Coconut Oil Madness: Topically Speaking

Coconut oil madness! This first article of Coconut Oil Madness will focus on cosmetic uses for coconut oil (CO) such as moisturizing, cleansing (otherwise known as the oil cleansing method (OCM)), and foundation [makeup] application (which you may find unnecessary after your skin begins to glow from oil cleansing!).

The more I use coconut oil (and the more uses I find for it!), the fewer and fewer products I’m keeping in supply, which means I’m both SAVING MONEY and SIMPLIFYING MY LIFE.

As part of this life-changing turnaround, I…

  • have stopped using and buying foamy, soapy facial cleansers;
  • have stopped using and buying makeup remover (my tub of Olay cold cream has been sitting, nearly full, untouched in my drawer for who knows how long);
  • have stopped using and buying pore strips;
  • have quit my near-obsessive exfoliation efforts (which sometimes included tweezers… yeah, it was bad…);
  • have stopped using and buying makeup foundation (I threw mine away over two months ago); and
  • don’t bother buying or using emergency zit creams, acne washes, etc., because I don’t break out nearly as much as I used to.

Yep, skincare life for me is pretty grand right now. I’m sure it’s not all due to my switch to CO, as I’ve made other changes and efforts to improve my health in the past years, but I can’t ignore the fact that a lot of it became apparent after I dropped Jergens® like a bad habit (literally) and went cold turkey for the tropical little oil.

1.     Coconut Oil as a Moisturizer

Moisturizing with oil seems pretty obvious, so I won’t get into the how-to’s for this (Step 1: Rub it on your skin. Step 2: Stop doing that.). However, using coconut oil as a moisturizer not only on your face but all over your body has a number of benefits you won’t get from your standard body lotion, and at a lesser or equal cost.

CO is easy to come by and is easy to apply, especially if you get your hands on a permanently liquefied form* (nothing creepy or chemically altered about it) that you can put into a soap pump setup like I’ve got in my bathroom (see photo at end of article). That way, applying it is much easier, since you don’t have to scoop it out of a giant tub with a spoon (if it’s solidified well enough) and wait for it to melt by the warmth of your hands.

Sun Protection Factor

natural oils SPF chart

Image courtesy ClothingCult.com.

Coconut oil has a natural sun protection factor, better known as SPF, of 2-8. It’s a bit on the lower end of SPF for natural oils (see chart), but, mix it with a little raspberry or carrot seed oil and you’ve got yourself a batch of potent sun protection. Even without the other oil(s) added to, I think coconut oil on its own is still better than nothing, especially as protection against those little bits of UV rays that make their way through clothing.

While the American Dermological Society recommends using SPF 15 on your face and body daily to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, I doubt many of us go out of our way to purchase an SPF-inclusive moisturizer. Eucerin® has a long line of body and facial lotions with SPF, but I can say from experience that I’m not a fan. I purchased one of their products in the past, but I was quickly turned off from it; it’s no surprise I still have that bottle sitting around in case of moisturizing emergencies, even though I purchased it over 4 years ago. That’s because, despite promises like “non-greasy” and “absorbs quickly” printed on the packaging, it was like any normal sunscreen I’d ever used: slimy, greasy, and had that signature “sunblock” smell to it. Not exactly what I would consider “daily wear”.

Anti-Aging Nutrients & Vitamins

Our skin shows its age in various ways: wrinkles, age/”liver” spots, loss of elasticity (sagging skin), dryness, and scarring (from acne or whatnot) are just a few of the culprits.

Thank goodness coconut oil helps with all of these!

Since it’s derived from a nutritious tropical fruit-slash-dry-drupe thing, coconut oil is high in certain nutrients, healthy fats, and vitamins not found in drugstore moisturizers (unless, of course, those manufacturers have added nutrients to their petro-based moisturizers to catch the eye of the consumer. And — psst – vitamin E, which is often sold in small bottles and advertised as a scar-fading ointment, is actually not good for treating scars, though it is OK for other things, like UV protection, skin restoration, and free radical battle).

About scars in particular, Hybrid Rasta Mama says:

Coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids dramatically increase the rate at which wounds heal by stimulating collagen production and turn-over. Also, new blood vessels form more quickly in skin treated with virgin coconut oil. All of this aids the body in producing healthy skin that is free of scarring.

