If you’ve had even a passing interest in natural living, then you have probably seen this: “Just put coconut oil on it!” It’s known as a cure-all. Coconut oil can be used for anything! As a natural remedy, for skin and hair, to cook with, and more. The more, the better! ALL THE COCONUT OIL!
Look, coconut oil is good and all (here’s the truth about coconut oil and its health benefits), but it’s NOT for everything.
Before you roll your eyes and walk away — if you’re a coconut oil believer — hear me out.
Stop Using Coconut Oil as a Cure-All
I’ve been in the “natural community” long enough (about 10 years now) to know that, every year or two, some new natural item becomes the favorite. It is the new miracle cure, it will help everything, and everyone needs to be on it, now!
Right now, the current favorite is CBD oil — and that’s a topic for another day. For a long time, though, coconut oil has been a favorite, and it is still recommended often.
Except that these days, I usually see coconut oil mentioned more like this: “My child has this issue, and I put coconut oil on it, but it didn’t help! What else can I do?”
Many are bewildered — “What do you mean, coconut oil didn’t help?! I’m not sure what else to suggest…maybe colloidal silver or CBD?” But I’m not surprised at all.
Coconut oil has its uses, but it is not a miracle. It is not the right oil or remedy to use for absolutely everything. To understand why that is, we need to take a look at coconut oil’s chemistry.
Coconut Oil on a Chemical Level
Everything’s a chemical, you guys. The mainstream is laughing at us because we “don’t like chemicals.” Clarify that you don’t like harsh/dangerous chemicals, please. Because I’m 100% against unnecessary or dangerous chemicals, whether natural or not-so-much (and we all should be!).
Anyway. Coconut oil’s chemistry.
Every oil has a different mix of fatty acids. These different fatty acids determine how the oil behaves and what it is good for, in and on the body.
Coconut oil breaks down like this:
- Caprylic: 5 – 9%
- Capric: 6 – 10%
- Lauric: 44 – 52%
- Myristic: 13 – 19%
- Palmitic: 8 – 11%
- Stearic: 1 – 3%
- Oleic: 5 – 8%
- Linoleic: 0 – 1%
- Linolenic: 0 – 1%
The reason everyone loves coconut oil is the lauric acid. It is pretty awesome stuff — it’s known as an immune booster, and kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It’s definitely beneficial when used in certain cases (which I’ll get to at the end).
But, this fatty acid profile also shows the reason why coconut oil isn’t really the best fit for skin and hair. Lauric acid is not the best for skin/hair uses. Palmitic and myristic acids are good for cleansing and are kind of “strong,” rather than gently moisturizing. Coconut oil itself is also moderately comedogenic, about a 3 (on a scale of 0 — won’t clog pores at all — to 5 — almost always clogs pores).
Coconut oil is also a rather ‘dry’ oil. That is, it isn’t that moisturizing for many skin types. In fact, some people find it makes their dry skin worse!
What to Use Instead
If you’re looking for gentle, moisturizing skin care oils, especially for a baby or young child, look for oils that are rich in oleic acid. These include:
Look for monounsaturated plant oils for skin care! These oils that are rich in oleic acid have anti-inflammatory properties, they soothe redness and irritation, and they moisturize deeply. They are excellent for dry and sensitive skin.
If you’re looking for oils for oily skin (and yes, you want oils — just the right ones!), try oils that are rich in linoleic acid:
- Rosehip seed
- Evening primrose
- Hemp seed
- Pumpkin seed
These will not clog pores, will not cause acne breakouts, and will moisturize gently.
Don’t use it as a sunscreen — many oils have a higher SPF and work much better, including avocado oil, raspberry seed oil, and carrot seed oil (not the essential oil).
And if you need a ‘remedy’…coconut oil may or may not be the right fit!
When to Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is the right fit for issues like bacteria/fungal issues on the skin. This includes:
- Topical yeast infections
- Athlete’s foot
- Cradle cap
- Yeast diaper rashes
Basically, if you’re treating yeast or some types of bacteria, coconut oil is a good choice.
What about other issues? Many people actually believe that natural remedies don’t work, because they have only been taught to use a small number of go-to options, like coconut oil. And when they choose the wrong natural remedy, of course it doesn’t work! Would using cough syrup for a headache work? No!
Instead of coconut oil, try…
- Pink eye — Calendula flower salve or tea
- Peeling baby skin — Apricot oil
- Bug bites — Drawing salve (DIY or buy)
- Moisturizer — Jojoba oil or rosehip seed oil (or buy this)
- Minor rashes — Calendula salve or plantain salve (or buy this)
- Immune-boosting — Echinacea, astragalus root, schisandra berries (or buy this)
If there’s something else you don’t see on this list, just ask!
Keep coconut oil in your cabinet for cooking and occasional use, when it’s really the right remedy. But don’t get carried away and think it’s really a cure-all. It has its place, but it isn’t magic.