Coconut Oil: A Refresher Course


Coconut oil is a many splendored thing—of course, you knew that already. But every once in a while, even the best of us could use a refresher course. So, should you find yourself pondering that half-used bottle from Trader Joe’s like it's a parabolic equation, wondering if you even knew what to do with it in the first place, consider the following like the beginner packet of algebra you got at the start of the school year to ease yourself back in. Study up—you will be quizzed on this material.

Use it in the bath

Phoebe Tonkin's method: throw a hair mask on (which could, in theory, also be coconut oil—but we'll get to that), draw a bath, dump a box of Epsom salts in, and "just dip [your] hands in and scoop the coconut oil out of the jar. It melts in the bath, and then when you get out, it’s all over your body."

Take your makeup off with it

Just like cold cream! Smeared over eyes and cheeks, coconut oil leaves skin replenished instead stripping it of moisture like other makeup removers. Ana Kraš, who bestowed this tidbit of "Why didn't I think of that?" ingenuity, warns "You must make sure to read the label—it’s important to get the ones that have freshly cut coconuts. There are some coconut oils that are made with older harvested coconuts, so I try to invest a couple more dollars for the ones that are truly fresh. The less days they have been harvested, the better. And you can't beat the smell of the La Tourangelle kind."

Soothe your sunburn with it

Hairstylist James Pecis uses Kimberley Norcott's coconut oil on "everything." In particular, sunburns: "I covered myself in it after a sunburn. Who knows if that helps, but it felt good and I smelled tasty. I have used it in curly hair and even to oil my bike lock when it was stuck."

Mask your hair in it

Jenny Slate does it once a week. Ranjana Khan massages it into her scalp. Suki Waterhouse sleeps in it. Amanda Chantal Bacon coats herself in the stuff before hopping in the shower; Kyleigh Kuhn applies it directly after. Apparently there's no wrong way.

Bonus: Throw out your La Mer for it

Drastic? Perhaps. But when nature calls, occasionally it is appropriate to rid yourself of $150 creams that are decidedly not of the earth. So do as stylist Keegan Singh did and find a natural moisturizer to swathe oneself in: "I love Skin Trip coconut moisturizer for the body. So everything is pretty natural for me. I wasn’t very conscious of it before; I was all La Mer-ed out."

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Bella

    I love Coconut oil for my hair, but no, no, not my La Mer... (I'm beginning to sound a bit like Haiku Jew).

    • Haiku Jew

      I bought La Mer once
      and my skin was luminous
      but bank account, oy.

      • Bella

        LOLOL I love it! Thanks for my personal haiku ;).

      • Eve

        I really wish I were,
        Although not a Jew,
        As clever as you, Haiku

  • jellymo

    Also important: smear it on toasted bread. It tastes tropical and buttery

    • Coco

      or in tea!

  • Lisa

    and it's perfect as night cream...

  • Haiku Jew

    Coconut oil rocks
    but it stains white linen, too
    careful, don't be klutz.

    • Skeeter

      I use it all the time and I never had the problem of staining my white linens..

      • Haiku Jew

        Skeeter, I'm a klutz
        and can be a stain magnet
        I should wear a bib.

  • DV

    Coconut oil is also a natural insect repellent. Whenever I use it I never get bitten, and it moisturises at the same time!

    • Emma Hager

      Ahhhh that is so cool! I never knew.

    • Joanna

      So that's why!! I'm usually a mosquito magnet but this summer I haven't had a single bite. I've been wondering what I've done differently (and loving it!).

    • nmwheatley

      I used a coconut oil based balm over my sunscreen this summer... the same effect, smelled lovely and not a bite in site!

  • Katie Stratico


  • smidgeofpretty x

    I've lost count of how many times coconut oil has saved my hair from literally getting up and running away from me.

  • Androbel

    Loving this! my boyfriend is obsessed with coconut oil. you can brush your teeth with it too.
    I want to use it for my scalp! I always try to find ways in which I can help my oily scalp :/

    • hmb

      rosemary oil for an.oily scalp. Weleda makes one.

    • michele

      called pulling. old arvidyan thing. google coconut oil and pulling and you will find out how to avoid some avoidable dental procedures. worked for me! dentist was shocked.,

    • CJL

      the best thing I ever did for my itchy scalp (and trust me I have BEEN there) was washing my hair less, 2 times a week to be exact. Also just less running my fingers through my hair and scalp helped significantly. Shea Moisture has a serum for itchy scalps, and although I haven't tried that I have done coconut oil on the scalp and it worked nicely, although it was not easy to wash out :P

  • mya

    More important--nail polish name please!

