We should coco! From skin creams to health drinks, why coconuts are the new must-have ingredient
The beauty industry loves a ‘super ingredient’. From pomegranates to goji berries, these nutrient-packed beauty boosters promise a multitude of benefits. And the latest ‘super ingredient’? The humble coconut.
Celebrities such as Madonna and Demi Moore guzzle its water by the gallon. Model Miranda Kerr credits a diet rich in coconut oil with helping her post-pregnancy weight loss, while cosmetic companies are also promoting its benefits when applied topically to the skin.
Star treatment: Celebrities such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Miranda Kerr are fans of the beautifying benefits of the coconut
‘Coconut oil, milk and water have exceptional moisturising and nourishing properties for the skin,’ says Lena Korres, brand development director of Korres, which uses coconut milk in its showergel.
‘Coconut milk derived from the fruit’s pulp is rich in nutrients, so it works to nourish and hydrate. At the same time it eliminates impurities thanks to its natural antimicrobial properties.’
HOW TO MAKE COCONUT BODY SCRUB
Feeling inspired? It’s really easy to make your own deliciously scented body scrub.
- 1.75oz (50g) coconut oil (solid)
- 2tsp (10ml) macadamia oil
- 10 drops orange essential oil
- 5 drops lemon essential oil
- 5 drops lime essential oil
- 2oz (60g) unrefined brown sugar
Small glass bowl, teaspoon, Airtight 3.5fl oz (100ml) jar
1 Add coconut oil to bowl. Add the macadamia oil, stir until soft and fluffy
2 Add essential oils and stir. Add brown sugar gradually. Stir.
3 Put in jar. If you add vitamin E oil, the scrub should last six to 12 months.
Massage into damp skin while in the shower, paying special attention to knees and elbows. Be gentle with the delicate skin on the collarbone and chest. Rinse off the scrub and you will be left with a layer of coconut oil, which you can massage into your skin to leave it soft and supple.
From A Green Guide to Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert, published by CICO Books, at £14.99. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0843 382 0000.
Celebrity dermatologist Dr Nicholas Perricone (whose clients include Eva Mendes and Jennifer Lopez) is also incorporating coconut into his latest line. In September his ‘Super’ range hits the UK and includes two coconut-based products.
The Super Hyper Hydrator Daily Moisturiser (£29.50, boots.com) is filled with skin-hydrating coconut water and the Super Lush Lips Conditioning Balm (£14) features coconut oil to provide a nutrient-rich barrier over delicate skin.
And a host of other beauty brands are on the coconut trail, too. Clinique’s new Pore Refining Solutions Instant Perfector (£18, clinique.co.uk) and Correcting Serum (£36.50) are infused with pore-cleansing coconut acid. Good Things Soothing Body Butter (£6.49, goodthingsbeauty.com) is also rich in coconut oil, providing long-lasting moisture to the skin.
Also newly arrived in the UK is organic brand Wembé. Its Coconut Exfoliating Bar (£5.50, wembe.com) contains coconut pulp derived from the fruit’s dried flesh and can be used on the face, body and hair.
But a word of warning. Coconut oil is not suitable for all skin types — some will break out in spots, but others respond well to the natural anti-inflammatory properties. If in doubt, experts advise that those of us susceptible to breakouts should steer clear from overly rich products.
‘It might be an effective moisturiser, but skincare containing high amounts of coconut oil can be strongly comedogenic —meaning it can clog pores,’ says dermatologist Dr Samantha Bunting.
So how about eating it? Is coconut really a super food? Despite being a key component of Indian and Thai diets for centuries, people in the West have frowned upon consuming coconut because of its high saturated fat levels.
‘Coconuts and coconut oil have the highest saturated fat content of any food on the planet,’ says nutritionist Zoe Harcombe. ‘But, contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with saturated fat. Saturated fat is the most stable of all the natural fats and is therefore best for cooking with, as it doesn’t oxidise when heated.’
Although it’s high in saturated fat, several published clinical studies in recent years have found that coconut oil can help to reduce abdominal obesity and increase calorie burning for those who cook with it regularly too.
Miranda Kerr claims to consume four tablespoons a day — in salads, cooking and cups of green tea — crediting it with helping her lose baby weight. Coconut oil is also used by athletes, including the England rugby union team and Premier League footballers.
‘Coconut oil is a medium–chain saturated fat that doesn’t need the liver and gallbladder to digest it — so it provides instant energy and an increased metabolic rate. It also targets the thyroid, beefs up the metabolism and melts abdominal fat quickly,’ says Dr Perricone.
However, a word of warning — with coconut oil packing such a saturated fat punch, some experts point out that consuming too much can cause serious health problems.
‘Coconut oil contains more saturated fat than butter,’ says Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. ‘A high intake of saturated fat is associated with increased risk of high blood cholesterol levels.’
‘Coconut’ comes from early Spanish explorers, who first called them ‘coco’, meaning ‘monkey face’
So, what of the celebrity’s favourite new health drink, coconut water?
The hip drinks brand of the moment Vita Coco — which saw sales grow by a whopping 1,200 per cent in 2010 — is set to be the next big hitter in the beverage industry, with other brands about to arrive in our supermarket fridges.
Makers of the drinks say that the liquid is 99 per cent fat-free and rich in electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. They claim it’s a great sports drink and the best way to relieve dehydration.
But some experts have poured cold water on the benefits of drinking coconut water.
Zoe Harcombe says: ‘These drinks are marketed as great for hydration, but tap water is a great hydrator and the ideal remedy for dehydration. It contains calcium, potassium and other minerals naturally and it won’t cost you as much.’
So if you like the taste of coconut water, drink it — but don’t expect miracles.