In Praise of Coconut Oil by Kerry Clare

No one has ever asked me how they can get skin like mine. They weren’t asking when I had eczema in childhood, or when my lake-water allergy covered my entire body in a rash, or during the winters when my face is spotted with red and scaly splotches. Two summers ago when I developed photodermatitis for the first time and my face, neck and chest were covered in a repulsive rash (my eyelids were swollen), no one inquired as to what products I was using, unless they were wondering for public health reasons—and it was hydrocortisone, by the way, that finally offered some relief.

The thing about hydrocortisone cream is that it clears up rashes but it gives one’s skin the fortitude of crepe paper. My skin was dry and itchy and raw in places, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. My usual skin-care products made my face sting so bad I had to rinse them off. I’d been using Nivea instead, which suited my sensitivities better, but my face still felt terrible. Friends and neighbours made suggestions: aloe vera, vItamin E cream. Nothing was offering any relief, and these were desperate times. Which tend to lead, of course, to desperate measures.

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I’d had a jar of coconut oil in my cupboard since Rebecca Woolf from Girls Gone Child’ had posted about how eating it can help you lose weight AND it’s good on popcorn—has ever a single thing had two such excellent uses? It worked for the latter, less well for the former, though it mustn’t have helped that I was using it as an ingredient in copious baking projects. Perhaps I’d got the wrong idea.

But I had the right idea when it occurred to me to try the coconut oil on my skin. A little greasy, yes, but it helped and once my rash was gone, I kept using it and for the first time in my life I had skin that was…decidedly okay? Soft to the touch, even. And so I continue to use coconut oil as a facial moisturizer to this day, and these are my top five reasons why:

1)      Coconut oil has a low smoke point. Admittedly, this isn’t so relevant to skincare, but I appreciate using a product on my face that is so useful in frying pancakes.

2)      It’s cheap. More expensive than canola oil, for sure, but a giant tub in the grocery store costs a fraction of what I paid for those pretty little bottles at the beauty counter.

3)      Coconut oil is a veritable thermometer. Two weeks ago, the contents of my jar were solid for the first time since before the summer, and I knew it was time to put on a cardigan and that autumn was finally here.

4)      It’s natural. An ingredients list with just a single item sounds better to me than a long list of chemicals whose names I can’t pronounce.

5)      I tend to keep a jar in my room for my skin, and another in the kitchen for cooking. But when one runs out, they become interchangeable, and truth be told, toast crumbs are not a terrible exfoliator.

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Kerry Clare writes about books and other things at Pickle Me This.  She is the editor of The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood, which we spent a wonderful week discussing right here.  Her first novel, Mitzi Bytes, “a grown-up Harriet the Spy for the digital age,” will be published by HarperCollins Canada in early 2017.

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