Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Misadventures in Going Green: The Coconut Oil Fiasco

To a lot of people, coconut oil is the stuff of legend. It's antibacterial, antiviral, heals cuts, soothes skin, moisturizes, keeps skin looking young and supple, prevents split ends, tastes amazing, and is purported to be a healthier source of fat than animal fats. It's solid at room temperature, which makes it a pretty decent base for balms and creams, but melts easily on your fingertips. It's inexpensive, lasts for a decent amount of time without refrigeration, and you can get it from pretty much any grocery store.

So, when I wanted something to replace my old moisturizer awhile ago, I figured I'd give it a go. It's cheaper, purportedly has a healing effect on skin, and was about six bucks at Sprouts. Sold!

[caption id="attachment_2355" align="aligncenter" width="300"]green coconuts, coconut I don't have any pictures of coconut oil's effect on my skin (you're welcome), so here are some coconuts.[/caption]


Now, coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which is why it solidifies at room temperature. It's also reported to be highly comedogenic, meaning that it clogs pores. My skin isn't room temperature and I planned on applying it and then tissuing off the excess, so I didn't think I'd have to worry too much about the oil contributing to clogged pores. I'd used other oils on my skin before (Diamox can be extremely drying), so how bad could it be?

Answer: bad. Like, bad-bad.

The first few days weren't, of course. I applied a little bit around my eye sockets, which would allow it to moisturize my eye area as I slept. I also applied it only to the areas where my skin tends to be the driest-- my forehead, the corners of my mouth, and the tops of my cheeks. I even gave my arms and legs an occasional rub down with it when they got a little dry. And, as I mentioned before, I was always careful to tissue off the excess. Unfortunately, coconut oil didn't give a damn-- I broke out virtually everywhere I applied it.

Now, normally when my skin breaks out, it's for one of two reasons. I get tiny, itchy, rashy-looking pimples when I've come in contact with something I'm allergic to (ranging from certain antibiotics, to some synthetic fragrances, to skincare products containing citrus), and I get deeper, cystic pimples when I'm experiencing hormonal shifts or extra stress.
These were neither-- just red, angry, painful spots.

I'm aware that it's possible for certain oils to bring about a kind of "healing crisis" in skin (i.e., the "purging" experienced by a lot of people start using jojoba oil), where things get worse before getting better. Unfortunately, there wasn't really a "getting better" for me-- it really seemed like the coconut oil was clogging my pores and stopping right after the "getting worse" part. I'm old enough to start worrying about wrinkles, and here I was breaking out like a teenager!

In the end, I switched back to using jojoba oil, occasionally adding argan or maracuja depending on what my skin seems to need at the time. Oddly enough, I don't experience any problems using coconut oil to make deodorant-- even though I have had breakouts with other products I've used under my arms, they seem perfectly happy to be slathered in coconut oil. Go figure.

Do you use coconut oil on your skin? What have your experiences been?


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