The Verdict on Coconut Oil for Skin: Yay or Nay?
Oh, coconut oil. It sure does cause a lot of controversy in the skincare and wellness world. Is it good? Is it bad? When analyzing google searches, Tajmeeli revealed coconut oil as the most searched, in-demand skincare ingredient of 2022, with a whopping 516,000 searches for the year. Despite that fact, not all skincare enthusiasts agree about whether or not coconut oil is a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ for skin. With no clear verdict or shortage of contradicting articles, it continues to be a hot topic, and topical, that people love to discuss. Although we love coconut oil for all of the evidence-based benefits for skin health, it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.
What is Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, as you may have guessed, is extracted from the flesh of a coconut and uniquely high in fatty acids, including lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and Vitamins A & E. It’s praised for its many health benefits, whether ingested or applied topically, including antioxidant, anti-aging and anti-microbial properties, protection against illnesses like Alzheimer’s and heart disease, and has even shown to have an active anti-cancer component. (2)
Coconut Oil for Skin
When it comes to using coconut oil on skin, it is important to understand 1) your skin and 2) what type of coconut oil you are using. Although coconut oil is soothing and nourishing, it unfortunately is not the cure-all for everyone’s skin, especially those prone to blemishes. It is a natural occlusive and highly comedogenic which means it can clog pores. What’s more, if you are lathering skin with straight-up coconut oil that you picked up from your local grocery store you might not be doing your skin any favours.
Who Should Say “YAY” to Coconut Oil?
Many skincare brands have coconut-infused products, from moisture masks to lip butters, that are highly beneficial for skin. Due to its substantially-high amount of fats, coconut oil helps repair skin’s natural moisture barrier, making it a great choice for those with overly-dry, damaged or irritated skin.
Coconut oil is a great moisturizing ingredient due to its natural emollient and hydrating effects. With 0% water content, coconut oil’s molecular weight allows it to deeply penetrate more effectively than your average product. It works to trap water in the skin and lock in hydration so skin is left soft and supple.
“Lauric acid has been shown in studies to significantly penetrate the skin and actually can accumulate in the stratum corneum, your handy dandy top layer of skin cells. This high penetration ability likely accounts for the extremely lightweight feel of coconut oil that people love. It doesn’t remain on the surface and feel “oily”, it soaks in quickly.” -Blissoma
Although it isn’t going to reverse the aging process (sorry!), coconut oil can help minimize the the appearance of wrinkles. With its high antioxidant content, it helps reduce free radical damage and help with skin cell regeneration.
Coconut oil really penetrates into skin, which boosts the production of collagen, a protein naturally found in our bodies that depletes with age. Some research has shown coconut oil also improves skin elasticity and helps repair damaged skin cells.
Antimicrobial & Antifungal
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which hold antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some research suggests it helps fight harmful bacteria, reduces inflammation and helps protect from and reduce skin conditions, such as eczema.
Who Should Say “NAY” to Coconut Oil?
Despite its ability to reduce acne-forming bacteria, coconut oil may not be the best choice for oily and acne prone skin. With a moderately high comedogenic rate, coconut oil can clog pores which can lead to acne. Good alternatives would be ingredients with a lower comedogenic rate, such as hemp seed oil, sunflower oil and shea butter.
While an allergy to coconuts is rare, those with an allergy should not use coconut oil on their face. Also, those with a severe tree nut allergy should proceed with caution and speak to a physician before using coconut oil.
Although coconut oil has often been quoted as an effective sunscreen, it should not be used as a sunscreen replacement. It is rich in antioxidants to help protect skin from harmful radiation but, according to the study by International Journal of Cosmetic Science, it has a super low SPF of 1. Please do your skin a favour and use sun protection that has a SPF of at least 30.
Coconut Oil: Final Suggestions
We recommend searching out ethical and natural sourced coconut oils. Many skincare brands use organic, sustainable coconut oil in their beauty products. We suggest saving the straight-up coconut from your grocery aisle for cooking instead of for your face. Look for “unrefined,” ‘extra virgin” and “cold-pressed”(6) and never deodorized or bleached.
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- Studying the penetration of fatty acids into human skin by ex vivo TOF-SIMS imaging. T. Kezutye et al.
- IS COCONUT OIL CAUSING DRY SKIN? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Blissoma.
- UV-blocking potential of oils and juices.
- 4 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Coconut Oil. C. PRADERIO Prevention.
- Top 10 Most Searched Skincare Ingredients. Beauty Packaging.
- Dual Roles of Coconut Oil and Its Major Component Lauric Acid on Redox Nexus: Focus on Cytoprotection and Cancer Cell Death. V. Ramya et al. Frontiers.
- When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s Disease. Medically Reviewed by P. Sachdev. WebMD.
- The Truth About Coconut Oil. M. Kadey. Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD NOURISH by WebMD
- Systemic allergic reaction to coconut (Cocos nucifera) in 2 subjects with hypersensitivity to tree nut and demonstration of cross-reactivity to legumin-like seed storage proteins: New coconut and walnut food allergens. Suzanne S.TeuberMD, W.RichPetersonBS. ScienceDirect.
- Comedogenic Ratings. Beneficial Botanicals.