Coconut oil. It's no longer (pardon the pun) a flash in the pan beauty trend. It has stuck around, injecting itself into everything from skincare and makeup to haircare and body wash. Even in its virgin form, we've used it as a cleanser, a moisturiser and a hair mask. We're even ingesting it - with a side of controversy about the legitimacy of its health benefits - and swishing it in our mouths to remove plaque (again, with anecdotal success). Whether you use it in your hair, your body or even on your face we know you’re bound to have tried it somewhere in your beauty routine. But could it, like its internal uses, be doing you more harm than good? Well, we want to know for sure. So we sat down with Dr Douglas Grose, President of the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) to talk us through who should/shouldn’t be using coconut oil, and where.
Let's (not) face it...
Coconut oil is a vegetable oil which is comedogenic (read: it blocks the pores leading to acne and blackheads). “People prone to these conditions would be best to avoid it,” says Dr Grose. “However, in small amounts it can actually be beneficial for dry, flaky skin.”
On the other hand, if you love your oils and are on the hunt for some alternatives Dr Grose recommends, “Glycerine and its by-products, as well as Jojoba oil are good alternatives to use on your face instead.” Although, he doesn’t believe that there is an oil that is necessarily better than any other.
Consider your type
Skin type, that is. “Anyone who has oily skin including acne, rosacea and seborrhoea problems should generally avoid using oils on their skin,” says Dr Grose. “Unless those oils have been proven not to block up the hair follicles and aggravate those existing skin problems.”
So, skin types that can handle coconut oil? People with very dry skin such as that that occurs with Eczema and Xerosis are the ones who may benefit from coconut oil. However, Dr Grose says “They would benefit from many other commonly used oils designed to safely moisturise and add oil to the skin too.
“Always see a doctor if you have problem skin, not a health food shop or a mega pharmacy that just wants to sell you something.”
Facial skin differs from the skin on the rest of the body, by the density of hair follicles and their attached oil (sebaceous) glands which are most concentrated on the face. However, when it comes to using coconut oil on your body Dr Grose explained that “it can lead to acne breakouts on the body just as much as it can on the face.” And when so many of us are already dealing with adult acne, we don't want to introduce anything that can make it worse.
The Ecz Files...
If you have a problem with your skin like eczema or dry and itchy skin, Dr Grose recommends getting someone with medical expertise to advise you on how best to deal with your condition, preferably a cosmetic physician who typically has advanced knowledge and skills in the area of skin care. Rather than associating coconut oil with an all-size-fits-all moisture hit, and lather it on.
“Dry itchy skin is a medical problem and should be managed by doctors, not by using home remedies," says Dr Grose. "Coconut oil may be of benefit but first there needs to be an accurate diagnosis as to the cause of the problem instead of wasting time trying different products available across the counter.”
Story by Yadira Galarza Cauchi