This common substance may not be the panacea that some claim it is, but it can help your skin and hair in a variety of ways.
Coconut oil has long been thought of as a beauty “cure-all,” but to be honest, we think that’s a stretch. Sure, in an ideal world, the sweet-smelling oil would miraculously cure skin ailments like acne and eczema. It might even make our hair thicker and longer, and it might even do our taxes for us. But it won’t be able to do everything.
Now for the good news: Coconut oil is an excellent beauty staple that can be utilised for a variety of purposes, including skin and hair care. It’s a great moisturiser that’s found in a lot of beauty products and skin-care regimes, but it also works well on its own. But, at the end of the day, it’s not going to “cure” you of anything.
“While it isn’t the wonder drug some promote it to be,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Robert Finney, M.D., “given its composition, coconut oil serves as a great moisturiser, plus some of the fatty acids contained in it, like lauric acid, have antimicrobial effects that can help fight bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens.”
According to beauty expert Kelly Dobos, there’s another reason coconut oil is such a fantastic moisturiser. “Coconut oil is solid slightly below room temperature, which we chemists classify as 77 degrees,” she continues, “but melts easily when warmed with hands and melts into skin with massage.” Dobos claims that applying coconut oil in a semisolid form is less messy, so if you want to use straight coconut oil for skin care, keep it away from heat.
Let’s talk about some of coconut oil’s various uses, according to the pros, now that we know what it can (and can’t) accomplish.
Because coconut oil is comedogenic, many dermatologists advise against using it on the face — especially if you have naturally blemish-prone skin — but it’s fine on the body. “You can use it as a moisturiser for the body instead of your face, which might trigger breakouts, because it’s high in fatty acids and has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics,” explains Joyce Park, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Face skin contains more sebaceous glands than body skin, making it more prone to oiliness. “The greatest difference is that the skin on your face is generally thinner than the skin on your body,” Marina Peredo, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, previously stated. Your face has a quicker skin cell turnover rate, which explains why your body skin can be drier.
Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist, agrees with this usage suggestion. While coconut oil is a fantastic moisturiser in general, she warns that it “may produce comedogenic concerns for persons who are prone to clogged pores or acne,” therefore it’s not recommended for use on acne-prone skin.
According to Dr. Finney, the fatty acids in coconut oil protect and nourish the skin in two ways.
“They help us hold on to our own moisture,” he explains, “which is excellent since it helps both treat and prevent dryness.” There are several moisturisers that contain coconut oil, but if you need some recommendations, we recommend SheaMoisture 100 percent Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hyration Body Oil and Cocokind’s Sake Body Lotion.
“Relief” is the crucial word here. As previously said, coconut oil will not treat any ailments, including eczema, but it can help alleviate some of the symptoms, such as dryness and itching. According to a 2014 study, virgin coconut oil soothes eczema better than mineral oil.
Dr. Finney comments, “This study checks out.” “It’s wonderful for folks with sensitive skin and eczema since it helps the skin barrier and seals moisture in.” Dr. Finney recommends applying any other skin care products first, then sealing everything in with coconut oil.
If you want to incorporate coconut oil into your skin-care routine, we recommend Honest Beauty’s Eczema Balm and Pipette’s Eczema Lotion. If you’re considering a more serious eczema treatment, you should absolutely see a dermatologist. They’re the specialists, and they’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action.
“Coconut oil is an excellent makeup remover because it breaks down lipid-soluble pollutants like makeup as well as sebum, which causes greasy skin,” explains Dr. Park. “If you wear a lot of makeup or have oily skin, you can use coconut oil as an initial cleanse, but you’ll need to follow up with a gentle water-based cleanser for a more thorough clean.”
“Coconut oil can actually do a fairly good job at removing dirt and oil buildup that occurs throughout the day,” says Dr. Finney, “but it often leaves an oily residue behind, which can lead to breakouts, so if you have acne-prone skin and still want to try this method, just make sure to use a gentle cleanser afterward to remove excess oil.” When you’re ready to remove that fully-beaten cup, try Kopari’s Organic Coconut Milk or Typology’s Make-Up Remover Balm.
