It seems the minute we discovered that coconut oil could be the single cure for just about all hair and skin woes, brands came out of the woodworks to introduce a million different versions of it. Very quickly, grocery ad health food stores became troves of coconut oil, designating floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with jugs, tubs, and bottles of the stuff. And now, navigating the aisles for your coconut oil fix has become as complicated as choosing a meal off of a lengthy brunch menu—yes, sometimes a girl can have too many options. Refined, expeller-pressed, virgin, organic. We turned to NYC-based facialist Georgia Louise to help us sift through the many types of coconut oil on the market to find the right formula for all of our beauty needs. Her resounding answer? Organic virgin coconut oil, for the win.
"Don't pay attention to unnecessary glorified marketing terms like extra-refined, raw, cold-pressed," says Louise, adding that such labels are included as savvy ploys to influence your purchase. In short, there are two terms to hone in on: refined and unrefined. "Refined [oils] are filtered with a bleaching clay to remove impurities, which can strip some of the nutrients that are key for skin care." Leave those to your cooking needs. "Virgin [or unrefined] oils are better quality."
Other lingo that you can typically find on coconut oil labels, like cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, and extra-virgin are essentially secret code for unrefined oils. Louise explains that pressed oils are produced through mechanical refining and are considered cleaner than refined oils, however, she recommends avoiding getting won over by the fancy terminology. "A 'pressed' mark on the label is derived from a method of pressing the oil out of dried coconut—which is the same [process for] virgin oils." According to Coconut Oil for Beginners (Rockridge Press, 2014), the difference between cold-pressed and expeller-pressed is the temperature at which the oils are produced. Cold-pressed oils might have a bit of an edge over expeller-pressed oils because they don't lose some of the nutritional properties during the extraction stage. However, both unrefined oils are great options for your hair and skin care needs. Oh, and extra-virgin coconut oil? Unlike EVOO (or extra virgin olive oil for anyone who doesn't follow Rachael Ray), there's no added value here. Just a higher price tag in some stores—perhaps for the extra wording on the packaging. "Organic options are always my preferred choice as they have been grown under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standard of organic farming," says Louise. "This means that no toxic or persistent pesticides have been used."
"Coconut oil is my favorite oil in skincare because of its many multi-healing functions as well as its anti-aging benefits. It can be used from top to toe and is the safest oil for even the gentlest of skins." Now that you know which oil to pick up, Louise, who recently prepped her celeb clients and beauty gurus like makeup artist Gucci Westman for this week's Met Gala, offers tips on how to use the beloved oil.
As a makeup remover
"For makeup removal, place a small amount in the palm of your hand and massage
all over the face and neck," she says. Just be sure to thoroughly wipe the oil and makeup away with a warm, damp face cloth. "If not removed properly, it can plug the pores."
As a moisturizer
"Apply just a tiny pea size amount to the face." The fast-absorbing oil will give you a dewy, healthy glow. If you've got oily or acne-prone skin, skip the t-zone area to avoid the added shine.
As a hair mask
"You can also use it as an overnight hair mask. I personally love to wrap my hair up in coconut oil and a clean wrap sheet." Apply coconut oil to dry hair the night before your next wash—eyeball the amount according to your hair texture—then cleanse your strands in the AM as you normally would. "My hair is satin smooth after washing."
We like Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, $12, nutiva.com.