I call coconut oil a healing panacea. It's amazing what it's done for me so far & I've only been using it for a short time (about 2 wks).
I use organic unrefined virgin coconut oil from local healthfood stores. So far I've tried Nutiva brand but I like La Tourangelle brand much better. Nutiva feels greasier & takes much longer to absorb. It also has a stronger coconut scent, which smells great, but for me lingering scents become cloying. La Tourangelle absorbs into my skin far more quickly like a cream would & feels divinely soft. I don't know why the difference, but I perceive it.
Coconut oil on my face has transformed my hyper-oily, irritable, ruddy, acne-prone skin into normal, glowing, soft skin. Now that my pores have a break from putting out so much sebum, they actually look smaller. My complexion is clear & smooth & it doesn't break out. I haven't had fresh problem-free skin like this since before puberty (I'm 37 now). Frankly, it's really remarkable how adding healthy oil on top of oily skin causes it to normalize its oil production. My face is no longer oily & it's also not dry. I spent a small fortune on tons of skincare products over the years trying to control the oil. Now all it takes is a $5 jar from the healthfood store that will likey last a year if not more.
My skincare is now pared down to 4 products: organic foaming cleanser (Oliva), an anti-aging serum (like Estee Lauder ANR or something w/plant stem cells), a little coconut oil, & a strong glycolic acid cream or lotion (exfoliation is still necessary for my thick, crusty skin).
I also use coconut oil on my feet at night before bed (sometimes covered w/socks but not always) & all over my body after showering & shaving. In the morning my legs & arms feel moisturized & baby soft.
For haircare, I apply coconut oil to dry hair under a shower cap for 1-2 hrs before showering. My hair is bleach highlighted & chemical-processed, but the coconut oil has strengthened my compromised hair & softened all the crunch out of the ends. I do this oil pre-treatment only once a week because the softening effects are durable & longterm through multiple showers. My hair feels like healthy virgin hair that's never been damaged. Again, I've spent small fortunes on haircare products to repair chemical-damaged hair, including $100 on Pureology Nanoworks shampoo & conditioner set (not impressive enough to continue buying, & the perfumey fragrance was way too strong for me). None of them worked like coconut oil.
I discovered coconut oil to begin with because I burned out (chronic stress) & got sick, so I use the oil in my diet for internal nutrition & digestive support. The lauric acid in it is anti-microbial, the caprylic acid in it kills fungus (like yeast overgrowth), & the medium chain fatty acids it contains provide energy & promote fat burning. I read books about all the kinds of ways this oil feeds & protects the body's cells, both inside & out.
The only ONE single regret I have about coconut oil is that I didn't learn about it sooner. This product could have enhanced so many years of my life. Now I'm doing coconut-everything: soaps, cleansers, lipbalm, coconut milk, & coconut flour (I'm currently eating low-carb, which works well for me). I'm happy to at least know about it now rather than never finding out. Just a short time using this oil has produced an amazing WOW. It promotes health & helps the body heal itself inside & out.
UPDT 11/18/13 -
So I'm 41 now & I haven't used coconut oil on my skin for a few yrs, ever since my skin went dry all over (as well as developed a whole soup of unexpetedly early troublesome peri-menopausal symptoms). My skin got really dry & coconut oil wasn't helping it...neither was maracuja oil, which I had also liked...finally, neither were argan oil nor CeraVe cream nor Korres body butter (at least not in dry winter weather). Ultimately, I found that hyaluronic acid was very soothing & quenching, & nothing relieved my unpleasant skin decline until I added topical estrogen (I like Life-Flo BiEstro-Care cream). I also like monoi oil (which is coconut oil steeped w/exotic Tiare gardenias, a prized traditional Tahitian beauty treatment that smells divine) but I prefer to use it only in summer - it's light & aborbs into the skin quickly (especially the Nars Body Glow II oil).
I used to be such an unabating oil slick all my life, & now I'm the Sahara desert. I never thought I'd ever wish to have my oil back! I still use coconut oil in my diet (for cooking & also add to my daily coffee), but I worry that topical coconut oil might further dry out my skin, so I haven't tried since my oily days. I'm desperately in need of some sebum...my friend suggested I try jojoba oil, which is purported to be most similar human sebum, so I'll test out that option. I still believe in & highly value coconut oil - it's magnificent.