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In case you hadn’t noticed, “Have you tried putting coconut oil on it?” is basically the beauty equivalent of “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” for problems from pimples to psoriasis. It’s our ultimate quick fix for taming frizzy hair, soothing chapped skin and even removing makeup. But with as many coconut oil cautionary tales as miracle stories floating around — the risks include clogged pores and clogged arteries — you need to be careful how you use the stuff.

To make sense of coconut oil and all of its complexion-enhancing cousins, we caught up with Rachel Winard, founder of Soapwalla. In a move we’d call equal parts brilliant and inspirational, Winard started to cook up her own products after she was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune condition that renders her skin incredibly sensitive.

“I’m a HUGE fan of oils,” says Winard. “I wouldn’t classify oils as “good” or “bad,” but there are comedogenic and non-comedogenic oils. Comedogenic oils (coconut is the most popular) are more likely to clog pores.”

Winard doesn’t recommend using non-diluted coconut oil if you have breakout-prone or highly sensitive skin, but she finds that mixing it with other, non-comedogenic oils can improve the overall effect. So while coconut oil is great for some skin types, acne-prone skin might want to give it a pass.

For a second opinion on the so-called miracle oil, we checked in with fabulous cosmetic dermatologist and YouTuber Dr. Sam Bunting. As it turns out, Dr. Sam also advises against it — she calls coconut oil “one of the most potent pore-cloggers,” and warns that it’s becoming dangerously ubiquitous.

“Even coconut oil-enriched hair products can cause problems, triggering breakouts on shoulders and the upper back,” says Dr. Sam.


So if coconut oil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, what oils can you use? Winard ran us through a few of the most popular oils on the market, including some of the ingredients she trusts enough to use in her own products:

Jojoba

The skincare guru explains that while jojoba looks and feels like an oil, it’s actually more like a liquid wax. That makes it incredibly similar to sebum, the oil naturally occurring in our hair and skin.

“As a result, the skin readily absorbs jojoba without leaving any greasy residue behind. Jojoba mixes well with a multitude of oils, and it has a pleasant, light scent. Another bonus: I’ve never heard of an allergy to jojoba.”

Chia and baobab seed oils

Winard tells us that these super seed oils are packed with saturated fatty acids, which allow moisture to go deeper into the skin.

“Chia and baobab also allow you to retain that moisture and also prevent dry itchy skin from developing in the first place. They are both rich in amino acids, which stimulate collagen production to promote faster cell turnover, as well as Vitamins E and K, which brighten under-eye circles and also increase skin elasticity.”

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Rosehip and argan oils

Both of these oils are celebrated for their high anti-oxidant levels, and Winard notes that they also deliver a dose of vitamins A, C and E.

“They are “dry” oils, meaning they are non-comedogenic and unlikely to clog pores. They also have an almost dry feeling and finish to them. These are gorgeous oils to use in conjunction with more comedogenic oils, to balance each other out and provide a more comprehensive moisturizing experience for the skin.”

Marula oil

Winard warns that marula is a heavy oil, so if you’ve experienced issues with coconut oil, this might not be the best ingredient for you. However, she notes that there are some great benefits to marula oil.

“Marula oil is a fast-absorbing, nutritive, and soothing oil that contains high levels antioxidants that fight against environmental aggressors, reverse sun damage, and protect the skin against signs of premature aging.”

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She also names prickly pear seed, sea buckthorn, macerated carrot and carrot seed, and rosehip seed oils as winners. “[They’re] all chock full of vitamins A, C, E, K, as well as omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, and minerals such as zinc. When added to facial moisturizing formulas, these powerhouse oils work as a multi vitamin to really protect and support facial skin.”

That might sound like a lot of ingredients to play with, but Winard advocates for using oils as often as possible in your skincare regime. She recommends a four-step process: cleanse, facial mist, moisturizing oil, concentrated balm. If you’re familiar with her Soapwalla line, you’ll know that each of these steps can involve some kind of oil.

In the end, Winard points out, what matters is finding the combination of ingredients that works for your skin.


Still, Dr. Sam warns that oils aren’t for everyone.

“I’m not a fan of facial oils as a general rule,” she says. “I’m seeing an epidemic of women in my practice with bumpy, dull blemish-prone skin and I think the trend for using facial oils is a contributing factor…Given how prevalent adult acne is (as many as 40% of women in their 20s and up to 30% of women in their 30s), I just don’t think they’re worth the risk.”

If you’re worried about introducing a new oil into your regime, perform a patch test first to see how your body reacts. If the test area goes red or bumpy, the product might not play well with your skin. But, hey—you can always put coconut oil on it.