  • Griselle

    Has anybody with oily skin had a problem with cocunut oil? Im scared its going to cause acne since its a saturated fat...

    • Jay Kanderi

      I have oily skin and I do use coconut oil for removing my make up every single night and on weekend I massage quite a bit in to my scalp to wash after an hour or so. Even at night sometime i rub in a few drops in to my hair. I grew up in India and coconut oil is a part of our lives. If you have breakouts I would not recommned leaving it on your skin. But you can use it for massage and wash off the excess oil. At night I do use it on my hands and legs. And its pretty much the only thing I use in my 4 year old... hair, face and body. I buy an organic bottle in the grocery store. Very inexpensive.

      • Cat

        I have oily/sensitive skin and when I've used virgin coconut oil in the past I broke out quite badly. Refined coconut oil (organic, expeller-pressed doesn't have any nasties) is much more suited for sensitive or problem skin. I buy mine off Amazon.

        • Jay Kanderi

          Any particular brand, Cat?

          • Cat

            I use Wilderness Family Naturals. :)

    • bluesky557

      Coconut oil can be quite comedogenic for some people, so definitely do a patch test before you slather yourself in it!

    • therealblonde

      It's comedogenic, so I would definitely not use it as a moisturizer on your face!

    • Diana

      A good alternative is squalene which comes from olive oil - it's fine to use on your face. Between You and The Moon and Indie Lee both make oils with this and I believe ITG wrote a post about it before. It's better for skin that breaks out. It's a little pricey though.

  • starryhye

    I can tell you this; coconut oil as moisturizer is no match for the dry Arizona desert. For that I'll stick with CeraVe. I did slathered coconut oil on my huge pregnant stomach years ago and I have no stretch marks. So there's that

  • Hanna

    I find it ironic that you recommend Skin Trip as a moisturizer--it has alcohols in it, which can be pretty drying. Just stick with regular coconut oil.

    • bluesky557

      The alcohols in Skin Trip are fatty alcohols, which are used as emulsifiers (so water and oil can mixed in the same product). Very different from the drying alcohols you are thinking of.

  • annony

    Ok, use it to remove makeup, but then what? No one ever says how to remove the dirty coconut oil. Wash with another cleanser? Remove with a washcloth?

    • Olivia

      What I do is dampen my face first (I use a thermal water spray, but I'm 100% positive plain old tap water would work fine) then I heat a small (dime sized) amount of coconut oil in my palms and give myself a good face massage, then I run a washcloth under warm water (I have a designated washcloth that is stained from years of mascara) and put it over my face to kind of let the warmth/steam work its magic and then I wipe clean with the warm washcloth. I follow with my usual cleanser/toner/serum/moistruizer situation.

    • therealblonde

      I wipe it off with cotton pads soaked in Bioderma Crealine.

    • Genevieve

      I would think that a hot cloth would be good to remove it!

    • Ghazaleh Kermaani

      good point! I only use it as an eye makeup remover and then follow with my regular face wash. If you're using it allover your face, I suppose another wash?

  • AsphodelJones

    I bandwagoned this a long time ago -- my face loves it, my tattoos love it, my cuticles love it. It also makes a great lube, if you're not using latex.

    In other news (perhaps only semi-related to lube), any article that invokes James Pecis makes me happy.

  • Talia

    Also coconut oil makes an excellent replacement for butter in recipes, whether you're vegan-curious or too lazy to restock before making cookies. It can be substituted measure for measure and adds a nice flavor to all kinds of treats.

  • Olivia

    I replaced my vats of body cream with a jar of coconut oil a few years ago and my super dry skin has never been happier or looked better. I especially love doing a dry brush session and then coating myself in coconut oil and jumping into cold shower. Better than an alarm clock!

    I have a few small jars that I put my coconut oil into (looks nicer in my bathroom than the big commercial jar of coconut oil), and that also allows me to mix small batches coconut oil with essential oils if I'm feeling more like a fragranced body moisturizer situation.

    It's just awesome stuff. Good for hair, good for skin, a great illuminator in a pinch. Thanks coconuts.

  • katiedid13

    Skin Trip is the best smell in the world

  • Diana

    La Tourangelle Artisan Oils has a great Virgin & Unrefined Coconut Oil, mentioned in the article. You can buy it on their website ( or in your local Whole Foods.

    • michele

      or you can buy the 7 dollar can special at the grocery store!!! works very well....