As a final plus, I’ve discovered that my ugly spider veins have been slowly fading, too, as a result of constant topical use of CO on my legs. SWEEEEEET!

Light Scent

Not everyone wants to smell like a Hawaiian vacation every day, but, then again, maybe you do! CO comes in varieties ranging from heavily to very lightly scented. Regardless of which one you buy, the scent fades as it absorbs into your skin and will continue to fade throughout the day.

~

Jergens bottle

Ascor-what? What IS this stuff??

I can say from experience that, after only a month of using coconut oil as my body “lotion” of choice beginning last summer, I experienced a noticeable difference in the texture, tone, and condition of my skin, head to toe. I used it first as an alternative to lotions like Jergens® (see snapshot of ingredients from Jergens® Ultra Healing® bottle: ingredient #4 is petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly, Vaseline®) and #5 is mineral oil, both petroleum by-products) because I read that “If you can’t eat it, it shouldn’t go on your skin”. And, seeing as our skin is our body’s largest organ, and what it absorbs gets tossed around inside us, I was turned off thinking I was having a relative of gasoline coursing through my system.

It wasn’t until much later that I discovered other possibilities for CO in my beauty regimen…

2.     Coconut Oil as a Facial Cleanser

Cleansing with oil has long been popular in many parts of the world. Romans bathed with olive oil as part of a drawn out practice; Yoga practitioners sometimes do a ritual Saturday Ashtanga castor oil bath for its medicinal benefits.

Ironically, only recently in human history has oil been proclaimed the number one skin care enemy when actually the reverse seems more true. (Mind you, I’m no doctor, so I don’t say that authoritatively. I trust you’ll use my opinions as a start to your own personal research and not as medical or healthcare advice.) Acne breakouts, oily skin, and other common skin problems could actually be the result of over drying, a problem easily corrected if the afflicted were to cleanse with oil and help the skin restore its natural balance. Soaps and “oil-free” and/or alcohol-based cleansers suck and pull moisture from the skin, kicking its natural defenses (oil production) into overdrive. That’s when breakouts and oily patches happen.

So, want relief from acne, dry skin, etc.? I suggest kicking soap to the curb and making oil your new facial BFF.

Today, what we know as the Oil Cleansing Method, or OCM, is specific to the cleansing of the face using an oil of choice. I use coconut because I already have it in stock specifically for the bathroom; I felt weird about dipping into my cooking olive oil and, besides that, I’m not as fond of the olive oil scent as I am of CO.

How does it work?

When rubbed into the skin, cleansing oils like olive, coconut, or argan (among many others), infiltrate pores and flush out dirt and impurities. As one blogger put it, “like dissolves like”, so applying oil will dissolve the [dirty] oil on your face, making it that much easier to wash it away.

As an added bonus, CO will help get rid of fungal rashes, skin inflammation (psoriasis), and acne with its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral super powers! WOO HOO!

What to do…

These are the steps I take at the end of the day to clean my face using coconut oil.

#1: Start with a quarter-sized dollop of coconut oil in your palm. Disperse it evenly between both hands by rubbing them together.* Spread the oil on your face, from your forehead all the way down to your neck.

#2: As some of the oil absorbs, drop another quarter-sized dollop into your palms and repeat. Your face should be slick and wet with oil, but not dripping. Rub the oil in small, gentle circles around your face (bonus: facial massage + circulation stimulation!) to really drive it into your pores, giving special attention to places prone to acne and blackheads, like around the nostrils. No need to get crazy and press hard! Let the oil do the work, not your muscles.

#3: If you wear eye makeup, rub the oil gently on eyelids and lashes to thoroughly remove the makeup. You may experience some burning, but that’s from the makeup; coconut oil will temporarily blur your vision (similar to looking through an oily smudge on your sunglasses) but it doesn’t burn. In fact, coconut oil is often used to treat minor eye infections, like stys and pink eye, as well as to disinfect other small cuts and scrapes on the body, so it’s perfectly safe for your eyeballs.

#4: When you’re done massaging the oil onto your face and neck, take a clean, DRY Kleenex® tissue or lightweight washcloth and gently wipe the oil away, switching spots on the tissue/cloth as you go so you don’t rub the grime back onto your face. I don’t recommend using toilet tissue because it tends to dissolve rather swiftly. You’ll see all that makeup and dirt come right off onto the tissue/towel.

