I've always loved fresh coconut, from the time I was a kid and my grandma and I would open them on our back deck with a hammer and a screwdriver, to drinking fresh coconut water right from the nut on tropical vacations, to macaroon cookies, I've eaten (and continue to enjoy) the flesh and milk of the palm that drops them on beaches the world over.

But over the last year, I have added coconut oil to my beauty routine, and not only does it smell lovely (it's a lighter scent than you might think), but I now use it for skin, hair and lips. It is the world's greatest beauty multitasker, and unlike cocoa or shea butter, it's a lot easier to work with, and very inexpensive. Coconut oil is not only a great moisturizer, but has anti-aging properties and natural SPF protection (from SPF 4-10).

If you are going to use coconut oil for beauty purposes, it's worth buying a good quality, organic brand. I love that Dr. Bronner's, the soap company, has begun selling its high quality Sri Lankan oil that's not only grown organically, but is fair trade as well. They use it in their body care products, and sell an even higher grade for eating and cooking with, and that's the kind I use.

What do I do with it?

1. Face wash

Woman applies coconut oil to her faceJust apply the coconut oil and rinse for happier skin. (Photo: RDaniel/Shutterstock)

For the last six months, I have been using coconut oil to wash my face, and my skin has never been happier. It sounds a little weird to wash with an oil, but it gets off the dirt and makeup on the days I wear it, and makes my skin plump and happy. I used to get random breakouts, especially around my mouth, a couple times a month. Amazingly, I haven't seen one since I started using coconut oil as a face wash.

I just scoop a bit out of the container with my fingers, warm it up a bit between my (clean) fingers and spread it around my face, working it in just as I would a foam cleanser. Then I rinse off with warm water. Some of the oil stays on, but much gets washed off. Pat the face dry and voila! In the summer, I only follow up with a bit of anti-age serum around my eyes, but don't use an additional moisturizer. In the winter, I used a bit more coconut oil, or an anti-aging oil before bed. I know it sounds crazy to use coconut oil to wash, but it works for me — and a good friend of mine has also been doing the same and has similarly happy results.

2. Shaving salve

A woman shaving her legsCoconut oil can provide a close, smooth shave. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

While the shower's steamy, I coat my legs with a light layer of coconut oil, and then shave away. I get a nice close shave, the shower smells of coconuts (real coconut oil has a very light scent), and my legs are already moisturized from the oil, so I don't need additional moisturizer.

3. Shoulder massage oil

A woman receives a massages with oils in the foregroundA massage coupled with coconut oil is good for some quiet time. (Photo: Kzenon/Shutterstock)

I do a fair amount of self-shoulder massage since I work at a computer most days. Having a small container of coconut oil reminds me to give myself a break. I rub my shoulders with the oil and take deep breaths for 3-4 minutes, and it works wonders for maintaining my focus.

4. Hair tamer

A woman drops oil into her hairCoconut oil can keep curly hair under control. (Photo: progressman/Shutterstock)

I have dry, naturally curly hair, so I am always adding oils of various kinds to keep it under control. Coconut oil is particularly lightweight, so I add it to my ponytail in the morning and to my updo at night. It tames frizz and adds sheen.

5. Cuticle moisturizer

Feet near coconut oil and spa itemsTidy up toes easily with a little bit of coconut oil. (Photo: Yeko Photo Studio/Shutterstock)

I use coconut oil on my feet and especially my toenail cuticles after I shower and before I do a self-pedicure. It absorbs quickly and makes it easier for me to tidy my toes.

And yes, I also cook with coconut oil! The health benefits to heart, metabolism and immune system are now widely known, and it works perfectly for frying up tofu or stir-frying veggies. What do you use coconut oil for?