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This Just In: Coconut Oil Might Be Hurting Your Skin. Here's Why

Read this before you cover your complexion in oil
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It's been hailed as the ultimate remedy for any and every beauty concern, and we totally get why. Coconut oil is an incredible multi-tasker, not to mention that it's affordable, easy to find, and makes you smell delicious. But there are some important things to consider before using this tropical treat as a topical treatment. We asked dermatologists to give us the lowdown on coconut oil -- and skin care oils in general -- to find out why it may be wreaking havoc on your skin.

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Not All Oils Are Created Equal
When it comes to the (many, many) skin care oils out there, the most important thing to remember is that they are all different. "People think an oil is an oil, but it's essential to differentiate between them," explains Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.

While we could spend hours getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes them different, the simplest thing to do is split them up into those that are lighter, and those that are heavier. (Technically speaking, the former are higher in oleic acid, the latter in linoleic acid.)

"The ones that are heavier have a larger molecular weight and blanket the skin, creating an occlusive barrier," explains Gohara. This makes them ideal if you want heavy-duty hydration -- they're great at sealing in moisture -- but also ups their pore-clogging potential, she adds. Gohara's trick for determining which kind of oil is which? "Generally speaking, the ones that you'd use for cooking -- coconut, avocado, almond, olive -- are usually heavier and richer," she says.

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Coconut Oil Is One of the Heavier Ones
So yes, since coconut oil falls into the heavier category, it can be problematic for your complexion... and all the more so if your skin is naturally oily or acne-prone to begin with.

Along with the fact that it creates an occlusive barrier on the skin, it also contains a particular kind of fatty acid (caprylic triglyceride, ICYW) that can be an acne-causing culprit for some. "I don't know one dermatologist who'd suggest slathering coconut oil on your face," notes Gohara.

"I've seen lots of people have issues with coconut oil and clogged pores," adds Dove dermatologist, Alicia Barba, M.D. "There are also lots of different types of coconut oil that are all processed differently and have different qualities, so you really can't assume that just because it's coconut oil, it's going to be good for your skin."

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Where -- and How -- You Apply It Matters
To that point, both derms we spoke with advise reserving coconut oil for the skin below your chin.

"Save it -- and any of the richer oils, for that matter -- for those really dry areas on your body, like elbows, knees, and heels," Gohara advises. Those are the spots that will benefit the most from its occlusive properties and moisturizing prowess, without the risk of breakouts. (Fun fact: It's also a good shaving cream substitute.)

To that point, if you are naturally dry-skinned and/or just like using oils on your face, Gohara recommends sticking with the lighter oils, specifically grapeseed, jojoba, and rosehip seed. Still, a little goes a long way; a drop the size of a pencil eraser should be plenty for your entire face, she adds.

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Take Cleansing Into Account
If you are going the oil route for your complexion, it's important to pay a little more attention to your cleansing M.O. Barba is a fan of double cleansing, not only to remove excess residue from any oil-based products, but also to completely clean off makeup and the rest of the day's gunk and grime.

Seems like too much work? Gohara points out that most cleansers these days contain surfactants that are specially made to break down oil. Some of them -- like the commonly vilified sodium lauryl sulfate -- can be harsh on skin, but she notes that there are many other, gentler surfactants out there (glycinate and sodium lauroyl isethionate are two common ones).

Alternately, use a cleanser that contains salicylic acid: "It's lipophilic, meaning it will break down any oil, be it the sebum that your skin is naturally producing or leftover residue from a product," Gohara says.

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BY MELANIE RUD CHADWICK | OCT 10, 2017 | SHARES
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