If ever there was a cure-all, it would seem to be the coconut. At least that’s what one would think based on the attention this fibrous-husked fruit has garnered as of late. If people aren’t consuming copious amounts of coconut water after their workouts, they’re likely to be cooking with coconut oil, which is reputed to be a healthier alternative to butter and vegetable oil. Apparently, not all saturated fats are created equal. And there are now studies underway to test the effects of coconut oil on those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. True coconut converts like Gwyneth Paltrow go so far as to advocate oil pulling, which involves swishing coconut oil around in the mouth for 20 minutes or so to improve oral health and whiten teeth. Of course, coconut has long been regarded as a natural and nourishing skincare ingredient. Thanks to its high-profile status, it’s really no surprise that it’s appearing in an increasing number of skincare products and on treatment menus around the world. Fortunately, its popularity is well deserved.
According to Andrée Austin, cofounder of Pure Fiji, coconut fits well with the farm-to-table trend, as it’s not only an ingredient that is safe to ingest but it’s also really effective on the skin. “It is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are smaller and permeate cell membranes easily, making it great for skincare,” says Austin. It also has a long and trusted track record, having been used for centuries by South Pacific islanders for not only cooking but also their skin and hair. “Coconut and coconut oil is an extremely beneficial ingredient for restoring hydration and moisture to dry, flaky, and chapped skin,” says Chris Birchby, founder of Coola. “It provides natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, which make it a great ingredient for multiple uses, including face cleansers, makeup removers, and head-to-toe moisturizers.” Not surprisingly, coconut and its refreshing scent have long been associated with sunscreen. “Coconut is rich in vitamin E, which helps to protect the skin from cell damage over time, delaying the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Birchby. “Because of its skin-soothing benefits, it’s also used to treat sensitive skin issues, like eczema, sunburn, and more.”
According to Megan Farina, communications manager at Nutiva, a leading manufacturer of organic coconut oil and other whole foods, there are countless ways to use coconut oil, such as in body scrubs and wraps, massages, and deep-conditioning hair treatments. It’s what made it such an attractive ingredient to the folks at Mio Skin Care. “Coconut oil is an ideal foundation ingredient for Mio, because it is versatile, natural, and highly effective for cleansing, moisturizing, and boosting skin’s natural immunity,” says cofounder Jill Dunk. “It contains high quantities of antioxidants and omegas that contribute to cellular health and tissue repair.” These are just some of the reasons for its claim to fame.
As with most ingredients, it’s important to consider the source. Unrefined pure virgin coconut oil, which is extracted without heat, is generally recommended, as it retains more antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins than processed or fractionated coconut oil. Processed coconut oil may involve the use of chemicals during extraction, and fractionated oil, is just that, a fraction of the whole oil, having certain components separated out. However, fractionated coconut oil typically has a longer shelf life and is often used as a carrier oil for essential oils. It’s also commonly found in skincare products, as it’s easier to use in product formulations and won’t clog pores.
While coconut oil offers the skin multiple benefits, you may want to avoid using it on clients with acne, as the verdict is still out on whether it’s a cause or a cure. According to Ben Johnson, M.D., founder of Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare, it can actually be considered a bit of both. “Coconut oil is described as comedogenic topically, but it isn’t really,” he says. While some might hesitate to use it on acneic or breakout-prone skin on account of its potential to clog pores, he explains why they might want to reconsider. According to Johnson, acne is often caused by toxins, which coconut oil can help purge. While that process can actually cause an acneic breakout, it’s only because the impurities are being drawn up and out of the skin by the coconut oil. Even so, your clients with problem skin might not appreciate the temporary breakout that follows their facials.
Where coconut oil really shines, however, is in body treatments. At Serenity Spa Cottage at Hôtel Le Toiny (St. Barth), the Exotic Coconut Rub + Milk Ritual Wrap ($163, 60 minutes) is a perfect fit with the spa’s tropical island locale. “For centuries, St. Barth’s indigenous Arawak people used the coconut for skin protection and nourishment,” says spa manager Simao da Silva. “This tradition is celebrated with the Exotic Coconut Rub + Milk Ritual Wrap. A traditional recipe of coconut, lavender, mung bean, and spices polishes the skin, stimulates the senses, and reduces tension.” Incorporating a range of Elemis products, the treatment involves warmed Skin Nourishing Milk Bath applied over the entire body followed by an exfoliation with a softening Balinese coconut scrub. “The rich wrap is deeply smoothing and softening, improving the color, texture, and clarity of the skin,” says Silva.
At RockResorts Spa at The Arrabelle (Vail, CO), outdoor enthusiasts can calm the effects of overexposure to the sun and wind with the Coconut Crème & Cucumber Skin Soother ($150, 50 minutes). The treatment, relying on pure wildcrafted, organic, and natural products from Isun Skin Care, helps relieve inflamed skin with an herb-infused aloe vera, cucumber, and rose distillate mist followed by a creamy coconut, cucumber, and rose mask. After an indulgent scalp massage, the treatment concludes with a healing serum and protective moisturizing body oil to continue the reparative process. “This treatment helps relieve inflammation, as well as hydrate and soothe irritated skin,” says Angie Brown, area director of the RockResorts Spa. “It’s perfect for soothing windburn, dry skin, sunburn, and the other results of fun mountainside activities. Coconut oil actively increases skin’s hydration and also has antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, and soothing qualities.”
