Can You Use Coconut Oil as a Makeup Remover?

We asked the experts.

coconut in bowl

Urban Outfitters

Ah, coconut oil. At this point, we all have a jar in our pantry and have probably tested at least a few of its many “miracle” uses. From whitening our teeth to helping us cook a little healthier, coconut oil is, some would say, the trendiest and most versatile oil to have. The most popular use for it, however, is on the skin. Touted for its affordability and efficacy in cleansing and hydrating the skin, coconut oil is a natural and simple ingredient we find ourselves using constantly.

But conflicting reports have us wondering whether the super oil really is compatible with our skin. Though devotees praise coconut oil for its many benefits, others warn against its tendency to actually clog pores (some consider it to be moderately comedogenic and believe it could encourage the formation of blackheads). Given these polarizing views, we were anxious about continuing to use this seemingly simple ingredient on our precious skin. We contacted Anthony Youn, MD, America’s Holistic Plastic Surgeon, and Carl Thornfeldt, MD, founder of Epionce Skincare, to ease our fears of congested pores and to get the facts straight.

Key Ingredients

Coconut oil, also known as lauric acid, is derived from coconuts. The lauric acid found in coconut oil can have antimicrobial properties, which can help kill bacteria on the skin and reduce inflammation. It is also known to help remove makeup, exfoliate the skin, and lock in moisture.

Keep scrolling to learn how to use coconut oil as a makeup remover.

Meet the Expert

  • Anthony Youn, MD, is a holistic plastic surgeon and author located in Troy, MI. Board-certified with over 20 years of experience, Youn focuses on combining the latest surgical innovations with holistic medicine to help his patients fight the signs of aging skin.
  • Carl Thornfeldt, MD, is the founder of Epionce Skincare and has over 30 years of experience in the industry.

Does Coconut Oil Work to Remove Makeup?

Let’s start with the basics: Is coconut oil a good choice when choosing a makeup remover? We’re happy to report that the answer is a resounding yes. Both Youn and Thornfeldt agree that coconut oil is not only safe to use when cleansing your face, but it’s also quite effective and offers numerous benefits to your skin. “Coconut oil is antibacterial, anti-yeast, and also works as a great first-aid cream. Because of its detergent effect, it also works well as a makeup remover,” explains Thornfeldt.

How to Remove Makeup with Coconut Oil

woman removing lipstick with cloth
  • Only use the coconut oil as you would use a cleansing oil—no abrasive washcloths or cotton pads are needed.
  • Liquify the coconut oil in your hands when it’s in its natural solid state. Then, gently rub onto dry skin, paying special attention to heavy eye makeup.
  • Once your makeup has been sufficiently melted away, rinse your face with warm water and pat dry.

Is Coconut Oil Suitable For Any Skin Type?

Coconut oil, however, may not be the cure-all we have come to know it as. Both Youn and Thornfeldt believe in the coconut oil craze but have some reservations about it. For Youn, users need to take care and use caution when integrating coconut oil into their skincare routine. Not all skin types are compatible with the oil, so introducing a little at a time will help keep possible breakouts at bay. Youn advocates for the science behind the ingredient and appreciates that it is a great option for sensitive skin. But Thornfeldt warns that coconut oil should not be your be-all and end-all skin product, as it will not moisturize skin and is unable to provide proteins to protect the skin barrier or cater to all three barrier lipid groups.

open jar of coconut oil
Delfina Cocciardi / Unsplash

Possible Side Effects

There’s still some stigma attached to the idea of applying oil to your skin, and there are often varying reports on whether coconut oil is comedogenic or not. The main side effect to worry about is pore-clogging and breakouts. Youn and Thornfeldt both agree that there is a chance that coconut oil could clog pores.

Look for cold-pressed, organic coconut oil when shopping for a makeup remover.

Shop Our Favorite Coconut Oil Options

Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil $18.00

The quality of your coconut oil is imperative to the benefits it can have for your skin. Thornfeldt explains that, since the ingredient does have some saturated fatty acids in it, a lower-quality coconut oil might be contaminated or poorly purified, which could lead to a dreaded breakout. “I recommend that you only use purified, cold-pressed coconut oil in liquid form,” he says. “Ideally, it should be organic and minimally processed,” adds Youn. This option from Nutiva fits the bill perfectly.

Kopari coconut melt
Kopari Organic Coconut Melt $28.00

We love Kopari Organic Coconut Melt, which is cold-pressed and chock full of vitamins and minerals. “Usual manufacturing is that they extract oils with chemicals that can bind with active ingredients,” he explained. “The solvent agents can bind to the lipids in the coconut oil, meaning that toxins could then be absorbed by the skin when applied. Cold-pressed doesn’t have toxins in the process that would impact the skin.”

The Final Takeaway

It’s safe to use as a makeup remover, but only if it is organic, unrefined, and cold-pressed. Looking for these three keywords on the label will help minimize the chances of skin congestion and maximize the efficacy of the oil’s benefits. Coconut oil may not be the holy grail of natural products, but it can be a powerful one when used correctly.

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