On that note, both derms also say you definitely shouldn’t put it on open wounds: Just because it’s anti-inflammatory, that doesn’t mean it’s the most sterile or safe option, Dr. Gohara says. “Applying anything to these [affected areas] can increase the chances of irritation or allergic contact dermatitis, given the increased potential for absorption when the skin is not intact,” she explains.
It can help remove makeup.
Consider replacing traditional makeup remover with your handy jar of coconut oil, Dr. Garshick suggests. The fatty acids we keep mentioning are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water but dissolve in other oils (including those in makeup).14 That makes it easier to break down and swipe away stubborn eye shadow, liner, and mascara, without stripping skin of moisture—an especially strong selling point for those with sensitive or dry skin, per Dr. Garshick.
Again, you shouldn’t use pure coconut oil all over your cheeks, forehead, and chin— meaning it’s not optimal for removing a full face of foundation (unless you want to risk clogging your pores). However, both Dr. Gohara and Dr. Garshick say you can safely use it in isolated areas—as long as you rinse it off thoroughly with a cleanser. Just make sure to do a patch test on your inner arm first, because some folks can experience sensitivity (especially around the eyes) or, as we already said, an allergic reaction.
It may improve some eczema symptoms.
In fact, there’s research showing that coconut oil may help relieve the flaking and excessive dryness associated with atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema.2 15 That’s because this condition involves a weakened skin barrier, and coconut oil works to repair and strengthen that outer layer, Dr. Garshick explains.16 Keep in mind, however, that even though coconut oil can potentially help with the above eczema symptoms, it’s not a replacement for conventional treatment methods, like a gentle skin care routine or, in more severe cases, prescription-grade topical steroids, as SELF previously reported.
Another important caveat: “I don’t recommend that people with eczema or psoriasis use coconut oil without first consulting with a dermatologist,” Dr. Gohara says. Why? Because the products that work (or don’t) for these inflammatory skin conditions can vary from person to person. So it’s helpful to have a medical professional—ideally one who’s familiar with your unique symptoms and triggers—evaluate your specific skin first, Dr. Gohara says.
What are the biggest risks of using coconut oil for your skin?
Okay, now that you’re aware of coconut oil’s strong suits, let’s get into the biggest potential side effects, so you don’t end up sabotaging your skin.
It can clog pores and cause acne.
We said it before and we’ll say it again: Coconut oil is a pore-clogging or, more technically, comedogenic ingredient.17 It falls under this category due to its super thick, wax-like consistency, which is great for trapping moisture but, on the flip side, can also be too occlusive, Dr. Garshick says.18 19 So yes, even though it has antimicrobial properties (which in theory could help combat zit-causing bacteria), “coconut oil is generally best to avoid using on your face, especially if you have acne or oily skin,” she explains.
It can trigger allergic reactions.
There are a couple of reasons why and how coconut oil can cause an allergic reaction—yes, even if you don’t ingest it or have a nut allergy.