Concerned parents often ask us which is better for baby’s skin and hair: cold pressed virgin coconut oil or the Krya baby skin oil and the Krya baby hair oil? What is the rationale behind using a herb infused oil that is specific to skin or hair? Given the high interest around cold pressed virgin coconut oil and the number of queries we get on this subject, we thought we would do a short post on this subject today.
The series that is ongoing on the Krya blog is a series on Ayurvedic baby skin and hair. We have been exploring different facets to Ayurvedic baby care last month and this month on the blog. Our last post explored the important topic of the baby’s microbiome and how critical it is to baby’s health and well being to ensure baby’s micro biome is not wiped out. The use of synthetic soaps and bodywashes can completely wipe out a nascent microbiome colony. This is why Ayurveda recommends using edible, food grade organic lentils and grains and Ayurvedic herbs to cleanse skin. Specifically, we are supposed to oil baby’s skin FIRST and then cleanse skin with a specially prepared ubtan.
When a pure natural oil and pure natural ubtan is used for baby’s skin, it contains material to feed the existing healthy microbiota on baby’s skin. When there is a sufficient number of healthy, well fed microbiota, they strongly keep away invasive micro organisms from skin. Besides feeding the microbiota, using edible, food grade skin products has other advantages.
A good quality vegetable oil has the capacity to penetrate skin. This is not the case with oils that are made using Liquid Paraffin (most commercial baby oils). Liquid paraffin does not penetrate or feed skin. Instead, it forms an occlusive barrier on skin. This interferes with the skin interacting with the environment. It also slowly kills healthy microbiota on the skin as it cuts off their oxygen supply.
So the question remains: can we use a vegetable oil like cold pressed virgin coconut oil instead on baby’s skin? Let us explore the pros and cons of this.
Benefits of cold pressed virgin coconut oil:
After many decades of persecution and being made into a villain, coconut oil has finally begun to see a renaissance. As always, Indian doctors are much later than their Western counterparts in promoting coconut oil.
There are many obvious benefits to using cold pressed coconut oil. All vegetable oils are rich in nutrients and coconut oil is no exception to this rule. Coconut oil contains important medium chain fatty acids like lauric acid, capric acid and Caprylic acid. Together this set of triglycerides has anti microbial and anti bacterial properties that are intelligent. This means they can boost growth of useful microbiota and bring down growth of invasive organisms.
As it is a vegetable oil, it is capable of penetrating deep into skin. Studies show that coconut oil penetrates must faster and more effectively into skin unlike mineral oil. Once in skin, it encourages regeneration of damaged cells, helping healing skin faster, again compared to synthetic oils.
These benefits are much more if we take the purest form of coconut oil – cold pressed virgin coconut oil. Solvent extracted coconut oil made from chemically farmed coconuts is obviously not as beneficial to skin.
So if we find a good source of cold pressed virgin coconut oil, should we begin slathering it immediately on our and baby’s skin? Hold on to your bottle of coconut oil. Let us see what Ayurveda says about the properties of coconut oil.
Ayurvedic properties of Narikela (Coconut):
Narikela (coconut) is described in Madanapala Nighantu as “Maha phala” – the great fruit and “Maha vriksha”, the great tree.
The same Nighantu describes the properties of Narikela Phala, Coconut fruit as “Sheetya” (cooling), “Brmhana” (nourishes ,firms, increases weight / size) and “Vrishya” (promotes vigor).
Narikela is also described as having “Vasti shodana” property, i.e. it cleanses the bladder, which is why Coconut water is prescribed in UTI and bladder infections. Due to its “Daha samaka” (thirst quenching) property, it is given in peak summer in heat strokes, and excessive thirst and sunstroke.
Narikela is also described as “durjara”, which can be interpreted as “difficult to digest”. This could be due to is weight giving and nourishing or “Brmhana” property and also because of its “Sheetya” (coolant) property.
Coconut water, on the other hand has different properties from the fruit pulp from which we extract oil. Coconut water is “Deepana” or digestion promoting and “laghu” or light in nature.
Implications for eating and application of Coconut oil based on Ayurveda:
Even though Coconut oil is Vrishya (aphrodisiac) and Brmhana (strength promoting), it is “durjara” or difficult to digest. Hence it cannot be freely consumed by everyone. Those with high digestive strength and people who are very strong physically can certainly take it.
For others, it should not be taken in very high quantities. If used, it should be used along with warming and light foods which can balance its cooling and heavy properties.
Issues with application of Cold pressed virgin coconut oil – as per Ayurvedic properties
Similar issues arise when we apply cold pressed virgin coconut oil on skin. On one hand it is “Brmhana” and “Vrishya” which means it can potentially nourish skin. But as it is “Sheetya” and “durjara”, it is heavy and thick and does not penetrate skin quickly.
Even in scalp applications, we cannot use only Coconut oil directly. To be able to penetrate scalp, the oil must have some amount of warmth. a purely cooling oil is not very efficient at penetrating scalp quickly and nourishing it.
If you compare this with another vegetable oil like sesame oil, Sesame oil is much more lighter and penetrates skin much faster compared to Coconut oil as it is ushna in nature. This is why in the ancient Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita, Sesame oil is generally referred to as the base Taila for all oil based preparations.
In the Kerala Ayurveda tradition, as coconut oil is native and much more easily available, it is used over Sesame oil in most formulations. However, care is taken in all Kerala Ayurvedic formulations to make coconut oil lighter and increase its warmth and skin penetrative ability by using the correct warming herbs in it.
