Why coconut oil is bad for your face (and what to use instead)

Imagery: Seth Mooney // @sethmooney

Hannah Thornhill // @twothirdshoney

Words: Sarah Tarca //@tarca

Image: Seth Mooney

Image: Seth Mooney


Why coconut oil is bad for your face (and what to use instead).

With all the hype around coconut oil you’d think it was elixir drained straight from the fountain of youth. The Internet is alive with uses for the stuff, from hair masks to lip scrubs, DIY deodorant to breath freshener (seriously). Not to mention the fact that it makes the most delicious, sweet tasting roast veggies around. But all the while it’s been hiding a pretty dark secret: it’s actually no good to use on your face. That’s right, as much as we love a face oil (and oh, how we do) they weren’t all created equal. And coconut oil is one of those better left for the veggies. Athena Hewett, the San Francisco based creator of the hand-crafted, organic (and oil based!) beauty brand, Monastery, explains why.

What makes coconut oil so bad for your face?

“Coconut oil scores a 4.5 out of 5 on the comodegenic scale (pore clogging) 0 being a good score, 5 being the worst,” says Athena. On top of that, it’s also know to cause sensitivity. Ok, but what does all that actually mean? To get kind of technical for a minute, comodogenic ingredients just so happen to be the ideal consistency or molecular size to get perfectly stuck in your pores. Clogged pores means that your natural oil can’t flow, and the sebum will get stuck… and bam! Just like that you’ve got yourself a pimple.  “Many people can also have rashy or dry reactions to coconut oil,” says Athena, “because - despite popular belief – it’s actually not that hydrating. Coconut oil is a dry oil, which means it penetrates quickly sending a message to the brain that the skin is hydrated... but then leaves very little actual hydration.”

Why does everyone love it so much?

Right, so if it’s faux hydrating, and breakout causing… where did all the hype come from? Well the truth is, it IS good for you… just not on your face. “Coconut oil gained popularity in recent years because it’s a very accessible oil and plentiful with a high level of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA's),” says Athena, “and MCFA’s are popular in the health world because they are hard for the body to turn into stored fat.” Coconut oil is considered a “dry oil”, and where we all went wrong was that we got hooked on the feeling this dry oil gave us - it’s lightweight, and it disappears fast. Athena explains, “Dry oils are made of smaller lipid molecules and penetrate much faster than a regular oil.  They’re not as moisturising because they’re thinner oils but they can be perfect when blended with another larger molecule oil.” The other reason it was given such props was because of its high lauric acid content - which is known to fight that bacteria that causes acne. Confusing, yes? But, as Athena points out, it’s comodegenic rating overrules this, because it also contributes to the problem.


Image: Hannah Thornhill


So, when it comes to your face, which oil is the real MVP?

Of course asking a skincare formulator this question is akin to choosing favourite children. “I have so many that I love!” she says, “but sandalwood nut oil, that I source from your lovely country is amazing.  This is not to be confused with sandalwood oil which is obtained from the trunk of the tree and used as an perfume. The oil I’m talking about is retrieved from the nut and is a drier oil with a medium weight and is the only nut oil that contains ximenynic acid -  which has amazing anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a big ingredient in our Gold healing serum,” she says.

Image: Hannah Thornhill

Image: Hannah Thornhill



Learn more about the incredible Gold botanical healing serum, and shop the Monastery range here.

Emma Vidgen