The cleanse that I was all excited about starting for the new year is not happening at the moment. It’s because of my thyroid, but we’ll get to that later. Grrr. For now, in lieu of blabbing about my dietary shenanigans, I would like to take you on a tropical journey into the land of coconut oil!
Several years ago when I was single, bored, and cold, I embarked upon a health kick wherein I ditched my antidepressants, became vegan, and practiced Bikram yoga 5 times a week. It was sheer backfiring misery. Soon, I was visiting two different psychiatrists, wolfing down street meat, and falling asleep on my yoga mat while sinewy American Apparel models flung sweat across the room at me.
But it was in the midst of this dreariness that coconut oil entered into my life. See, the changing room of the yoga studio was an 8×10 closet-slash-nudist colony where throngs of people sat and chatted in clouds of BO-scented humidity. Though revolting, it was there that I eavesdropped on many fascinating conversations while trying to lace up my sneakers. Conversations about things like water birth, vaginal rejuvenation procedures, and the then-revolutionary caveman diet. There was one especially golden-bronze woman, somehow clean and dry and bright looking in the dingy changing area. Someone asked if she’d just gotten back from the Caribbean, and she said no, she’d simply been putting coconut oil on her skin every day for the last 3 years.
Although that’s when coconut oil first crossed my radar, it wasn’t until 2011 that I rediscovered it in an effort to get glowy and healthy before my wedding. I used it externally, as a moisturizer, hair conditioner, eczema treatment, under-eye balm, lip gloss, and make-up remover. I consumed it internally, in cooking. It’s delicious instead of vegetable oil in baked goods, and it gives a sort of South Pacific flair to things when used instead of olive oil. It also has a very high smoking point, which means it won’t oxidize and create free radicals when it’s heated super high. Sometimes I’d just down a tablespoon or two in an attempt to up my immunities (coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial and antiviral properties) and rev my metabolism (lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid, which means that in addition to boosting metabolism, it aids in digestion and absorption of minerals, and can even increase good HDL cholesterol). It’s also great for oil pulling!
Finally, when I was pregnant, I used 5 different types of oil on my belly at various times to prevent stretch marks. Almond oil from L’occitane, a delightful tonic from Clarins, Sugar oil from fresh, bio oil, and coconut oil. While you can use the regular coconut oil found in the grocery store (Spectrum is a popular brand, and Trader Joe’s makes a great one too), if you are using it for pure cosmetic purposes, a line called Organic Figi infuses the oil with scents like tangerine and lemongrass. This is what I used throughout my third trimester, twice and sometimes three times a day. And though my post-twins body causes me great consternation and anxiety for a number of reasons, stretch marks are not among them. Also baby-related: I used pure coconut oil when I was breastfeeding to prevent the seemingly inevitable cracked, bleeding nipples; I also use it on the twins’ bums in place of baby oil and to prevent diaper rash.
Now we have just finished a polar vortex, and the days are short, and I don’t have a yoga retreat in Costa Rica planned like I did last year. So I make do with coconut oil. I cover myself in it from head to toe after showering, before bed, and randomly throughout the day. Now, whether coconut oil actually changes the pigmentation of the skin like it did for my exhibitionist yogini friend is dependent on your individual skin chemistry, but it imparts a glow no matter. I swear it has helped me stave off my old friend SAD by giving me a hopeful, summery, life-on-holiday sort of feeling.
So here are a few things to keep in mind should you want to acquire that for yourself:
Be sure you choose extra virgin coconut oil that has not been hydrogenated, bleached, refined, or deodorized. I can’t emphasize this enough: you want your coconut oil unrefined. Organic is best.
Also know that above 76 degrees, coconut oil has the consistency of any other oil. Below that, it solidifies. It is oddly satisfying, however, to rub a chunk of it over your skin and watch it liquefy before your very eyes.