Introduction: Unusual Uses for Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is super versatile - I use it in baking, cooking, on myself and my pets, and even around the house! My absolute favorite thing to make with coconut oil is my beeswax and coconut oil lip balm - works great on dry lips and any dry skin - it's like an all purpose lotion stick. :D
Coconut oil has come to be seen as a miracle food by many bloggers around the web. While I can't claim it does all the things I've read online, I can say that it is delicious and has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
I've discovered loads of fantastic and unusual uses for it through the years. I've also tested out many of the uses for coconut oil I've seen online and compiled my favorite ones here!
Have a favorite unusual use for coconut oil? Let us know in the comments :D
P.S. Sick of coconut oil AMAZING MIRACLE CUREEEESSSS click bait lists? Me too! Eric linked me to a short New Yorker article about coconut oil while I was writing this. I highly recommend it if you're also feeling skeptical and unimpressed. ;)
Step 1: The Different Types of Coconut Oil
There are two major types - refined and unrefined.
Refined coconut oil is often darker in color and less solid. It smells and tastes much less like coconut than the unrefined oil. It's best for cooking - it can handle higher heat, so it's a great oil to use for sautéing, roasting or pan frying. It's also great for recipes that might not play well with a strong coconut flavor! I love Spectrum Naturals refined coconut oil - it has no discernible flavor or sweetness to it, so it's fantastic.
I use refined coconut oil for:
- pan frying
- DIY cleaning products
Unrefined coconut oil is normally a very bright white color and quite solid at room temperature. This type of coconut oil is often called "virgin" or "extra virgin". It smells and tastes very strongly of coconut! This is my preferred coconut oil type for all beauty/body/straight up eating it applications because it is less processed. My favorite unrefined coconut oils are Dr. Bronner's Whole Kernel and Ziggy Marley's Coco'Mon - Trader Joe's also has fantastic unrefined coconut oil if you live near one. :D All three of those are perfect when it comes to taste and smell.
I use unrefined coconut oil for:
- bath & body
Step 2: Replace Butter With Coconut Oil for Dairy-free Desserts
This is my favorite use for coconut oil - yummy baked goods!
I'm lactose intolerant, which often leaves me feeling like I'm missing out when it comes to rich buttery foods. But coconut oil makes being lactose intolerant a little easier. :D
General tips for subbing coconut oil in for butter:
- always measure the oil when it's melted - measuring when it's solid is much harder to get right, and 9/10 times you'll be melting it anyway!
- scale back a little - coconut oil is fattier than butter, so your baking could end up a little more greasy than normal if you use the full amount. Sometimes just removing a tablespoon of coconut oil can make a huge difference! Play around with it and see what works.
- unrefined coconut oil is always your best bet! It has a stronger coconut flavor as well, so it's best to only use it in recipes that will work with a coconut flavor.
Here are some tried and true recipes to get you started, too:
Step 3: Use It As an After-shower Body Moisturizer
This is perfect for wintertime, or if you live in a dry climate. Coconut oil is amazingly moisturizing and has also been found to offer a small amount of SPF protection - which is an awesome bonus! ( Though as a health educator I have to stress that you should be using a higher grade of SPF on top. :D )
I like to keep a small jar in the bathroom that's only for body use so there's no cross contamination.
Just warm up about a 1/2 teaspoon of it between your palms and rub it onto slightly damp skin right after your shower - it'll go on a little easier than way.
The only caveat - be careful using coconut oil on your face!
While coconut oil is perfect for sensitive skin, I can't 100% recommend using it on your face because it is highly comedogenic. I've used it on my face without any issues, but it can cause serious breakouts. It you have oily skin, it can also cause breakouts on the chest and upper back so be careful and don't go overboard. :)
Step 4: Smooth Split Ends
Coconut oil has been shown to effectively penetrate the hair shaft and help prevent damage.
It can be very heavy, though! I recommend warming up a pea sized amount between your hands and then rubbing it through the ends of your hair. It seems to work best when your hair is nice and dry - if it's wet the coconut oil will have a hard time sinking in.
If you have super fine hair, it might be a good idea to do it as an overnight treatment and wash your hair in the morning - that's what I do. Thicker hair can use coconut oil as a nice leave in conditioner, though!
Also: if you go multiple days between washings and you get frizzy ends, a teensy bit of coconut oil can help calm them down a bit.
Step 5: Soothe Rashes, Bug Bites, Burns and Sunburns
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and can really help calm upset skin!
I highly recommend putting a tiny container of it in the fridge and using it for any bites or burns you get. You just need to chip off a tiny piece (it'll really harden up in the fridge!) and rub it on the affected area.
