In this article, I discuss the skincare benefits of using coconut oil. There is also a brief discussion on "harmful ingredients" in skincare products.
Disclaimer: All of the photos here are taken by me. You cannot use them without obtaining my written permission first. These are my personal views and I do not any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message.
My paternal grandfather owned a few plantations in Malaysia and there were lots of coconut trees. Our family mainly used the coconuts for our personal use. Grandpa was in the oil palm and rubber business. I can still remember one of my cousins skilfully unhusking a young coconut for me to eat and drink from. There is nothing sweeter nor fresher than a young coconut just knocked off the tree (FYI, in general the coconuts would just drop to the ground when they were ripe). My paternal grandmother would often use coconuts in her cooking. Of course, it made sense to grow their own coconut trees as my father grew up with 12 siblings (hence our own little farm of cows, pigs, chickens and sometimes fresh fish from the river near the plantations). I can still remember the smell of grandma's chicken curry cooked with freshly squeezed coconut milk.
It is incredibly laborious to "make" your own coconut milk. First you have to grate the coconuts' flesh. You then have to bundle it up in a muslin cloth. Then, with lots of muscle, you have to squeeze and squeeze the precious "milk". My grandma was one of the strongest women I have ever (and yet to) come across. She could break a pear into two - go try it, it is near impossible. All this from grating and making coconut milk from scratch. Uhhh, she also was a very fast runner. I remember her chasing us around the village when my cousins and I got very naughty.
Right. Back to why coconut oil is good for you. I'll get to that shortly. Redwin's coconut body oil and balm are made from 100% organic coconuts. SO, is the "organic" version better for you? Let's find out.
Is Organic Skin Care Better For You?
I am neither an advocate for nor against "organic" produce (I'm more concerned if the "stuff" I am eating is GMO - that's creepy. I don't want to eat beef that was GMO-ed with a frog).
As I'm not an expert on organic "things", I've done a bit of research (admittedly, I spent about 4-5 hours, scanning through various online materials on organic produce and skincare). I've included links below to the (more interesting) online resources that form the basis for my opinion.
The first thing to note when thinking about whether you should choose the "organic" alternative is to find out exactly WHO has certified the product as being "organic". Usually, a logo of the certifying organisation is displayed on the products' packaging. There are a fair few organisations that exist to do that certification. The more relevant ones to me are:
ACO Certification Ltd (Australia's largest certifier for organic and biodynamic produce - https://www.aco.net.au (go to their website to learn more about the certification process and requirements).
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources also has lengthy document on Australia's National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce (see http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/aqis/exporting/food/organic/national-standard-edition-3-7.doc ) If you have the time, it is an interesting read. It is 68 pages long. On their website you can also find the list of Approved Certifying Organisations (http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/contactus/phone/aco) along with their logos and links to their websites.
The United States Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program - refer to their website for the standards and regulations as well as a list of accredited certifying agents (seems like there is a whole other industry for getting certified as an agent to certify something is "organic") (https://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program)
In summary, actually qualifying for being "certified organic" is a pretty expensive process because of the high(er) level of standards and number of regulations that the producer has to pass in order to get the certification. For example the produce must be planted on a piece of land that is surrounded by a specified safety area/boundary from land that "toxic" materials might be produced on. Hence the higher prices you see on "organic produce". It is a fairly rigorous process to get something certified organic.
With certified organic skincare products (and not all of them are 100% made from certified organic ingredients. There are apparently varying degrees of "organic" that you can get certification for), you can generally expect that the product does not include the items listed below. With each item, there appears to be "grey" areas where there are studies that indicate that they are "safe" as well studies that say they are "harmful" (generally when used in high dosages).
Generally with "organic" skincare products you can expect the absence of the chemicals listed below. Please note that the list below is not exhaustive and should be seen only as a very general guide. In writing my side notes, I've relied most on the following online resources:
For some of the items listed below, I've included links to publicly available information:
lesser to zero fillers;
lesser to zero synthetics;
the produce is not exposed to pesticides: self-explanatory. Nobody wants to eat or use "stuff" that has been sprayed with Mortein or Raid.
no SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate): in high levels, not good because it can cause skin irritation;
no SLES (sodium laureth sulfate): same as SLES, harmful in high levels with prolonged use.
no Propylene Glycol: this is considered to be a "penetration enhancer" (not so bad except where you are exposed to very harmful chemicals). Even if you've washed it off, it is known to dissolve the fats and oils that your skin requires to stay healthy and moisturised.
no Mineral Oils: again a very controversial ingredient. Some studies say that mineral oils clog pores which can then lead to acne. There are also studies that say that they are non-comedogenic. Based on my limited research if it is mixed with paraffin, it can be harmful. It can also, in high enough dosages and prolonged use, possibly lead to autoimmune diseases.
no Triethanolamine: pretty scary stuff from what I've read. In high dosages with prolonged use, triethanolamine was found to be be carcinogenic and also lead to increased inflammation and lesions.
no EDTA (a.k.a. Edetic acid; Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid; 60-00-4; Edathamil; Versene): also very scary stuff if used in high dosages over a long period. It can cause skin irritation, damage to your eyes and is harmful if swallowed or inhaled. So don't go snorting EDTA for kicks (not that you would... I hope).
no Parabens: it has now become very trendy for beauty products to say that they are "paraben free". Generally, parabens are used as a preservative and also as an ingredient in fragrances. Please note that the word "parabens" is an overall reference to different types of parabens like Methylparaben; Propylparaben and Ethylparaben. There seems to be a lot of contention around the question of whether parabens are bad for you. There are studies that show that the use of parabens could lead to breast cancer. Those studies show that parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors. Other studies like those referenced by Toxnet say that parabens aren't so bad. Right. SO my conclusion from all this is, let's go with the "paraben-free" options.
no Animal Derivatives: self explanatory a.k.a. vegan friendly
no Artificial Colours: again self explanatory, everyone avoids anything labelled as "artificial".
no Carbomers: this refers to a group of polymers primarily made from acrylic acid. They are generally used as thickening agents. Toxnet has 45 pages listing studies on the effect of carbomers. Click on the words in blue to read them in your leisure time. The general consensus is that it is fairly safe. There are some studies that indicate that there are low levels of toxicity but I do note that the General Provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union indicate that carbomers may be used in cosmetics and personal care products.
no Harsh Detergents: this is a very broad topic. "Bad detergents" generally include some of the chemicals listed above like SLS. "Bad detergents" can also include other toxic ingredients like zeolites and ingredients that are not environmentally friendly. Best to read the ingredients list. Click here for an article on how toxic is your laundry detergent is quite interesting and also referenced scientific studies.
What are the Skincare Benefits of Coconut Oil?
There are studies that show that coconut oil has many health benefits when consumed. It lowers the levels of LDL cholesterol and has even been found to improve brain functions. For more information on the health benefits of consuming coconut oil; click on the links below:
possessing antimicrobial properties (helps protect the skin from harmful bacteria and fungi):
can help treat acne;
can help improve your antioxidant status;
very moisturising for the skin. It is helpful in the treatment of eczema; and
can help wounds heal faster;
So there are plenty of benefits from the use of coconut oil as a skincare product.
There is also a long history about the use of coconut oil as skincare and haircare in countries in South East Asia, India and Polynesia. If people have been using it for centuries, it must be good.