#5: With a cotton ball moistened with a witch hazel toner, go once or twice over your face to grab up the remnants of the now-dirty coconut oil. Don’t get overzealous here: toner is drying, so don’t rub it in or use it as a cleanser because you have trust issues with OCM. Trust the oil! It’s done a fine job, even if a little dirt/makeup residue comes off onto the witch hazel cotton ball.

#6: After using the toner, rub a dime-sized or smaller dollop of coconut oil onto your face as a moisturizer to close out your cleansing session. Now, head to bed and rest easy!

#7: Start off with OCM once a week, building up from there. Currently, I do it nightly, which some folks don’t recommend, but I haven’t had any trouble or adverse reaction.

(WARNING: After using OCM, your skin will undoubtedly go through a voracious adjustment period. That’s why you integrate this process slowly into your current routine. The adjustment period is your skin trying to find its Zen place; this is your skin trying to figure out how to be good skin again. It’ll break out, dry in odd places, and look like it’s throwing a dermatologic version of a two-year-old’s grocery store temper tantrum.

It WILL be terrible, I guarantee it.

Me? I had what looked like a huge rash on the left side of my mouth for almost 3 weeks. It was flaky, peel-y, sensitive, and puffy. I imagined I’d wake up one morning and my face would look like a leper’s. I almost gave up on OCM. But, I’m so glad I didn’t! Because, after that awful period, my skin has been radiant, and I haven’t looked back since.)

Coconut Oil as a Foundation Base

(Note: Since I’ve never used liquid foundation, this part applies specifically to those using a loose powder makeup foundation.)

Loose powder foundations have a number of benefits over liquid foundations. They’re easy to apply, have a longer shelf-life than liquid makeup, and [usually] don’t crease or fade throughout the course of the day. But, they also have drawbacks: the powder can suck moisture from skin and the makeup itself often requires the application of a skin primer to maximize concealment and coverage. While Victoria’s Secret® has developed a good moisturizing primer, it’s fairly pricey IMO, and is just another bottle of something to add to the seemingly unavoidable bathroom shelf clutter.

What to do…

If you already have CO in stock, don’t bother with expensive and chemical-based moisturizing primers. This is how I turned my loose powder into an effective moisturizing makeup with SPF. (Of course, this was before I completely gave up on foundation altogether.)

#1:  Using a small spoon or the flat end of a nail file, scoop a pinky-nail amount of loose powder into the palm of your hand.

#2: Add 1-2 drops of coconut oil and mix well with a finger, doing your best to keep it in the tiny “bowl” of your palm.

#3: Use two or three fingers to spread the now-liquid foundation mix onto your face and upper neck. Massage the foundation into your skin, paying attention to easy-to-forget spots around the nose, eyes, and along the jawline. (Do this all fairly swiftly, since the oil will absorb into your skin and leave you with a splotchy application if you’re not done in time!)

TIP: If you happen to accidentally over-apply your new “liquid” foundation, don’t fret. Just take a dry tissue and lightly pat or wipe your face/neck to remove excess makeup. A final tissue patting is a good idea, anyway, as I’ve found it helps control shine.

It’ll take a few tries to get the application and powder-to-oil ratio just right, but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll immediately appreciate the moisturizing and priming benefits of using coconut oil as a base for your self-mixed liquid foundation.

Sign up for updates and join me next time for Coconut Oil Madness: Internal Affairs.

Here’s to reducing bathroom clutter and smelling like the tropics!

-Jessi MOI.

Coconut Oil in soap dispenser

I put my CO into a washed out and de-labeled liquid soap dispenser.

*I started off using organic coconut oil in the solid state from a tub that I purchased from Amazon. However, after realizing how much effort and time I was wasting just melting the oil in my hands (it melts at a warm 74°F), I opted to purchase Nature’s Way™ Liquid Coconut oil, sold on Amazon AND at Walgreen’s, and haven’t turned back. Not only is it non-GMO, but it’s easy to find (who doesn’t know where a Walgreen’s is?!), fairly priced, and the oil maintains its liquid state. Plus, it lasts a lot longer than you might think.

Pouring the liquid oil directly in-hand from the bottle or transferring it into an empty soap dispenser to squirt into your palm makes application a breeze, no matter how you want to use it. 🙂

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