Cocos Nucifera Oil

Also-called-like-this: Coconut Oil
What-it-does: emollient
Irritancy: 1
Comedogenicity: 4


There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. 

We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. Chemically speaking, coconut oil has a unique fatty acid profile. Unlike many plant oils that mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with double bonds and kinky structure such as linoleic or oleic), coconut oil is mostly saturated (fatty acids with single bonds only) and its most important fatty acid is Lauric Acid (about 50%).  Saturated fatty acids have a linear structure that can stack nice and tight and hence they are normally solid at room temperature. Coconut oil melts around 25 °C so it is solid in the tub but melts on contact with the skin. 

The saturated nature of coconut oil also means that it is a heavy-duty-oil ideal for dry skin types. A double-blind research confirmed that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective in treating xerosis (aka very dry skin) as mineral oil. Another study found that coconut oil is more effective than mineral oil in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) in children.

So when it comes to dry skin, coconut oil is a goodie, no question there. The question is if it is good or bad for acne-prone skin. Its main fatty acid, Lauric Acid has some research showing that it is a promising ingredient against evil acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes but at the same time, both Lauric Acid and coconut oil have a very high comedogenic rating (4 out of 5). Though comedogenic ratings are not very reliable, anecdotal evidence (i.e. people commenting in forums) shows that people have mixed experiences. While some claim that it worked wonders on their acne others say that it gave them serious blackheads and zits. Try it at your own risk. 

As for hair care, coconut oil has pretty solid research showing that it can penetrate into the hair very well (better than mineral oil and sunflower oil) and it can prevent hair protein loss as well as combing damage.  If you have problems with damaged hair, split ends, coconut oil is worth trying as a pre- or/and post-wash treatment.  Labmuffin has an awesome blogpost explaining in more detail why coconut oil is good for your hair.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: coconut oil might help with wound healing (promising animal study), it has some antifungal activity (against dermatophytes that cause the thing known as ringworm) and it also works as an insect repellent against black flies. 

Overall, coconut oil is definitely a goodie for the hair and dry skin. If that warrants for the magic oil status it enjoys, we don't know. 

Show me some proof

  • Agero, Anna Liza, and Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell. "A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis." Dermatitis 15.3 (2004): 109-116.
  • Evangelista, Mara Therese Padilla, Flordeliz Abad‐Casintahan, and Lillian Lopez‐Villafuerte. "The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double‐blind, clinical trial." International journal of dermatology 53.1 (2014): 100-108.
  • Rele, Aarti S., and R. B. Mohile. "Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage." Journal of cosmetic science 54.2 (2003): 175-192.
  • Keis, K., et al. "Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into human hair fibers." Journal of cosmetic science 56.5 (2005): 283-295.
  • Nevin, K. G., and T. Rajamohan. "Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats." Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 23.6 (2010): 290-297.

Products with Cocos Nucifera Oil

Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Detoxifying Soap Bar Kopari Coconut Body Glow Kopari Coconut Crush Scrub RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up 100% Pure Blood Orange Cleansing Balm BOSCIA Charcoal Deep-Pore Cleansing Stick Treatment Belif The True Tincture Cleansing Stick Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap- Baby Unscented ECOCOCO Cocovanilla Body Polish Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil Frank Body Coconut Body Balm Frank Body Illuminator Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Body Polish Honeyskin Ultimate Face & Body Cream Kat Burki Vitamin C Nourishing Cleansing Balm Kypris Beauty Elixir Ii Healing Bouquet Kypris Beauty Elixir Iii Prismatic Array Kypris Kypris Beauty Elixir I 1000 Roses LilyAna Naturals Eye Cream Moisturizer Rosehip & Hibiscus L´Occitane Immortelle Divine Cleansing Balm Mecca Cosmetica Enlightened Lit From Within Illuminating Balm Modern Skyn Alchemy Daily Resurfacing Exfoliant Revolution Skincare Fine Line Correcting Serum - 0.2% Retinol Revolution Skincare Skin Tone Correcting Serum – Granactive Retinoid 2% RéVive Rescue Elixir Anti-Aging Oil Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner The Divine Company Replenishing Lip Balm French Girl Sea Polish - Rose Makeup Artist's Choice Rosehips Hibiscus Scar Cream Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick Odylique Mineral Eyeshadow (All Colours) Palmer's Skin Therapy Oil Face Sante Naturkosmetik Soothing Night Cream Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Treatment Masque Shea Moisture Superfruit Masque Skin Juice Smudge Budge Face & Eye Skinfix Ultra Rich Body Butter Superdrug All Over Body Cream With Dragonfruit Superdrug Vitamin E All Over Body Cream Tailor Skincare Oil Cleanse The Inkey List Turmeric Cream Moisturiser Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm 100% Pure Kelp & Mint Volumizing Shampoo Anointment Natural Skin Care Shea Butter Cream Derma Eco Woman Bodylotion Etude House Cherry Sweet Color Lip Balm Joa Bath & Body Retreat Body Soufflé Luna Bronze Glow Gradual Tanning Moisturiser Lush Coalface