From baking to moisturizing, coconut oil has been touted as an all-in-one, inexpensive, miracle product. And while coconut oil is incredibly effective for some of its popular uses, it may not be the best option for everything.
Is it healthy or not? Is it good or bad for your skin? Is it effective for maintaining healthy hair? It’s time to clear the air. Here is everything you need to know about what you should and shouldn’t use coconut oil for:
- Do: Oil Pulling
Coconut oil is actually great for keeping your teeth and mouth clean — including stain removal, plaque buildup, and bad breath — which you can do by oil pulling. Though it sounds like a recent trend someone made up to sell coconut oil, it’s actually an ancient Ayurvedic practice that dates back thousands of years with promising scientific evidence to back it up. Keep in mind that oil pulling needs to be done correctly to be effective and should be used in conjunction with regular flossing and brushing!
This is how oil pulling works: Many of the bacteria in the mouth are surrounded by a layer of fat which bind readily to the fat in coconut oil. When you spit the coconut oil out of your mouth, the bacteria go with it. Some people use sunflower or sesame oil, but stick with coconut; it has extra antimicrobial agents that make it more effective.
2. Don’t: Sunscreen
Protecting yourself from the harsh rays of the sun is vital, especially in the summer months. However, don’t use coconut oil to do it. Though coconut oil does have a low amount of SPF, it only blocks about 20 percent of ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, which will block at least 97 percent of ultraviolet rays.
Coconut oil may not be an effective sunscreen, but it can be beneficial for treating a sunburn. It’s anti-inflammatory, soothes itchy skin, and helps lock in the moisture your damaged skin needs. After washing the burn in cool water, apply coconut oil to help your skin stay hydrated. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen, though, as preventing a sunburn is always preferable to treating one.
3. Maybe: Hair Treatments
One of coconut oil’s most popular and well-known uses is for hair. You’ll probably see conflicting opinions on its effectiveness when used as a hair mask or treatment, with some claiming it made their hair thick and smooth, and others stating it dried out their strands. There’s not a clear answer here, though, as it all depends on your hair type and how it responds to coconut oil.
Coconut oil has a small molecular size, which allows it to penetrate the hair shaft where it can help seal in natural hair proteins. This is great for hair fine to medium hair that doesn’t have a lot of natural protein or is damaged, as coconut oil can make hair stronger and healthier. For those with coarse, thick, or dry hair, coconut oil can make your strands even drier, because its affinity for protein will prevent your hair from soaking up necessary moisture.
Do a little experimenting if you aren’t sure how coconut oil will affect your hair. If you’ve already tried it with less than desirable results, consider using a mask on your hair made from something else: castor oil, argan oil, egg, and avocado are great for your hair too!
4. Don’t: Facial Moisturizer
Many beauty-conscious people have found multiple uses for coconut oil in their regimen: in homemade scrubs, as a makeup remover, and as a beloved moisturizer. However, you may want to think twice before putting coconut oil on your face as a moisturizer, because coconut oil is known for causing breakouts.
Coconut oil receives a four out of five on the comedogenic scale, meaning it’s an ingredient that is highly pore-clogging. While some people are not bothered by coconut oil, if you are prone to breakouts because of clogged pores or irritating skincare products, it’s best to skip it altogether. Try jojoba oil instead. It’s a good, more mild alternative because of its similarity to sebum, the oil produced by human skin.
5. Do: Cooking and Baking
Coconut oil is just as useful in the kitchen as it is in your beauty routine. It can be used in place of traditional cooking oils or added to baked goods for a light coconut flavor. Coconut oil also has a similar number of calories per tablespoon as olive, avocado, and grapeseed oils. If you like to cook and bake with coconut oil, feel free to do it.
One thing worth noting is that though coconut oil can be part of a healthy diet, it is higher in saturated fat than other cooking oils. If you are looking to improve your heart health, it may be better to limit your intake. However, even if you are watching you intake of saturated fats, coconut oil is perfectly healthy to consume in moderation.
While coconut oil may not be ideal for everything, it can still do a lot and do it well. If coconut oil works well the way you like to use it, then keep using it for that purpose. Just be sure to do some research on its effectiveness when someone claims that it can do it all.
Madison Ann Baker is a writer, Netflix-binger, and pop culture enthusiast who lives in Idaho. Literature and linguistics are her two passions, both of which she studied in college. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog and binge-reading fantasy novels.