Photo by John Tann, via flickr
Step 6: Relieve Constipation and Hemorrhoid Pain
Coconut oil is well known for its laxative effects - but most folks find out about it by accident. ;) If you're fighting with constipation, coconut oil can be a great fix to get things moving again!
Start by ingesting 1 tablespoon in the morning on an empty stomach. You can increase your intake to 2 tablespoons if you don't see a difference in a couple days.
Coconut oil can also be used on both internal and external hemorrhoids to combat inflammation and itchiness. For external hemorrhoids, just apply to the inflamed area. For internal hemorrhoids, you can freeze tiny bits of coconut oil for use as suppositories.
Step 7: Remove Labels With Homemade Goo Gone
You can make a copycat version of Goo Gone at home using baking soda and coconut oil! I like to add sweet orange oil to mine as well. :D
Click here to see the whole homemade Goo Gone instructable!
Step 8: Dog and Cat Uses
Coconut oil has many uses for your pets, too! Our dog Roscoe loves it. I'm pretty sure we could bribe him to take a bath just with coconut oil. :D
- soothe dry skin - our dog Roscoe suffers from dry, itchy skin. We give him a teeny bit of coconut oil (teaspoon or less!) with his glucosamine pills every day. We also rub the oil directly onto his belly and legs - wherever his skin has a tendency to get upset. Coconut oil really helps him relax and stop fussing once it's soaked in!
- help defeat hairballs - apply a tiny bit of coconut oil to your cat's paws or feed them up to 1/2 teaspoon daily - they'll lick it off and it should help the hairballs to pass through the digestive system properly instead of coming back up. Try to avoid feeding them too much coconut oil - keep in mind that it is a laxative.
- help with ear infections - our cat Dee deals with constant ear infections and has since she was little, but applying coconut oil after cleaning her ears seems to keep them cleaner for longer! I first clean them using an ear cleaning solution, and then apply a little melted (but cool!) coconut oil on the inside with a q-tip. My mom gave me this tip - she's also used it successfully to combat infection that stem from ear mites.
- pupsicles - mix equal amounts of peanut butter (or your favorite nut or seed butter!) and coconut oil and freeze small amounts in an ice cube tray for chilled treats for your dog.
- help with feeding when appetite is low - I smooth a bit of coconut oil (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) on my hands and then "toss" Roscoe's dog food if he doesn't feel like eating. He's been having issues with pain in his hips, so sometimes it's tricky to get him to finish his bowl, and he needs to eat before he gets his pain meds. This way all the food smells a little like his favorite thing - he'll finish the whole bowl. :D
And some obligatory and adorable photos of my babies are included.
Step 9: Vegan Butter Coffee
Bulletproof and butter coffees have been allllll the rage lately. The boy started putting butter in his coffee and I felt left out, but thankfully coconut is a nice substitute.
Unrefined coconut oil works great in coffee and tea, and so does coconut butter. I recommend doing 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of either. It makes black coffee taste great, and some teas (gunpowder, jasmine, anything green, floral, or chai!) taste lovely with coconut oil added too!
Step 10: Remove Gum From Hair
Peanut butter has long been the go-to, but coconut oil is a nice option for those times you don't have any peanut butter or perhaps someone around has a nut allergy.
Apply it liberally to the area the gum is to gently coat the hair and gum. Try to gently pull the hair away from the gum. It will take a little while but it'll work and might save you from cutting off several inches of hair. :)
Step 11: Make Homemade Magic Shell
Just because you needed another excuse to eat sweets. :D
Check out scoochmaroo's homemade Magic Shell recipe here!
Step 12: Shine Stainless Steel
Coconut oil is a great fix for sad, splotchy stainless steel.
You'll need a microfiber cleaning cloth or a scrap of t-shirt/jersey fabric for this to work the best - paper towels and fuzzy fabrics will leave fibers!
Clean the surface and then apply a teeny amount of coconut oil and rub it on using nice long strokes - buff it out using the cloth and enjoy super shiny stainless steel. It really doesn't take very much at all - it should look glossy but not wet. :D
The only place I don't recommend this is the stovetop - the heat can cause the oil to discolor!
Step 13: Personal Lubricant
Coconut oil has long been known as a fantastic lubricant, but comes with one major warning: NEVER use coconut oil with latex condom. Oils weaken the latex, so the condom will have a higher chance of breaking.
If you're interested in trying coconut oil, it's a good idea to invest in some latex free condoms (polyisoprene or lambskin).
So why is it known as an awesome lubricant? It's not water based, so it won't begin to dry out and get sticky like many lubricants - it' s long lasting! Coconut oil also has anti-fungal properties so it's great for folks that are prone to yeast infections. Last but not least - it tastes and smells about 100% better than standard lubricants.