Since discovering the natural miracle (repeat, miracle) that is raw organic virgin coconut oil, my life has changed for the better. I've thrown away more than half of the health and beauty products that once sat on my bathroom shelves, and my hair and skin have never felt or looked better.
As well as becoming an irreplaceable part of my daily nutrition (coconut oil blended into freshly brewed coffee or drizzled over oatmeal makes for a very good morning), baking, cooking, and 'beauty' routine, a small bottle of coconut oil has irrevocably formed an essential and permanent part of my travel kit.
Coconut oil is incredibly versatile, with multiple practical and nutritional uses. I have seriously saved enormous amounts of time, luggage space, pain, and money by packing coconut oil instead of buying a bunch of unnecessary toiletries abroad.
If I'm checking luggage in, I usually pack a medium-sized bottle of coconut oil. If I'm backpacking or using carry-on bags, I decant coconut oil into a 100ml bottle and buy more when I reach my destination. In Southeast Asia especially, coconut oil is easy to find and typically quite cheap.
Make sure your coconut oil is organic and cold-pressed. VCO is safest for raw consumption if it's transparent, has a distinct coconut smell, and turns solid below room temperature.
From using coconut oil to soothe your raging sunburn, to moisturizing your dry and peeling skin, to protecting your hair from the ravages of sea salt before going scuba diving, here are 11 Reasons Why Virgin Coconut Oil Should be on Your Travel Essentials Packing List.
1. It's a natural moisturizer and conditioner.
Coconut oil works wonders for keeping your skin safe from the ravages of airplane dryness. At around 12 percent humidity (drier than most deserts), typical flight cabins are exceptionally dehydrating. Coconut oil is also unbeatable for protecting hair from salt-water and sun damage during outdoor activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing, and sunbathing. Plus, natural oil doesn't pollute the ocean like sunscreen particles do. Save the whales!
Bonus tip: make your own DIY hotel room body scrub by mixing coconut oil up with sugar, salt or coffee condiment packets.
2. You can use it as a shaving cream and soothing balm. For the days when your been-on-the-road-for-months beard starts getting too hairy to handle, or when the length of your leg hair starts offending the locals whenever you wear a skirt, coconut oil is an ideal shaving buddy. Shaving with coconut oil reduces redness, keeps bumps away, doesn't clog your pores with chemicals, and keeps your skin nourished.
3. It's an amazing effective make-up remover. What kind of masochist wants to smear chemical-soaked make-up remover wipes across their stinging, sunburned face after a couple of sangria jugs? Not this masochist! Coconut oil is amazing for removing make-up, conditioning your eyelashes and skin at the same time. Massage it gently into your face and watch the make-up melt away. Huzzah, no more panda eyes at the beach! (Occasionally coconut oil can block pores, so make sure to test it out on your skin and build up tolerance beforehand.)
4. It's a nutritionally beneficial addition to your morning coffee or meal.
Coconut oil has time and again been scientifically proven to increase energy, kill bacteria, curb hunger, increase fat burning, improve blood cholesterol levels, and reduce weight, especially around the abdominal cavity. It's also full of incredibly good fats - some of the healthiest communities in the world have coconuts as a dietary staple. Instant coffee never tasted so good!
5. It doubles as a mouthwash and is brilliant for oil pulling. Whether you have no access to Listerine, your carry-on is too small to lug around a bottle of mouthwash, or the just idea of chemical-filled mouthwash generally gives you heebie-jeebies, coconut oil is a fantastic substitute for mouthwash in the form of oil-pulling, which not only kills off harmful mouth bacteria and improves dental health, but also kicks bad breath to the curb. (Your long-haul flight seat neighbor thanks you for this one.)
6. It soothes mouth ulcers instantly. Travelling often leads to late nights and early morning journeys. Sometimes, it takes a toll on your immune system. Being run down and lacking in sleep can lead to mouth ulcers. Here's the good news: a dab of coconut oil on that pesky mouth ulcer under your tongue will relieve the sting instantly, which means you can carry on enjoying the delicious local street food without continually wincing in pain. Grilled locusts, anyone?
7. It has a natural SPF of 4-5.
With an SPF of 4-5 and containing antioxidants, coconut oil can protect the skin from harmful radiation from the sun to an extent. Obviously, its low SPF isn't sufficient for a long day under the sun, but if you're stuck in a remote area with no access to sunscreen, coconut oil is better than nothing! You can also use coconut oil as is for an extra-protective lip balm, and as a conditioner to prevent sun and saltwater damage to your hair when frolicking outdoors.
Bonus tip: if you have access to other SPF essential oils such as red raspberry seed and zinc oxide, you can mix your own non-toxic and high SPF sunscreen.
8. It's a wonderful massage oil. Especially in Southeast Asia, where massages are both cheap and amazing, asking your masseuse to use your own bottle of coconut oil (especially if you're sunburned, peeling, or have dry skin) will leave you feeling amazing, smelling amazing, and totally moisturized.
Bonus tip: Coconut oil is a natural lubricant. Stay safe, kids!
9. It's excellent for healing sunburn and peeling. You know when you overdo it in the sun and an hour later your skin is bright red, on fire with itchiness, on the verge of peeling, and you feel like all is lost? ENTER THE COCONUT. Slathering coconut oil on sunburn will absorb the heat and cool you down, calm the itch, and keep your skin hydrated. Moisturized skin is the key to preventing your skin from peeling. If you're sunburned, then coconut oil is your best friend.
10. It has anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties. This makes coconut oil great for treating minor wounds and cuts. Did your latest cave exploration leave you with scraped knees? Did you wake up with raging bites from a rabid mosquito? Is the skin between your toes cracking from perpetual flip-flop wearing? Dab some coconut oil on the wounds. Not only will the oil form a protective barrier for the skin, but the wound will be kept moisturized (preventing scabs) and protected from germs (no infections 'round here, mate).
11. It's completely and utterly natural.
Coconuts are one of the world's most abundant and versatile superfoods, and they literally grow on trees. By adopting coconut oil into your lifestyle, you can do your individual part to protect the environment by replacing countless unnecessary, non-biodegradable, overpriced products at home and abroad.
The more you travel, the more you recognize the significance of using naturally occurring, sustainably created products, not just for your own health, but also, for the sake of preserving our beautiful planet.
Replacing drugstore products with coconut oil will reduce the amount of toxins and chemicals regularly absorbed by your body. The body is a temple: nurture it.
So before you take your next trip, why not take the steps to make virgin coconut oil an essential part of your travel and lifestyle routine?
Your bank account, your body, and your planet will thank you.