Do you have damaged, dry, brittle hair that is prone to breakage? Dr. Finney recommends using coconut oil as a leave-in treatment. “Coconut oil is a terrific thing to condition with or leave in to help heal the damage that colouring, heat, and the sun cause to your hair shafts,” he says.
Hot coconut oil can also be used as a pre-shampoo treatment to alleviate dry hair before shampooing and conditioning. Allow it to sit for at least an hour to fully absorb and enter your strands.
Scrub your body
If your limbs are looking dull – and feeling like sandpaper — make your own DIY body scrub with coconut oil to exfoliate for brighter, smoother skin. “There’s no danger in it, and the coconut oil may actually help counterbalance exfoliating discomfort,” says Dr. Finney, who adds that this could be a good way for someone with sensitive skin to try exfoliation.
To begin, he suggests using it little more than once a week to ensure your skin can withstand it. If you’re not into DIY crafts, we recommend Pirette and Herbivore’s exquisite body scrubs.
Coconut oil can be used as the first step of a two-phase makeup brush washing process. Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist, suggests using coconut oil to break down the makeup on your brushes, then dabbing them off to remove any leftover oil before rinsing them with soap and water.
Why is that? “Combining soap and oil only binds up the surfactant in the detergent solution and competes with the other ‘dirt’ on the makeup brush,” he explains.
He also adds you may use any soap you have on hand, however he advises against using one with a strong aroma because it may leave a strong scent on your brushes. Cinema Secrets’ All-Natural Brush Soap is an excellent coconut oil-based solution if you wish to clean your brushes in one step.
According to Adam Friedman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, D.C., “coconut oil’s fat makeup helps replenish lost or missing components that lead to dry, cracked lip skin.” That’s why it works so well as a lip balm. “It provides a thin yet efficient barrier that keeps irritants out while allowing water in.”
Coconut oil is also a good choice for cracked lips because it is semisolid at room temperature and hence less messy than other oils. Put a little in a tiny jar and apply it to your lips throughout the day. The Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment SPF30 and Lanolips’ 1010 Coconutter Ointment are both worth a try if you want a lip balm with the magic ingredient already incorporated in.
Treatment for Dandruff
“Coconut oil can be good for seborrheic dermatitis, a.k.a. dandruff, because it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial,” adds Dr. Friedman, who emphasises that while coconut oil can help with a scaly scalp, it will not make your hair grow. He claims that “there is absolutely no evidence that it will encourage hair growth.”
Use a nightly coconut oil treatment to keep your flakes at bay. Simply apply a small amount to your roots and massage in circular motions with your hands. It won’t make your dandruff go away, but it will soften the flakes, making them easier to slough off in the morning when you rinse out the oil.
Yes, coconut oil can be used to combat odours, especially body odour. “Because bacteria causes odour, the antimicrobial qualities of coconut can help reduce odour – not to mention, most people enjoy the scent of coconuts, so this is a nice option to deodorant to consider,” explains Dr. Finney.
If slathering straight-up coconut oil on your pits isn’t your thing, look for a natural deodorant that contains coconut oil. Mother Dirt provides a lemongrass oil-scented option, and Kopari’s Coconut Oil Deodorant is a Best of Beauty winner.
Are your cuticles cracked? Coconut oil might be useful. “Our nails can become brittle and dystrophic when our cuticles get dry and cracked,” explains Dr. Finney. “This can be readily fixed by putting coconut oil on the cuticles.”
Apply a coconut oil balm, such as Palmer’s Coconut Hydrate moisturiser, on peeling skin at the base of the nails.
Going to the beach or the pool? Dr. Finney recommends coating the sensitive ends of our hair with coconut oil before getting it wet to protect them from the sun and chlorine. Coconut oil functions as a natural buffer between your hair and the water.
An extra benefit of this hack? Your hair may dry more smoothly than usual due to its conditioning properties. Toss in a tube of IGK’s Rich Kid Coconut Oil Air Dry Styler or a tube of Conscious Coconut’s trademark oil.
Salve for Wounds
“Coconut oil can be used on minor cuts and burns and may aid in their closure,” says Dr. Finney, citing its antibacterial characteristics and oily base. Apply the oil to the affected region many times a day until it clears up, and if it doesn’t or begins to worsen, visit your doctor.