What is coconut?
Is it a fruit? is it a nut? Well it's a drupe (pronounced droop).. which are actually a family of fruits. The pistacio, almond, dates and cherries are also part of this family! Coconuts grow on the coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera) - this is not the same tree that palm oil is manufactured from, the main species used for palm oil production is called the African oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis). Cocos Nucifera is native to tropical regions and is now cultivated in both tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. The health benefits of coconut water, milk, oil and flesh are now well known and publicised.
How does it benefit the skin?
When it comes to applying coconut topically this is generally done in oil form. Coconut oil is of benefit to the skin in a number of ways, particularly in healing sunburn. It is also rich omega 6's Lauric Acid (LA) and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) providing anti inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. LA is known to reduce acne inflammation and assit in addressing dermatitis. GLA is said to be effective in treating psoriasis and eczema. Coconut oils has high anti-oxidant content meaning it assists in fighting ageing of the skin.
Organic virgin or extra virgin cold pressed are the best options. The practice of using hexane to maximise yield is used by some producers. This process also involves heating to remove some of the hexane which causes the destruction of beneficial Vitamin E.
Fijian produced Banaban coconut oil is the perfect example of a safe coconut oil source and they provide a great overview of this issue on their website.