The Skinny on Coconut Oil

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I cannot count the times I’ve heard friends and strangers alike talk about how they’re “going natural” with their skin care routines. These routines usually consist of lathering coconut oil on their skin and scrubbing their faces with sugar or coffee grinds (insert wincing face here).

I’ll give coconut oil users credit, they sure are loyal. One of my friends used to wash her face with it, swoosh it around in her mouth as mouthwash, cook with it, and moisturizer her skin with it.

Before you think I’m an avid coconut oil hater, I need to say upfront, I actually love it and am fully aware of it’s many benefits. So, before I get into the nitty gritty of the do’s and don’ts/pros and cons, let’s take a moment to review all the reasons why we love this amazing oil.

Benefit #1: Coconut oil is mostly comprised of saturated fats which help to repair the acid mantle on your skin.


Well, the outermost layer of your skin acts as a protective barrier to the outside world (pollution, allergens, chemicals etc). The combination of sebum (oil) and sweat forms a thin film on the top of your skin known as the acid mantle (and we thought oil and sweat on our faces were just a nuisance!)

Furthermore, this acid mantle lives up to it’s name–in that it is, well, acidic. Yes, you heard right, the skin on your face is slightly acidic in nature holding a ph level of about 5.5. If you remember your science days, on a ph scale anything below 7 is considered more acidic and anything above 7 is considered alkaline.

And why is that important?

Well, you know that Dove body soap you love? Well, it is very alkaline. So, even though your face feels squeaky clean, it now has been stripped of all it’s necessary and protective acids leaving it dry and defenseless =  putting you on the fast track for premature aging.

Little did we know this “acid mantle”, aka sweat and oil, actually provide an important form of protection, and if it’s broken down by big culprits like, sun damage, smoking, or over-exfoliating, your skin will become more susceptible to bacteria, and water will begin to escape quicker as well.

Benefit #2: Coconut oil is naturally antimicrobial (aka, bacteria-fighting).

The antibacterial properties of coconut oil protect the skin from potential pathogens. It is mainly the lauric acid in the coconut oil that acts as the antibacterial agent. Surprisingly, this acid constitutes 85% of coconut oil. The only other natural substance high in lauric acid happens to be breast milk–and I’m assuming you would prefer coconut oil over breast milk for your skin care routine.

Benefit #3: Coconut oil has soothing and healing properties.

Coconut oil contains fatty acids and Vitamin E that help to accelerate the skin’s healing process and sooth irritation. Since it is an emollient (preserves the water content in the skin), it’s helpful to soothe mild sunburns  by keeping the area hydrated.

Ok, so now that we’ve talked about some of the reasons why we love coconut oil, I think it’s time we talk about why you may want to PAUSE and CHECK before lathering your face with this particular oil.

Caution #1: Coconut oil is highly comedogenic (pore-clogging).

Remember how we were talking about the benefit of coconut oil being an emollient (holding in moisture)? As an emollient it creates a barrier on the surface of the skin so no moisture can escape (kind of like a moisture prison–hey, whatever helps you remember these things, right?), which is great for severely dry or dehydrated skin.

Although we want acne-prone and oily skin to be hydrated as well, we don’t want to use an oil that is highly comedogenic. Since these skin types/conditions tend to produce more oil already, and have larger pores, if we use an emollient like coconut oil, the pores will fill up with excess oil causing a chain reaction leading to the lovely phenomenon we know as clogged pores and acne breakouts.

Caution #2: Before using Coconut oil–know your skin type.

As we’ve been talking about the benefits of coconut oil, I’m sure you’ve picked up that it is most ideal for your dryer skin types. So, before you go out to Whole Foods and grab a jar of coconut oil, consider what your skin type may be.

  • Do you have small pores all over and fairly dry skin by the end of the day? You’re probably a normal to dry skin type.
  • Do you have an oily t-zone, experience break outs here and there, and feel a bit oily at the end of the day? You’re probably a combination skin type.
  • Do you have large pores on your cheeks, feel oily throughout the day and have been prone to breakouts fairly consistently through the years? You’re probably an oily skin type.

Caution #3: Before using Coconut oil ask yourself, have I exfoliated recently?

Exfoliating helps to gently remove the dead skin cells and excess oil sitting on the surface of your skin. One of the practical benefits of exfoliating reguarly is that when you put your moisturizers on, they can actually absorb effectively into your skin to do what they’re designed to do.

If you have identified as either a dry or combination skin type that could benefit from using coconut oil, be sure to exfoliate first to ensure it is not going to overrun your pores with more oil or just sit on the surface of your skin, thereby not providing you any of it’s many benefits.

In conclusion, if you are acne-prone or have an oily skin type, below are a list of amazing oils that are NOT comedogenic and would still give you that oil feel you love!

  • Hemp seed oil: Comedogenic rating: 0

Benefits: Natural SPF, aids absorption of Vitamin D and is high in Omega 6 and 3 – all of which are known to help rebuild your natural skin barrier.

  • Argan oil: Comedogenic rating: 0

Benefits: Contains vitamin E to help repair your skin, reduces inflammation and is known for its anti fungal properties.

  • Marula oil: Comedogenic rating: 0

Benefits: Rich in Omega 6 and 9, Vitamin C and E and fatty acids, it reduces the appearance of blemishes, scars and wrinkles, as well as deeply moisturising skin.

  • Calendula oil: Comedogenic rating: 1

Benefits: Highly moisturising and particularly good for soothing sore, broken skin. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory.

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