Coconut oil for dry skin is one of the best natural moisturisers for skin that money can buy and I’ll tell you why in just a minute. First though, it’s important to understand what’s causing your skin to be dry in the first place. There’s several reasons so here goes.
Both summer and winter can present problems when it comes to keeping our skin moisturised.
I’m a summer girl and can’t say I have a problem with dry skin in summer. For some people though the sun and the salt water can pose big problems. In small doses both the sun and saltwater can do our skin the world of good. They provide antibacterial properties as well as magnesium from the saltwater and vitamin D from the sun. In large doses the sun and salt water unfortunately can burn and ultimately dehydrate our skin.
I’m not a winter girl :(. Winter has dry air, heaters, hot showers, heavy clothing and wind which are all elements that can cause our skin to dry out and become irritated. It’s a fine balance between keeping warm and not overheating.
Too Many Showers
Chances are you have already had a shower, about to take one or planning where to fit one in before the day is over. Research shows many countries have adopted the “cleaner the better” mantra. The reality is though, we are not doing our skin or hair any favours by constantly washing, shampooing, lathering or exfoliating. Our skin is an amazing community of microbes and fatty acids that help protect our skin and our bodies from infection and disease. Just like our guts our skin has a trillion bacteria living happily in conjunction with us, referred to as symbiosis or coexistence.
Over washing does two things:
- Rids the skin of it’s natural oils which leads to dry, flaky skin and bacterial or viral infections which can cause eczema and dermatitis.
- Disrupt’s the skin’s population of immune supporting bacteria. Research is now discovering that an imbalance in the skin’s flora may play a role in many health conditions such as acne and asthma.
However it’s not just the over washing that affects the skin, but also how long we shower for, the temperature of the water and the products that we use to wash with.
If we work out, have sweaty or dirty jobs, even as mums with small children a long hot shower at the end of the day is often looked towards as a sanctuary, a place where we can wash away the cares of the day. On the other hand, a morning shower can sometimes be essential to wake us up, get our head in the right place so as to start the day with some sense of togetherness. Then there is the shower for aesthetic reasons. Of the 400 people studied by Energy Australia 9% took 3 showers a day.
So is the answer to shower less?
It appears that there is no “one size fit all” when it comes to the amount of showering we should undertake. Professor Stephen Shumack recommends showering only when you need to which might equate to once a week for the sedentary and up to 3 times for those who are more active.
Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing. “People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case.”
Don’t despair though, in case you’re thinking you have to abandon that daily shower, there are things that you can change to reduce the assault on the skin.
- Reduce showering time – women take up to 10 minutes longer than men with exfoliating, shaving and shampooing. Recommendations are approx 7 – 10 minutes.
- Consider showering every other day or only on days when you work out, or get really dirty.
- Reduce the temperature of the water. Really hot water opens up the pores and for some skin types this can be troublesome. Try turning the temp down to warm. If you can’t achieve that then stand under a completely cold shower at the end of the hot one for 30 seconds to close the pores back up again.
- Consider swapping any harsh cleansers with something more gentle and oil based for your skin. Using Castile soap or no soap at all and just washing the parts where your body naturally collects dirt and bacteria – underarms, groin, buttocks, behind the ears.
Ditching commercial cleansers, soaps, shampoos and conditioners is something I did a long time ago. I discovered by accident the effects of sulfates on my skin a few years ago which lead me on a journey of detoxing my home cleaning products as well as my personal hygiene ones. I then introduced Coconut Oil as my No 1 ingredient for a multitude of purposes and have discovered that less is more. The less ingredients that I use the better my skin and hair look and feel.
Bacteria and Oils
Our skin is naturally made up of protective oils, partly because when they are mixed with the dead skin cells it provides food for the trillion of critters (bacteria) to flourish and partly to help trap moisture in the deeper layers of our skin and consequently our body. Many cleansers, soaps, hand washes (especially antibacterial ones) and other personal hygiene products actually strip the natural oils in our skin, leaving it exposed to dryness and a disruption to those beneficial bacteria. Commercial shampoos and conditioners usually highlight somewhere on the bottle that they are ph balanced, indicating that they won’t strip the natural oils from your scalp and leave your hair exactly as nature intended, but this is not always the case. Usually the reason why you have to apply a conditioner after the shampoo is to put back oils or moisture into the scalp that the shampoo removed along with any dirt and grime. The less you wash your hair, the better.
Coconut Oil for Dry Skin
Besides altering your shower routine, reducing sun exposure and swapping out your regular cleansers, soaps and shampoos there is one amazing ingredient that needs to be added to your showering, hair and personal hygiene routine.
Coconut oil with it’s large amounts of MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) are similar to the sebum produced by the skin. The sebum is converted into MCFAs by tiny bacteria that feed on it. The same is true of coconut oil. When it’s applied to skin the bacteria feed on it and convert the MCFAs which activates the antibacterial properties. When we wash with soap and water, the natural oils are stripped away and our skin is at it’s most vulnerable to viruses and infections. By placing a thin layer of coconut oil over the skin will quickly reestablish the body’s natural protective barrier.
Coconut Oil for Infected Skin
Those same MCFAs that are present in coconut oil are also the key to treating wounds, infected cuts and atopic dermatitis. In a 2014 study, where children with atopic dermatitis (AD) were treated with coconut oil and mineral oil clearly shows coconut oil coming out on top in reducing water loss and the AD score. The main fatty acid in coconut oil is Lauric Acid and is the one that provides the antibacterial property. Studies have shown it is 15 times more effective than Benzoyl Peroxide in the treatment of acne.
There are many ways of incorporating coconut oil into your cleansing routine to combat dry skin. Use it as an oil cleanser for the face, a body wash instead of soap, as a body butter for after showering, in a sunscreen, a lotion bar or rub stick or just simply as is. For the hair try DIY 2 ingredient shampoo.
How do you use Coconut oil? Have you tried it as a moisturiser? Leave me a comment or share the social love using the buttons below.