paper found that VCO inhibited the growth of the staph bacteria that causes atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema). VCO also boosted the skin’s microbe-fighting immunity cells, so much so that the researchers suggested that VCO may be an alternative to antibiotics!
- VCO keeps hair strong. A lot of people swear by VCO for lush, healthy hair, and one study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science provides us with evidence. It revealed that VCO was more effective than mineral oil or sunflower oil in preventing hair protein loss. VCO keeps protein in so our strands are more resistant to damage and split ends.
- VCO protects hair from heat damage. As we now know, virgin coco oil is excellent in keeping hydration within the skin, and the same applies to hair. Locks that are moisturized with VCO are shinier and less prone to damage from the elements. Even hairstylists recommend that you nourish your hair with VCO before you groom or step out in the sun.
- VCO tames frizzy, flyaway hair. Applying coconut oil to frizzy hair strands helps relax them. VCO also acts as a “humidity cap” or a barrier that keeps external humidity out. Humidity in the air makes our hair molecules go crazy, that's why hair strands curl or frizz. Protecting your strands with a nice VCO barrier can prevent unruly flyaways.
- VCO may improve dental and oral health. There are findings that oil-pulling (swishing oil in the mouth) kills tooth decay-causing bacteria and reduces the risk of gingivitis. It’s even found to be as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash in fighting bad breath!
- VCO just might fight COVID-19. In a study by the Philippines’s own Department of Science and Technology, VCO helped reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. While this oil is not considered a cure per se, scientists suggest its antiviral properties may boost the body’s immunity against the novel coronavirus.
Healthy VCO Consumption
How much VCO should you consume in a day?
For an average person with no contraindications, 1 to 2 tablespoons of VCO daily can be sufficient. Start with a teaspoon a day for a few days, then gradually increase over two weeks.
Is VCO good for everyone?
Because coconut oil is fatty by nature, it may not be recommended for people with a high risk of heart disease or those with high blood cholesterol levels. Consult with your physician if you have concerns on fat intake. Also, if you’re allergic to tree nuts, your safest bet is to avoid intake of coco oil as well.
What about for children and pregnant ladies?
VCO is safe for expecting moms to consume or to apply topically. VCO is also hypoallergenic and safe to use on babies’ skin. There are studies showing VCO as an amazing skin protector for preterm infants.
As for VCO intake among children, you’ll want to wait until your little one is old enough to eat solid, oil-cooked foods.
Is VCO safe for pets?
Generally, yes! Some studies even suggest an array of VCO benefits for pet dogs and cats, such as stronger immunity, softer coat, and less bad breath.
You can give your fur-baby a VCO massage before bath, and even use VCO as a mild toothpaste for them. VCO intake is also safe for pets (but consult your vet first!). The generally accepted dosage is 1 teaspoon of VCO per 10 pounds of body weight. Start with smaller doses, mix VCO with their treats, or coat their pet pills with VCO to make the pills more appetizing.