Over the last few years there has been a trend emerging – the use of coconut oil to replace common personal care products. A google search for ‘coconut oil for skin care’ returns thousands of results that all declare coconut oil a winner for cleansing, moisturizing and healing the skin.

In my opinion, most kitchen products do not have a place in your skincare routine. Although there may be some benefit to using ‘natural’ products, there are also risks involved. Looking at coconut oil specifically, I can come up with a number of reasons why it shouldn’t be placed on your skin.

  • Coconut oil is rated 4 on the comedogenic scale (out of 5), meaning it can cause clogged pores, pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads. If you are already prone to breakouts and use coconut oil, this is probably making them worse. I always recommend using a gentle cleanser and non-comedogenic moisturizer.
  • Coconut oil does not provide intensive moisturization. Many people require more hydration than what coconut oil will provide. It also does not protect against dangerous UV rays so should not be relied on for a daily moisturizer.
  • Coconuts are considered a tree nut so if you are already sensitive to any type of nut or have an allergy, coconut oil could cause an allergic reaction. When applied topically this could appear as itchiness, red bumps or a persistent rash that doesn’t clear up.
  • With respect to allergies, persistent use of coconut oil on the face has been linked to an increase in contact dermatitis, which is a form of allergic dermatitis. I have had a number of patients in my practice who have experienced severe facial rash after long term coconut oil use.
  • Coconut oil is known to contain skin soothers like vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and lauric acid, which is a fatty acid that has been shown to have anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it can also cause irritation and I personally think you are better off with products that have been tested and proven safe for treating skin irritation.

When is it ok to use coconut oil for personal care?

If you really think that coconut oil needs to be an ingredient in your skin care routine, there are a few cases where I think it may be beneficial.

  • If you have dry hair, applying coconut oil as a hair mask will help to increase moisture and shine.
  • In your diet, coconut can be a great oil to cook with, although it is on the fatty side.

If you decide to introduce coconut oil into your personal care routine, make sure that you are purchasing virgin, unrefined coconut oil. If it is refined that means they have taken out most of the good stuff and maybe even added more bad stuff.