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Coconut Oil Moisturizer Do’s and Don’ts

Coconut oil can work as a moisturizer — but not by itself, and it isn’t right for everything.

While coconut oil does work to seal moisture into the skin, board certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel says it shouldn’t replace the moisturizer step in your routine altogether.

“Coconut oil acts as a sealant, as it helps trap water into the skin to keep it moist,” Patel explained. “In doing this, it does act like a moisturizer, but it is still best used over a moisturizer, or on damp skin.”

To bring you up to speed on all the advantages and drawbacks coconut oil has as a moisturizer, we break down everything you need to know about the ingredient, and the best ways to use it, of course.

There are several benefits to using coconut oil on the skin.

Prevents water loss

Although maintaining good hygiene is crucial, frequent handwashing, using abrasive products, or bathing too much can cause damage to the stratum corneum part of the skin’s epidermis. The stratum corneum is the topmost layer of skin, which works to prevent water loss and infection.

If this layer continually breaks down, one study suggests that the skin can become inflamed, susceptible to infection, and, in some people, increase the risk of developing chronic skin inflammation over time.

Hydrating and moisture-repairing products can help. And coconut oil is one of those ingredients that helps the skin retain moisture, says board certified dermatologist Dr. Beth Goldstein.

“Coconut oil can help with cracks and water loss in the top layer of the skin by providing key essential fatty lipids,” Goldstein said. “These lipids improve the barrier function of the skin, allowing it to feel supple and hydrated as a result.”

Contains fatty acids

Much like fatty acids can be beneficial to human health, coconut oil is chock-full of fatty acids that are important in maintaining healthy skin, Goldstein explains.

These include a range of saturated fats and short- and medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid.

Lauric acid is particularly known for positive effects on skin health. A 2018 study revealed that the monolaurin derived from lauric acid exhibits both antiviral and antifungal activity.

Because of these antiviral properties, a 2009 study revealed that lauric acid can also be potentially useful in alleviating symptoms associated with acne vulgaris.

Then there’s linoleic acid, which is another one of the acids present in coconut oil. But unlike lauric acid, Patel says this acid works to prevent moisture loss.

“Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids such as linoleic acid,” she added. “This helps trap water in the skin.”

Tames inflammation associated with certain skin conditions

Because it contains no harsh additives or chemicals, coconut oil, in its purest form, can help help reduce inflammation associated with skin conditions like eczema.

To be more specific, since coconut oil penetrates the skin quickly, the ingredient can be useful in improving skin elasticity and reducing itchiness associated with this skin condition, according to an article from the National Eczema Foundation.

A 2019 study explained that emollient properties of coconut oil also have a positive impact on dermatitis and mild to moderate xerosis, or extremely dry skin.

A case for cold-pressed coconut oil

Be sure to look for products containing cold-pressed coconut oil if inflammation is a concern, as it helps maintain the integrity of the skin, Goldstein explains.

“This natural oil, if used without other ingredients, can be an effective source of moisture,” she added. “This gives the skin smoothness and flexibility, reducing inflammation seen in atopic dermatitis. It also results in less itching and assists in boosting wound healing.”


“Coconut oil provides an SPF of 8,” Goldstein said.

But coconut oil shouldn’t replace your daily sunscreen. SPF 8 is very low.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using (and reapplying) sunscreen products with SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from sun damage. So definitely don’t skip actual sunscreens.

Many personal care products use coconut oil as an ingredient to add smoothness to the texture of the product and provide easy spreadability, Goldstein says.

She goes on to explain that coconut oil can appear as an ingredient in many forms (including coconut alcohol and hydrogenated coconut acid), so it’s important to find products that only use coconut oil extracts, especially if breakouts are a concern or you have naturally oily skin.

“Try to use a product that uses an extract over plain oil,” Goldstein said.

Speaking about a product she helped develop, Goldstein said, “Like other products that use coconut oil extract, The Daily by GETMr. is a suitable option that moisturizes skin without…

Read More: Coconut Oil Moisturizer Do’s and Don’ts

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