So to answer the first question of concerned parents: Yes cold pressed virgin coconut oil is an excellent vegetable oil. But it should not be used directly on either baby or adult skin and hair. This is because unless it is processed with the right herbs it is too heavy and cold to penetrate skin and scalp properly and deliver nourishment deep within.
How should cold-pressed virgin Coconut oil be processed: some examples from Krya’s baby range of skin and hair oils
Krya uses cold pressed Organic coconut oil in its adult and baby skin and hair formulations. But as we have seen, to improve the efficiency of the oil, we need to process the oil correctly.
We have seen that Ayurveda recommends that Baby formulations should be made slightly more warming than adult formulations. The balance is very subtle – if we make the product too warming it can cause heat rashes and irritate the baby. On the other hand, if it is too cooling, it brings down baby’s core temperature down much more rapidly. This can spread infections and also cause mucous clogging in the baby.
Coconut oil being cooling and heavy by nature, has the potential to quickly increase mucous build up in baby.
In the Krya traditional baby massage oil, our base oil is much more heavily weighted towards Sesame oil than Coconut oil. This base oil is processed with 17 other herb juices and decoctions like Daruharidra (tree turmeric), Ashwagandha, Bala (Sida cordifolia), Manjishta, etc. In addition to these 17 herbs, as is recommended by Ayurveda, we also add a very mild decoction of dried ginger, black pepper and jeera. The use of these warming spices plus other herbs, completely alters the property of the coconut oil in the mix. The final oil is light, warming, penetrates very quickly and is extremely beneficial in good muscle development and nourishes skin greatly.
In the Krya nourishing skin massage oils, we have 2 variants: Palmarosa and Rose and Lemongrass and Neem flower. Palmarosa and Rose variant is generally suggested for babies with much drier skin or with conditions like dermatitis. Lemongrass and Neem flower is suggested for other babies.
Again in this Baby skin oil, we use warming herb juices like Vitex Negundo (Nochi), fresh organic vegetables like Carrot which is a slightly “hot” vegetable, and herbs like Ela (Cardamom) and Vacha (Acorus calamus) which are warming and vata balancing. This combination ensures that the cold, heavy properties of Coconut are transformed. The final oil is deeply nourishing to skin, and continues to be warm and soothing for the baby.
The Krya Baby hair oil uses a good amount of Brahmi, similar to the Krya Kids hair oil and the Krya harmony hair oil formulation. Brahmi is suggested in Ayurveda to be used in all hair oils for children. This is because it actively aids brain development and helps support the rapid development of the brain that is seen in children and relieves stress ad pressure during this phase.
Here, the use of pitta balancing and vata balancing herbs like Organic Amla, Organic Bhringaraj, Organic Balloon vine, Organic Bottle Gourd, Khadira, Triphala, etc, ensure that the base oils are made much more nourishing. The transformation that coconut oil undergoes in this process, makes it highly penetrative, helping it deliver nutrient packed goodness to baby’s scalp. This is why so many parents swear by the Krya Baby Hair oil and the Krya Kids hair oil as it promotes healthy , good quality hair growth WITHOUT aggravating Kapha dosha.
To sum up:
We attempted to answer a popular question: is cold pressed virgin coconut oil good to use for skin and hair. We hope our post educated you on the benefits behind this wonderful oil, and also some potential drawbacks.
There is no universal panacea in Ayurveda. Even in the case of a hoary herb like Amla, there are strict specifications on how each kind of person should eat this to derive maximum benefits from it.
Similarly, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil is an excellent vegetable oil. But it has to be consumed correctly and in the correct way by people of different types. In skin and hair application, it is better to choose an Ayurvedic oil, where the base oil has been worked on and processed and transformed using different kinds of herbs. This brings the properties of the oil close to what we seek and gives us much better results without as many side effects.
If you have any questions on this, please write to us.
Krya Skin & Hair products recommended for Baby:
- Krya Gentle Baby Hairwash powder – made with 16 richly nourishing Ayurvedic herbs . Formulated for New borns, Infants & Toddlers . Cleanses scalp gently, relieves itching & dryness, soothes cradle cap, promotes healthy hair growth . Completely Free from SLS, SLeS, Other Sulphates, Parabens & Other Chemicals
- Krya Baby Hair Oil – made with 8 richly nourishing Ayurvedic herbs , organic cold pressed coconut & sesame oil . Formulated for New borns, Infants & Toddlers. Soothes and clears cradle cap, nourishes scalp, promotes healthy hair growth. Free from Mineral Oil, Parabens, Silicones, Fragrances, & Other Chemicals
- Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
- Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
- Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & ashwagandha– traditional formula that aids baby’s muscle development . Can be used from the time a baby is 1-2 days old. Not recommended for babies with sensitive skin, dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. For these conditions, see below.
- Krya Palmarosa &Rose nourishing baby massage oil– Can be used from the time a baby is 1-2 days old. Recommended for dry , non oozing skin conditions like dermatitis, dry eczema. Not recommended for oozing skin conditions.
- Krya Lemongrass & Grapefruit nourishing baby massage oil– Can be used from the time a baby is 1-2 days old. Recommended for dry , non oozing skin conditions like dermatitis, dry eczema (sensitive skin). Not recommended for oozing skin conditions.