Forget expensive moisturisers: Coconut oil can fight aging, according to study

Coconut oil can provide an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging effect on patches of dry, inflamed or damaged skin

Woman using coconut oil in the mirror as a moisturiser
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Drink lots of water, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and take care of your skin – those are the four pillars of aging gracefully. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that – for example, exercising regular isn't just about taking care of your heart with cardio, but improving your muscles and doing regular stretching exercises to ensure you maintain a healthy body and fight against atrophy. 

Likewise, as you age, you may find yourself needing to support your diet with anti-inflammatories such as the best fish oil supplements

Taking care of your skin is a particularly contentious topic, with all kinds of expensive products that claim to do wonders for your body. It's a given you need to be wearing sunscreen at a high SPF, as the sun can prematurely age your skin (a process called photoaging) and can cause melanoma and other skin diseases. However, when it comes to moisturising, cleansing and toning, there are a few everyday household products that do the job just as well as expensive skincare products. 

A study on plant oils and their application to the skin, conducted by researchers from California State University and Taiwan, found applying plant oils to the skin can help with the skin's "homeostasis", or its continuous cellular renewal. 

Woman using coconut oil as a moisturiser

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Coconut oil particularly was found to have a swathe of benefits, including potentially assisting the repair of the skin barrier, having an antibacterial effect, providing antioxidants, fighting skin aging and acting as an anti-inflammatory. Topical application (applying it to the skin in small quantities) could even be an anti-carcinogenic, fighting against potential skin cancer, although a lot more research would need to be undertaken before this is confirmed.

What we do know from a separate Korean study is that skin treated with coconut oil was less prone to harmful inflammation after being blasted with UVB radiation, due to its high levels of polyphenols and beneficial fatty acids.

The California State study also says " In a study of pediatric patients with mild to moderate [dermatitis], topical applications of virgin coconut oil was shown to be effective in decreasing the severity of the disease", increasing the skin's protective barrier. Finally, nearly 50% of coconut oil's fat content is comprised of monolaurin, which has antiviral and antifungal properties.

A little overnight application of virgin coconut oil or a coconut-based moisturiser on patches of dry skin or inflamed spots could provide an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect, reducing the appearance of aged skin and turning back the clock. If expensive pharmaceuticals aren't doing the job, perhaps its time to raid the kitchen cupboards for skincare solutions instead.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.