Coconut’s hydrating benefits are certainly appreciated in the dry, desert climate of Las Vegas. For a truly decadent massage, guests at Spa Bellagio at Bellagio Las Vegas can’t resist the Deep Coconut Surrender (starting at $250, 80 minutes), which provides the perfect balance of pampering and bodywork. The treatment, which incorporates Pure Fiji products, features a drizzle of warm coconut milk and oil onto the body through saturated towels, and then warm stones are used to massage it all in. According to Austin, all of Pure Fiji’s treatments have an element of coconut in them, as coconut oil has served as the base of the products for nearly 20 years. So enamored with the nourishing benefits, the company features a complete line of coconut products, including a coconut sugar rub, body butter mask, and more.
Location, Location, Location
No matter where your spa is based, coconut treatments serve as an enjoyable way to give spa-goers a tropical treat. “I think a fun way to incorporate coconut-related treatments is poolside or in a cabana,” says Birchby. “When we think of coconuts, we think tropical and somewhere warm and sunny.” That’s what the folks at Heavenly Spa by Westin at The Westin Hilton Head (SC), had in mind when they introduced the Coconut Cabana Body Treatment ($120, 50 minutes), which is performed poolside year-round in the Heavenly Spa Cabana. Relying on FarmHouse Fresh products, the treatment involves a creamy whipped coconut-shea butter scrub, which is removed with steaming coconut milk-infused towels, an application of a honey-oat yogurt mask, and finally, a shea and cocoa butter body cream. The service revitalizes the body with an uplifting blend of coconut and pineapple. While clearly nourishing to the body, coconut products and treatments can also have a profound psychological effect on spa-goers thanks to their intoxicating scent. “The scent of coconut is often associated with being on vacation, so marketing a coconut treatment as an escape to a tropical destination is great no matter where you are,” says Austin.
And you don’t have to stop there. Instead, you can get creative and add to the experience or even extend it into the relaxation lounge. At Blue Harmony Spa at Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek (FL), the Bahama Mama Pedicure ($55, 45 minutes) was offered as a monthly special this past May and came with a coconut water beverage for guests to enjoy. It was the perfect way to complement the tropical-inspired pedi, which featured FarmHouse Fresh’s Coconut Beach Whipped Shea Butter Body Polish. “We love the idea of pairing a coconut-themed treatment with a coconut cocktail or coconut water, just as Blue Harmony and Heavenly Spa have done with their treatments,” says Delia McLinden, vice president of sales for FarmHouse Fresh. “It’s an additional refreshing treat that makes the service even more enticing. Let’s be honest, anything with the scent of coconut instantly transports you to a relaxing, tropical place.”
Discover the nourishing benefits of these coconut-infused products.—H.M.
1. Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Massage & Body Oil: This therapeutic blend delivers anti-inflammatory benefits to tired muscles and combines arnica, lavender, and rosemary to improve circulation. It also relies on coconut oil to nourish skin. www.aromatherapyassociates.com
2. Biotone Coconut Crush Sugar Body Polish: Coconut shell powder, coconut oil, and pure cane sugar gently buff, nourish, and eliminate dry skin in this natural exfoliating scrub. www.biotone.com
3. Bon Vital’ Coconut Massage Products: The complete coconut line—cream, gel, lotion, and oil—contains 100 percent fractionated coconut oil, which is light in texture, absorbs quickly, and hydrates the skin. www.bonvital.com
4. Coola SPF 30 Tropical Coconut Sunscreen Spray: Offering broad-spectrum protection in a deluxe eco-size, this spray nourishes and hydrates skin with 70 percent certified organic ingredients, such as algae, cucumber, red raspberry seed oil, and strawberry extracts. www.coolasuncare.com
5. Cosmedix Cell ID Intensive Defense Serum: Formulated to reduce visible wrinkle depth, minimize the appearance of fine lines, enhance skin’s texture, and diminish the look of age spots, this serum contains nutrient-rich coconut water. www.cosmedix.com
6. Éminence Organic Skin Care Coconut Age Corrective Moisturizer: In addition to coconut oil and water, this luxurious hydrator also contains Swiss green apple stem cells and the Natural Retinol Alternative Complex to firm skin. www.eminenceorganics.com
7. FarmHouse Fresh Coconut Beach Whipped Shea Butter Body Polish: Featuring a light pineapple-coconut scent, this creamy, gentle cleanser exfoliates with apricot powder and sugar while coconut water and shea butter help to hydrate skin. www.farmhousefreshgoods.com
8. Guinot Paris Purifying Cleansing Foam: Targeting oily skin, this cleanser normalizes oil secretions. Containing coconut extract, it moisturizes the skin without leaving it tight. www.guinotusa.com
9. Jane Iredale—The Skin Care Makeup Jelly Jar Gel Eyeliner: Using coconut oil, this inky gel eyeliner creates the smooth look of kohl but in a pure formula free of chemicals and irritants. www.janeiredale.com
10. Pure Fiji Coconut Hydrating Body Lotion: Relying on virgin coconut oil and fresh coconut milk, this lotion helps nourish and firm the skin. www.purefiji.com
11. Repêchage Vita Cura Triple Action Body Souffle: This whipped cream contains natural carrot oil for anti-oxidant benefits and coconut oil to help reduce cutaneous dryness and hydrate skin. Mafura oil and shea butter restore the skin’s moisture barrier. www.repechage.com
12. Sothys Paris Energizing Comfort Day Cream: Including coconut extract, this anti-aging formula features specific actives to increase energy production in the cell’s mitochondria to restore skin luminosity and radiance. www.sothys-usa.com