Some people swear by coconut oil’s place in skincare, while others wouldn’t dare touch it. Love it or hate it, the oil has stirred up discourse in the skincare world. But what is it behind coconut oil’s properties that make it such a controversial topic?

On The Skin Report podcast, Dr. Simran Sethi, an Internal Medicine doctor and the Founder and Medical Director of RenewMD medical spas, discusses the science behind coconut oil and its use in skincare. The podcast episode explains the molecular make-up of this unique oil and the science-backed reasons why coconut oil is such a controversial skin care topic.

In this blog post, we’ll break down the root cause of the commotion surrounding coconut oil in skincare. Then, we’ll tackle some coconut oil rumors, so you can learn what is fact and what is fiction.

A Useful Component or User Beware?

Coconut oil is praised by some and avoided by others, prompting the question – Does coconut oil belong in skincare? Well, the answer is yes and no.

The oil has many beneficial antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that prompt some users to incorporate it into their skincare practices. Up to 65% of coconut oil is composed of medium-chain fatty acids, which contribute to these antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has even been studied in the reduction of inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.

Still, coconut oil can negatively affect the skin, depending on how people incorporate it into their skincare. A general rule of thumb from Dr. Sethi to remember is: never apply raw coconut oil directly to the skin.

Applying raw coconut oil directly to the skin’s surface can produce side effects that cancel out the oil’s positive qualities. Coconut oil is a comedogenic substance, meaning that when applied directly to the skin, it can cause clogged pores. This side effect can be attributed to the oil’s large molecular weight, which makes it unable to absorb into the skin. Instead, this causes it to remain on the skin’s surface, where it can mix with dirt and debris, causing the formation of clogged pores, blackheads, and acne.

However, coconut oil can be utilized in skincare when incorporated into safe practices. On this week’s podcast, Dr. Sethi explains how you can apply skin care product formulations containing coconut oil as an ingredient to gain the benefits of the oil without the side effects. Additionally, coconut oil can be used as a hair mask, as the oil can penetrate strands to nourish hair from the inside and defend against protein loss. Your scalp is considered your skin, too, so applying coconut directly onto the scalp can still cause clogged pores.

While coconut oil may sound like a nice natural skincare agent in its purest form, using it raw can do more harm than good. Still, many swear by its use as a miracle cure for all sorts of skin conditions! Read on as we bust some popular myths surrounding coconut oil in skincare.

Busting Coconut Oil Myths

Coconut Oil – A Sunburn Solution?

Aloe vera gel is a popular topical solution for easing the side effects brought on by sunburn. However, coconut oil should not be used as a treatment for sunburned skin.

Like aloe vera, coconut oil can provide a protective layer when applied to sunburned skin. However, the oil’s rich lipid content and higher molecular weight compound can lead to clogged pores – especially when used directly on sunburned skin that is sloughing off.

Furthermore, coconut oil may even contribute to your skin’s discomfort when applied topically to sunburns. This is because oil on the skin’s surface can absorb heat which may prolong the burning and skin damage, especially when exposed to more sunlight.

Coconut Oil – A Dietary Skincare Supplement?

So if coconut oil shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin, can people eat foods with coconut oil to promote skin and hair health? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work this way.

Coconut oil is high in vitamin E, which can be a healthy antioxidant, but consuming coconut oil does not necessarily promote skin or hair health like it does when used topically in certain body care formulations. Also, coconut oil still has a high percentage of saturated ‘bad’ fats, meaning that it is not a healthy cooking oil alternative to olive or avocado oil.

Coconut Oil – A Stretch Mark Savior?

For years coconut oil has been known as a solution to help avoid the formation of stretch marks, especially during pregnancy or fluctuation in body weight. But unfortunately, applying coconut oil to the belly will not help you avoid stretch marks, as topical products cannot prevent the occurrence of skin stretching.

Stretch marks form when the skin’s epidermis is stretched quickly beyond its capacity, causing tears in the skin’s connective tissue and revealing blood vessels. This is often a product of genetics and cannot be improved by anything applied externally to the skin.

Coconut oil can be a beneficial component in skin care when used appropriately. For more information on the best ways to safely incorporate coconut oil into your skin and hair care, listen to Season 1, Episode 15 of The Skin Report Podcast – and follow the series for more information about science-backed skincare!