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Coconut Oil May Be The Secret To Glowing Skin Hiding In Your Kitchen

Photo by Natalia Klenova / EyeEm/Getty Images

Ready to get your glow on? If you’re hoping to restore moisture and get glowing skin, look no further than your kitchen cabinet. Coconut oil may not be a buzzworthy new ingredient, but there’s a reason why so many people sing its praises and why it’s found in so many beauty products: It really works.

Not only does this hydrating plant oil enrich your food, but it can also give you a gorgeous glow and leave your skin feeling smooth and hydrated. This baby-soft feeling is credited to a beneficial combination of fatty acids and skin-nourishing ingredients, like vitamin E and vitamin K, which make coconut oil an emollient—but the benefits don’t stop there. “It has antifungal and antibacterial properties,” says Bobby Awadalla, MD, board-certified dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic dermatology.

Before you reach for the jar of coconut oil in your pantry, it’s important to break down what makes this highly-saturated oil so effective—and where it comes from. Thanks to its composition and the presence of fatty acids (which include lauric acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid), coconut oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and moisturizing benefits when used in your hair or on your skin. Coconut oil comes from the white, fleshy part inside a coconut. While extra virgin coconut oil is made from the fresh flesh, refined coconut oil comes from the copra, (or dried flesh).

Want to transform your skin with coconut oil? Read on to reap the benefits and learn how to use coconut oil in your beauty routine.

About the Expert:

Bobby Awadalla, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs micrographic surgeon. He is also active in research and has authored numerous articles in the field of dermatology as well as seven books in the Skincredible series.

The many benefits of coconut oil (and why you should incorporate it into your skincare routine ASAP):

1. It’s moisturizing.

Coconut oil is a prime ingredient that’s used to hydrate and soothe our hair, skin, and nails. “Coconut oil is great as a moisturizer and barrier for the skin on the body and face,” says Dr. Adawalla, who recommends using coconut oil to lock in your products and hydrate dry skin. “It’s great as the last step in your skincare routine,” says Dr. Adawalla, who says you should apply it after you reach for active ingredients like vitamin C serums and sunscreen during the day, and retinol, AHAs, or BHAs at night.

2. It’s anti-aging.

While coconut oil has a reputation for being a hydrator, it also happens to be an antioxidant-booster that can combat premature signs of aging caused by free-radical damage (like fine lines and wrinkles caused by pollution and UV rays). By applying it after using a vitamin C serum in the morning, it’ll make the active ingredient more effective—just be sure to wear sunscreen. Since coconut oil can cause increased sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays, it’s best when incorporated last in your skincare routine—after you apply SPF. “Application of sunscreen to protect, antioxidants to repair, and humectants to moisturize should all be applied before applying coconut oil,” says Dr. Awadalla.

3. It’s antibacterial.

Thanks to its composition and the presence of fatty acids (which includes lauric acid), coconut oil also contains antimicrobial properties, which means it keeps bacteria and infection away.

4. It’s a natural makeup remover.

Using oil as a cleanser is certainly nothing new, and coconut oil a popular makeup remover that you can incorporate as the first step in your double-cleanse routine. “Apply it to damp skin, work in circular motions, then rinse,” says Dr. Adawalla, who recommends using it as a face wash. “Because all fatty acids have a hydrophobic (water-fearing) side and a hydrophilic (water-loving) side, it acts similarly to a soap,” he explains.

5. It improves barrier function.

Not only is this oil easily absorbed, but it can also improve your skin barrier so much-needed hydration doesn’t slip out while also increasing surface lipid levels. “The medium-chain fatty acids are great for creating a barrier to the skin,” says Dr. Awadalla. This is especially beneficial for anyone who suffers from atopic dermatitis, which happens when there is damage to the skin barrier.

6. It can reduce swelling and inflammation.

Unfortunately chronic inflammation is a harsh reality for anyone suffering from a variety of skin conditions, (including psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and eczema). Reaching for coconut oil can provide soothing relief, thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties found in the nourishing oil.

7. How you can use coconut oil to get super smooth skin.

Ashy skin? We don’t know her. If you have dry or over-exfoliated skin, or if you’re simply searching for a new anti-aging fave, coconut oil can work wonders for infusing hydration into your routine and helping you achieve a glowing look. Since coconut oil is suitable for most skin types (including sensitive skin!), you can use it as both a face oil and a body oil. Simply slather it on to reap its nourishing and moisturizing effects—but be sure to read the fine print, especially if you’re going to DIY a coconut oil treatment. “Make sure to get cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil for your face or skincare,” says Dr. Awadalla.

You can use it both day and night, but since coconut oil can cause increased sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays, it’s best when incorporated last in your skincare routine—after you apply SPF. “Application of sunscreen to protect, antioxidants to repair, and humectants to moisturize should all be applied before applying coconut oil,” says Dr. Awadalla.

While coconut oil is an amazing multitasker, if you’re prone to breakouts, you might want to skip out on incorporating it into your skincare routine. “If you have oily skin, I would not recommend using it on the face,” says Dr. Awadalla. Although it does contain properties that could soothe acne, it’s best not to further clog pores as it is comedogenic. “Acne is caused by a bacteria called P. Acnes, so the antimicrobial effects of coconut oil may help; however, coconut oil can cause breakouts,” says Dr. Awadalla. If you’re looking for a treatment for acne-prone skin he says there are safer alternatives to try that won't cause pimples to pop up.

Our favorite coconut oil-infused skincare products:

1. DR.BOTANICALS Cocoa & Coconut Superfood Reviving Hydrating Mask

DR.BOTANICALS Cocoa & Coconut Superfood Reviving Hydrating Mask

Recharge your complexion with this moisturizing mask that serves up a serious dose of hydration, thanks a combination of cocoa butter and, of course, coconut oil, which work together to keep moisture in and germs and bacteria out, leaving you with a dewy glow.

2. OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

We love a twofer, and this nourishing exfoliator, infused with coconut oil, doesn’t disappoint. Use it in the shower to slough off dead skin cells and remove product build-up on your scalp while also restoring hydration. Bonus: it smells amazing and it serves up a healthy dose of probiotics to boost your skin’s natural defenses.

3. KOPARI BEAUTY Mini Coconut Cleansing Oil

KOPARI BEAUTY Mini Coconut Cleansing Oil

Reach for this nourishing cleansing oil to remove makeup, wash away impurities, and hydrate your complexion without further stripping your skin of much-needed moisture.

4. DELECTABLE BY CAKE BEAUTY Triple Moisture Body Lotion in Coconut & Cream

DELECTABLE BY CAKE BEAUTY Triple Moisture Body Lotion in Coconut & Cream

Dryness doesn’t stand a chance when you use this moisturizing lotion, which combines coconut oil, shea butter, and aloe vera to leave your skin feeling as smooth as a baby’s bum. We especially love the lightweight, whipped consistency that glides on and won’t leave behind any sticky residue—simply glowing, never greasy results await.

5. KAPULUAN COCONUT Raw Organic Coconut Oil

KAPULUAN COCONUT Raw Organic Coconut Oil

This organic, cold-pressed coconut oil is a major multitasker that can hydrate from head-to-toe and simplify your beauty routine. Go ahead and use it as a moisturizer, face serum, lip balm, cuticle cream, hair mask, shaving cream, or makeup remover, (you get the idea). Bonus: the spill-proof tube makes it perfect for packing on vacation.

Can’t decide on just one product? Sign up for the IPSY Glam Bag and you just might get to try ‘em all! Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
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Article Last Updated May 6, 2021 12:00 AM