Every month, we answer your questions about skincare and makeup at Ask Ms. Chic. This month, we answer a question about coconut oil and skin. Is it a beauty miracle, or a greasy mess?
“Dear Ms Chic: I’m always seeing coconut oil as being the best thing for your skin. Is this true? Why or why not?”
Coconut oil is made largely of saturated fats. The oils in coconut oil are uniquely absorbent, giving coconut oil its lightweight feel. This can cause two different effects in the skin.
Coconut oil is highly comedogenic. That means that it soaks into the pores and clogs them. On a comedogenicity scale of 0-5, coconut oil is rated as a 4. Acne bacteria thrive in clogged pores, causing dreaded pustular breakouts.
Healthy skin produces its own oils. Because coconut oil absorbs quickly, it can trick your skin into thinking it is over-producing oil, while virtually disappearing from the surface of the skin through absorption. Your skin then slows its natural oil production, leaving the surface of your skin parched. Your skin needs a layer of oils (lipids) on the surface to protect it from environmental damage and transepidermal water loss – the evaporation of your valuable hydration from inside the skin.
Is coconut oil all bad? No! Coconut oil contains some ferulic acid, which helps to prevent free radical damage. It also contains lauric acid, which has anti-bacterial effects when used independently. Unfortunately, the pore-clogging properties of coconut oil can cause more breakouts, negating some of that antibacterial benefit.
So how can you use coconut oil? Read on!
Coconut Oil Do’s and Dont’s:
First, not all coconut oil is the same. Look for organic extra virgin coconut oil, which has not been refined or hydrogenated and contains no GMOs.
Do: Use it as a hair mask. Because coconut oil’s chemical structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft (not just coat it like many other hair care ingredients), it can improve the strength and flexibility of the hair, leading to less breakage and split ends. Apply it at night, cover with a shower cap and let it soak into your hair. The next morning, shampoo and condition as normal.
Don’t: Let your hair get wet while it’s still on. In the morning when you are ready to shower, apply shampoo to your oil-slicked hair before rinsing it. If you apply shampoo after your hair is wet, it will still be greasy once you are out of the shower.
Do: Use it as a body moisturizer. Scoop out a dime sized amount of virgin coconut oil and as use on your body for instant, deep moisture and a boost of protective antioxidants. It’s also great to soften the cuticles around your nails and for use on dry, cracked heels.
Don’t: Rub it all over your face. If you have acne-prone, problem skin, coconut oil can clog your pores. Due to its relatively high levels of saturated fat, it is comedogenic and acnegenic.
Do: Add it to your food. Coconut oil can be used to cook with like any other oil and contains medium-chain-length fatty acids, or triglycerides MCTs, which have been shown in studies to raise the body’s metabolism and decrease body fat. In fact, one study found that women who consumed two tablespoons a day for 12 weeks had decreased abdominal fat than those who did not.
Don’t: Go overboard with it. Like with all healthy fats, moderation is key. A tablespoon of the oil sets you back about 120 calories so you can imagine that if you are adding it to food, you have to make sure to make other dietary adjustments to allot for the added intake.
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Do’s and Don’ts: New Beauty Magazine
National Institutes of Health