Coconut Oil Is It Right For Your Skin Type
Posted on 22 February 2016
We have all heard about the benefits of coconut oil, but it may shock you to find out that it may not be the best choice for your skin type.
I can agree that when it comes to nutrition, coconut oil has its benefits. However, in skin care there seems to be mixed results. People either love it and swear by its use, or experience some sort of discomfort and reaction. Personally, after hearing all the hype around coconut oil, I went and bought a big jar and used it in everything from homemade toothpaste, to hair conditioning masks, to a stand-alone moisturizer. After using it on my skin, my skin would feel drier, like sand paper, and I was getting very deep pimples and blackheads. I decided that I must be the only person on the planet whom coconut oil did not work its magic on. When I started selling my products, I discovered that there were many others who were experiencing similar reactions. These people were having issues ranging in degrees of severity, many of them were experiencing allergic reactions and some even had resulting cystic acne from its use. Due to coconuts properties, wide spread availability, and the fact that its relatively inexpensive - it is found in almost all skin care products, making it hard for customers with sensitivities to find suitable alternatives.
Now, with that being said, I have found that certain products containing coconut oil used in certain percentages have not been irritating. You can find it in some of our products, mainly soap and hair/beard care products, used for good reason but never as an ingredient in products made to directly moisturize like our facial serums, body butters and lip balms. In soap making, coconut oil used in the right percentages in order produces a hard bar that lathers well, but if you use too much the bar becomes very drying. I find soap containing coconut to be just as good as soap formulated without coconut (yes we do carry some). For hair care, coconut is one of the only oils that will penetrate the cortex (inner part of hair), improving strength and flexibility. However, because it does not contain many nutrients and does not coat the outside of the strand, it is used in conjunction with other oils that repair, smooth, and add shine to the hair.
We are always hearing about the benefits of coconut oil and what makes this product so appealing is related to its chemistry. Coconut oil is composed mainly of saturated fats. Saturated fats have all their carbon to hydrogen bond areas occupied by strong single bonds – every bond site is “saturated”. This results in a stable oil with a long shelf life, as it is not very reactive with oxygen. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which has been shown to actually penetrate the skin and accumulate in the stratum corneum, locking in moisture. It has also been shown to be antimicrobial and containing antioxidants (mainly ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid), which prevent sun and age damage.
All these sound very beneficial, right? In theory, yes, but there are a lot of factors that have to be considered when determining if its right for your skin type; pore sizes, moisture content of the skin, rate of transepidermal water loss, cell turnover rate, etc. A few of the downsides to coconut oil include a high comedogenic rating. This rating is the tendency of the oil to clog pores and cause pimples and blackheads. Coconut oil scores a 4 on a scale of 0-5 with 5 having the highest tendency to clog pores. This is why many people experience cystic acne and breakouts when using products containing coconut oil. The product may even claim to be “non-comedogenic”, but still contains ingredients that are aggressively pore clogging. As for the dryness that I experienced, there are a few theories on how this is possible. One is - since coconut oil penetrates the stratum corneum, it can disrupt the signals controlling sebum production, signaling that the skin is over saturated in oil and therefore slows the production of our natural oils, resulting in dryness after the coconut absorbs away. Another is that since coconut oil almost fully penetrates the stratum corneum, it does not form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin locking in moisture that is already passing through. It is almost counter-productive as we are moisturizing in order to lock in moisture. The skin requires a layer of lipids on the surface (fats) to slow transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Besides all of the great benefits previously mentioned, coconut oil actually has very low nutritional benefits for the skin; it lacks a number of great nutrients that are found in other oils like vitamins, cartenoids, and phytosterols. Also, in comparison to other oils, coconut has significantly less antioxidants.
Individual skincare needs vary from person to person and depends on humidity, the seasons, genetics, etc., so if coconut is working for you, keep using it. If you are looking for something to better suit your skin type, here is a list of our products that do not contain coconut:
- Olives soap
- All facial serums
- Bath salts
- All whipped body butter
- All blended body butter
- All lip balms
If you are more of a DIY’er, here is a list of oils/butters I recommend as a replacement:
These oils all score a 0 on the comedogenic scale and have great skin care properties.
- Argan oil
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
A few other good choices for those who aren’t prone to breakouts:
- Sweet Almond
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil