What's the Verdict on Using Coconut Oil for Skin? We Settle the Debate

Erin Jahns
PHOTO:

Imaxtree

Originally touted as a be-all and end-all solution for practically every hair, skin, and diet woe, coconut oil has had its fair share of ups and downs this year. Recently, some experts have been tapping the brakes (at least where the oil’s dietary benefits are concerned), which begs the question: What about coconut oil for the skin? Just because some experts don’t recommend a spoonful of coconut oil a day, must we really stop slathering the vitamin-rich elixir all over our skin, scalp, and cuticles, as well?

Unless your skin is especially prone to congestion and pesky breakouts, coconut oil can still do wonders for the skin thanks to its robustly nutrient-dense makeup. However, if your pores tend to clog easily, and blackheads are the bane of your existence, you may want to avoid coconut oil, which is regarded as one of the more comedogenic oils on the market (i.e., it’s more likely to prompt a pimple or two.) Or, alternatively, apply it exclusively to your limbs, which have far fewer oil glands than the face and scalp.

Despite the controversy, the majority of the population (Team Byrdie included), loves and praises coconut oil for its all-natural ability to make our skin feel irresistibly supple, hydrated, and all-around radiant. (We also appreciate that it’s one of the most accessible and least expensive items in our day-to-day routine.) What’s more, there are so many amazing ways to incorporate it into your beauty regimen. Keep scrolling for a few of our favorite ways to use coconut oil for skin.

IT'S THE ULTIMATE MOISTURIZER

If you’re looking to streamline your beauty and skincare routine (and keep it gloriously au naturel), try reaching for coconut oil in lieu of your go-to facial moisturizer or body lotion.

According to Danielle Conte, creator of Conscious Coconut (a fair-trade, organic, cold-pressed coconut oil that comes in a handy, travel-ready tube), the oil is the quintessential multitasker—thus, perfect for lazy girls like myself.

“For beauty, coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which helps retain the moisture content of your skin while helping it look and feel silky smooth. It also exfoliates the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin softer. It has high quantities of vitamin E, an essential nutrient for healthy skin growth, repair, and the prevention of premature aging,” she says.

Further evidence? Recently, when I was getting my eyebrows waxed, I couldn’t help staring at the esthetician’s virtually poreless skin. Naturally, I started asking some questions (I love playing Nancy Drew when it comes to people’s beauty routines), and she eventually dished her entire skincare routine. Surprisingly, it was incredibly minimal, and she attributed her (apparently much-improved) skin tone to coconut oil. Post-cleanse, she uses it as a moisturizer, massaging it into her face, neck, and décolletage. However, if your skin is on the congested side, try reaching for other oils like calendula, hemp seed, rosehip, or tamanu, which are typically less likely to cause breakouts in oily skin types.

IT CAN REPLACE YOUR SHAVING GEL

We won’t name names, but after scanning the ingredient list of our go-to shaving cream, we were less than thrilled, even a tad concerned. After all, alcohols, chemicals, and dyes like Red 30 and 43 have no business getting cozy with our leg hair. Determined to find a healthier option, we stumbled upon this luscious, coconut oil–infused DIY recipe from HelloGlow, and our legs have never looked or felt smoother. As the star ingredient, coconut oil provides a smooth and slippery texture that our razor (and skin) loves.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup aloe vera
4–6 drops essential oil (eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and lemon are especially lovely)

Directions:

First, make sure to melt the coconut oil, and then combine it with the aloe vera gel and essential oil of your choosing. Mix thoroughly, then store in an airtight container.

To use, apply the recipe sparingly to the skin and let it sit for a few minutes before you start shaving. (This will help soften and moisturize your skin and hair and lessen the likelihood of razor burn.)

IT CAN IMPROVE STRETCH MARKS AND SCARRING

As it turns out, Mother Nature has a few all-natural tricks up her sleeve when it comes to scarring and stretch marks. We already knew things like vitamin E and shea butter can help fade frustrating pigmentation, but thanks to its high nutrient and fat content (which seals in essential moisture and strengthens your skin’s natural collagen supply), coconut oil can also help impart an even and radiant glow while lessening the appearance of scarring, stretch marks, and other telltale signs of aging.

According to Conte, a quality coconut oil “is a wonderful all-natural ‘anti-aging’ moisturizer when applied topically. When absorbed into your skin and connective tissues, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple. It also helps exfoliate the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.”

IT'S GREAT AT REMOVING MAKEUP

According to dermatologists, coconut oil is also a spectacular way to wipe away makeup after a long day. Not only does the oil attract dirt and buildup, but according to Carl Thornfeldt, MD, founder of Epionce Skincare, it’s also a natural antibacterial and anti-yeast agent.

But as with anything we apply to our skin, quality is key. According to Thornfeldt, a low-quality coconut oil can be highly processed (and possibly contaminated), which can lead to breakouts and other skin irritations. To be safe, he recommends sticking to a certain formula when making your selection: “I recommend that you only use purified, cold-pressed coconut oil in liquid form,” he says.

To use the oil as a makeup remover, simply rub it into your palms to warm and liquefy, then start massaging it into your complexion, slowly dissolving the post-workday grime. To finish, rinse with warm water and pat dry. Tip: If you wear a lot of product, consider using the double-cleanse tactic and repeat the above steps to ensure every last trace of foundation and mascara has been completely melted away.

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