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Coconut Oil for Skin
A Google search for coconut oil returns endless advice on how you can use it for your skin, but just like everything else you read on the Internet, some of the information is factual, and some of it isn’t. The actual scientific research on coconut oil reveals a clearer picture. Here are the best (and worst) ways to use coconut oil for skin.
Why is Coconut Oil Good for Skin?
In a nutshell (or should we say coconut shell?), coconut oil’s benefits are led by these key elements:
- It is rich in fatty acids, which replenish skin’s vital substances to keep it looking healthy and young.
- Its antioxidant properties aid in skin’s anti-pollution defense, while also visibly diminishing wrinkles and other signs of aging.
- Its high saturated fat content moisturizes dehydrated skin.
- It is one of the few naturally delicious smelling oils that does not have a volatile component that irritates skin—instead it’s completely soothing.
Which Kind of Coconut Oil is Best for Skin?
Before you run out to buy coconut oil, it’s important to know which kind you should use. Unrefined “virgin” coconut oils have an advantage in that they test higher in antioxidant levels than refined (bleached and “deodorized”) coconut oils. The tricky part is that there is no worldwide certification standard that specifies which coconut oils can be classified as “virgin” and which cannot, so a company can say anything it wants to.
Your best bet is to check the ingredient label and make sure that no fragrances, flavors, or dyes have been added, as these are always problematic for skin.
Coconut Oil for Dry Skin
Coconut oil is incredibly beneficial for dry skin. Its emollient properties amp up skin’s ability to prevent moisture loss and provide nourishing hydration that softens rough, dry skin.
How to use: If your coconut oil is in solid form, scoop a teaspoonful into a microwavable bowl and heat it up for a few seconds (but not too hot) to get a fluid, more spreadable texture, and then apply it to skin. We strongly recommend layering it with a well-formulated moisturizer to give your skin an even broader array of beneficial ingredients. Coconut oil has good properties, but skin is complicated and has more diverse needs than any one ingredient can address.
Coconut Oil for Shaving Your Legs
Traditional shaving gels and creams often come loaded with fragrance, which irritates skin. Coconut oil is a soothing alternative that smoothly lubricates skin to help avoid nicks and razor burn.
How to use: Warm it up in your hands, slather it on your skin, and then shave as normal. Bonus: Your skin will feel so much softer afterwards.
Coconut Oil as an Eye Makeup Remover
Coconut oil does a great job of breaking down tenacious mascara and inky liners.
How to use: Gently sweep it over your eye makeup, then wash your face as normal.
Coconut Oil for Acne
Here’s where we get into some serious myth-busting. Despite what you may have read or heard, there is no conclusive evidence to back up the claim that coconut oil is an anti-acne solution. In fact, coconut oil’s emollient, saturated fat components are far more likely to exacerbate breakouts and make oily skin feel even more oily. Don’t fall for the hype on this one; if you do, it won’t take long for you to find out for yourself how problematic this can be.
Coconut Oil for Sun Protection
This is another bust, and one that actually puts your skin at risk. Contrary to claims, coconut oil does not provide adequate sun protection for skin. Research has shown that it screens only about 20% of UV light, which means 80% is still getting through to your skin. Skipping your sunscreen in favor of coconut oil puts your skin at risk for skin cancer and early signs of aging—eek!
What About Other Oils for Skin?
References for this information:
International Journal of Dermatology, January 2014, pages 100–108
Pharmacognosy Review, July-December 2011, pages 164–173
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2010, pages 290–297
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2009, pages 114–123
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!