Without a solid understanding of coconut oil, some say that coconut oil carries plenty of vitamin E, which is what makes coconut oil beneficial for our skin. Not true.
No doubt vitamin E is an antioxidant that greatly benefits our skin by protecting it against oxidative stress, but every 100 grams of coconut oil contains only less than 1 milligram of this vitamin (see Nutrition Facts of Coconut Oil). That’s too tiny an amount to be able to display its antioxidative property and benefit our skin.
What’s more, for each application you can only put a dab of it on your skin to avoid saturation (which can make your skin greasy). Imagine that dab of coconut oil weighs only less than a gram, how much vitamin E is left in that meager coconut oil?
Hence, the trace amount of vitamin E is definitely not the vital component in coconut oil that benefits our skin. It is the fatty compounds in the oil that promote healthy skin. How?
About 80–90 % of the fats in coconut oil are saturated. When these fatty acids are saturated, it means that they do not encourage free-radical activities, and hence, oxidation. Let me show you the evidence.
We are surrounded by gazillion invisible, omnipresent free radicals that are constantly attacking us, both internally and externally. When you expose your skin to ultra-violet (UV) ray from the sun for long hours, you get sunburn. This is because UV excites free radicals that in turn, rapidly damage the skin structure and slow the production of new cells to replace dead cells.
But fortunately, when you apply multiple layers of coconut oil to your skin, you can protect yourself from sunburn. I’ve done that. After cycling under the hot scorching sun for 4 hours when I visited Taiwan during its summer few years back, the exposed skin on the back of my neck and both my arms looked perfectly fine except for a little tanned. No burning sensation or anything. It just felt normal.
See? That’s the power of saturated fat from coconut oil. But do take note, not all saturated fats work the same way as those in coconut oil. Most of the saturated fats in coconut oil belong to the medium-chain group, which leads to the next reason why coconut oil benefits our skin.
When you rub pork lard, animal fats or most other vegetable oils on your skin, you would have found that they don’t penetrate your skin that well. This is because they all belong to the long-chain group.
Medium-chain fatty acids that constitute 50–64 % of coconut oil, on the contrary, are smaller in size and so they can easily penetrate our skin. How does that benefit us?
Do you know our skin is constantly shedding dead cells to provide space for new cells?
Between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells die and are shed every hour on an average person. If we don’t get those cells replaced in time, our skin will sag and wrinkle.
Especially the elderly, their skin wrinkles easily because their skin has low cellular metabolism. But when they apply coconut oil to their skin, their skin improves over time as the cellular metabolism increases.
That’s because the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil can effortlessly diffuse into skin cells without insulin (long-chain fatty acid requires insulin), making them the perfect food for skin to build new cells and take the place of dead skin cells quickly.
But that’s only one of the many benefits of coconut oil for skin. Next, please…
All fatty acids in coconut oil possess antimicrobial properties. But those that defend your skin better are lauric, caprylic, capric, linoleic, stearic, palmitic, oleic and myristic acids because they exist in relatively greater amount, particularly lauric acid.
Each acid holds some unique abilities to fight off certain strains of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other harmful germs. But when Mother Nature fits them all together into one coconut, coconut oil (after extraction from the fruit) becomes unstoppable in fighting a wide range of malicious microbes such as H. pylori, chlamydia pneumoniae, influenza virus, HSV (herpes simplex virus), sarcoma virus, leukemia virus, and even HIV.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Every now and then thousands of harmful microorganisms would land on it trying to colonize and build their “homes”. Relying solely on our intrinsic skin oil (sebum) for skin defense may not suffice especially when we’re exposed to a very polluted and highly contaminated environment.
This is where coconut oil comes into play.
Without additional defense from coconut oil, health-detrimental viruses, bacteria or fungi may gain entry through our skin and start making waves in our body. So, never let your guard down when it comes to skin health.
Speaking of skin health, acne has become an increasing concern not just for the youth but for many adults as well nowadays. Acne flare is due partly to the over-secretion of skin oil that stimulates an overgrowth of acne bacteria. Since it can help to calm the production of skin oil and keep the acne bacterial count in check, you can try using coconut oil for treating acne. Some acne sufferers have done that and managed to gain back the flawless skin they used to have.