October 2014


Author: Densie K. James

Thanks to my dry skin and thirsty naturally curly locks, I’ve never been one to fear a little grease. Unlike most women, I’ll slather on creams and lotions with wild abandon while never worrying about zits, and I’ll happily leave a glob of conditioner in my hair longer than the recommended time—plus skip a few shampoos.

So when I started hearing all the hoopla from the media about coconut oil, I figured it was worth a try. We’ve all read the lists about how coconut oil can do everything from flavor your coffee to moisturize your skin to soothe your sunburn. How true is it? I wanted to find out.

Day One
I begin my journey with a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I pick out a jar of extra virgin coconut oil. I examine it closely; it looks opaque and white, almost like the meat of a coconut. I take my jar home and, after reading the instructions to “store in a cool, dry place,” opt to keep it in my bedroom instead of the humid bathroom.

Later, my curiosity gets the better of me and I unscrew the lid of the jar, inhaling deeply. It smells like a Mounds candy bar, my grandmother’s favorite chocolate of all time. “This isn’t so bad—it’s kind of nostalgic,” I think to myself. I make plans for the next day to moisturize my face with it and maybe even whiten my teeth.

Day Two
I approach the coconut oil jar and find that it’s no longer opaque and white but clear and oily. “Eww,” I mutter to myself, dipping my fingers inside and rubbing them together.

I decide to put it on my face post-shower, though its texture isn’t exactly reminiscent of my usual Olay Total Effects facial lotion. I slap a little bit on my cheeks and forehead, wondering if the stuff will somehow make my fine lines disappear. I smell like the first day of summer.

That evening, I gulp a mouthful from the jar to try “pulling,” a technique that has been lauded in most of the Internet articles about coconut oil as a way to disinfect your mouth and get whiter teeth. It’s pretty gross sloshing around in my mouth, but I keep at it for a few moments, entertaining myself by snapping a photo of the coconut oil jar and uploading it to Instagram.

To my amusement, the Instagram post gets tons of likes, practically right after I put it up.

“One of my favorite products!” enthuses my friend Leah.

“Are you doing oil pulling? Let me know if you love it!” says my friend Aubrey.

I feel mystified and delighted. The stuff has power over people, whether it’s mostly hype or not. I spit into the sink and run my tongue over my teeth. They feel slick.

Day Three
I wake up with a zit on my chin, thus I decide to take a break from the coconut goodness until that evening. Okay, here’s what really happened: the jar lid was too slippery for me to open. I got impatient. There, are you happy?

After my shower that night, I tackle the jar with gusto and yank it open, then slather the oily goodness all over my legs. And even though I didn’t wash or condition my hair, I decide to grease my locks down with it. I’m shining like a rock star on stage, and I smell incredible. I’m guessing I should wash my sheets soon, though.

Day Four
It’s time to try the stuff on my damp hair. I spread it evenly onto my sopping head after a wash and wonder if I should use a blow dryer (which I almost never do) or let it dry naturally as usual. I give up and put my hair into a bun. It really doesn’t seem to be doing anything differently.

Over lunch, I talk to one of my fellow freelance writers about the experiment with coconut oil to get her take on it.

“Oh, I love coconut oil,” she moans, a little too dramatically by my estimation. “I put it on my eyelashes every morning to make my eyelashes grow.”

“How?” I think to myself. “How do you not get it in your eyes and go blind? Do you have a coconut oil eyedropper? Is this for real?”

Day Five
I finally decide I should cook with the stuff. As a die-hard fan of olive oil, using coconut oil to cook my eggs and my spinach seems sort of strange to me, but I pour a few dollops into my frying pan and get to work.

The eggs come out with crispier edges and everything smells great while it cooks. I plate the food and take it into the living room with a fork for the taste test.

Yum. It’s really good, but maybe I’m just really hungry. I can’t tell. Even so, I like that it smells good while you cook with it. Maybe I’ll try something sweeter next like French toast? (And yes, breakfast is about the only meal I can cook, in case you were wondering.)

Coconut oil is definitely fun to have around, but I am not convinced that it can take the place of any other beauty product or cooking product. Sure, my skin feels and smells (and probably tastes) divine, but no more so than when I use lotion. My hair hasn’t gained much benefit, my mouth doesn’t feel all that much cleaner and I’ve got a total of two zits.

If you’re curious about coconut oil, give it a try. But proceed with caution; the stuff isn’t called “oil” for nothing. Like most beauty and health trends, it has its pros and cons.

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