  • Yasmeen Mjalli

    I'v always wanted to try coconut oil and essential oils on my skin but my biggest concern is that it will clog my pores. Is this a valid concern?

    • NazNYC

      It's antibacterial. Doesn't clog pores. Give it a try.

      • bluesky557

        It does clog pores for many people. It has a very high comedogenic rating.

    • sabe

      I transitioned about two months to washing my face with coconut oil (and believe me, ANYTHING will make me break out). Three important tips: 1) use unrefined, virgin coconut oil, 2) massage about a teaspoon onto your face then cover with hot wet washcloth for about 30 seconds, then wipe off and 3) expect some adjustment/purging the first week. I have heard some people express concerns about it clogging pores, but I've noticed that my breakouts have reduced and go away quicker, probably because coconut oil is antibacterial. Good luck!

    • bluesky557

      Yes, valid concern. It's different for everyone, so patch test first.

    • Ghazaleh Kermaani

      Very valid concern. I don't have oil skin and am not prone to breakouts and I can tell you that it's gotten on my face before and I HAVE broken out. Sucks.

  • NazNYC

    I haven't bought brand name moisturizer or eye makeup remover in years. This is the only thing I use on my body and frankly on my face if i I'm in a rush. One jar in the kitchen and one jar in the bathroom.

  • TNA

    Or oil pulling like Shailene Woodly mentioned in her interview!:)

  • philippa

    I love coconut oil ..I find the best use for it is makeup removal!

  • Sweet Leilani

    I currently use Dr. Bronner's Fresh Pressed Fair Trade Organic Virgin Coconut oil as a facial and body moisterizer, to cook and bake with and I love it not only does it work fantastically but smells delish too!

  • Autumn Aloeswood

    I'm currently using Tarozac for acne scarring and melasma, and it can be drying. I use coconut oil for many of the things mentioned below (including oi-pulling) but I find that if I massage my face with CO first thing in the AM for five minutes (yes, it's worth getting up earlier!), it cuts down on the peeling skin, moisturizes and soothes. Then jump into the shower. If you have more time, you can do ayurvedic body massage as well with CO or whatever suits your dosha :-) Plus a mini-facial in the AM doesn't hurt, lol! Do the neck and decollete too. Your aging self will thank you. PS: Off-topic tip: I have been using *castor oil* on my eyebrows to facilitate growth and thickness, and I must say, I think it's working.

  • Lydia Ding

    LOVE coconut oil but beware, fair ladies and gents, it clogs drains due to it's ability to solidify at room temperature! (I learned the hard way :().

    Watch out!! Don't ever pour down the drain or wash away coconut oil with water (I used to use coconut oil as a makeup remover... sigh.)

  • Susan

    How do you know if the oil is made with fresh v. old coconuts?

  • Cherryredgirl

    I so love coconut oil for everything: hair, skin, body, face, after sun.... and for cooking too!!!
    I used to be a Sisley, Kanebo, La Mer etc addicted: now I'm following only one religion and it's great!!! My bank account also says thanx :)

  • Karin Marco

    I used to use coconut shampoo, but now I'm considering using this! Lovely post.

  • Ghazaleh Kermaani

    I find coconut oil to be way too oily to use on the skin. And in most uses, I need to dilute it in something.

  • Ann

    We used it as diaper cream for our baby. No petroleum on his little butt!

  • mejikkeeper

    I lost the hair on my head due to radiation. The only thing that calms that needles for hai feeling is coconut oil.

  • pamb

    Does it actually say on the label if the coconuts were freshly harvested? How would you find that out?

  • katherine norton malek

    My granddaughter has dry skin & hates the nighttime itches dry skin causes. I llathered her up one midnight because the only other cream I had in my arsenal was a Clarins day cream. $140. Went to pantry & brought out a jar of coconut oil. She preferred that smell over other anti-itch creams. Now I lather her in it before going in the pool then put it in my hair (generously) before sitting in the sun or swimming in the pool. It's then a hot oil hair treatment & protects hair against chlorine.

  • Takara A

    I love coconut oil, it is definitely multi-purpose!!! I use it on my hair, on my skin, remove makeup and in my curries. Not to mention it smells divine.

  • Elizabeth

    Is it absolutely necessary to use coconut oil that is true key fresh? Particularly when removing makeup? Or is traders joe version okay?

  • Meg

    I love coconut oil! I never thought of putting it in the bath though, great idea.

  • nmwheatley

    'take your make-up off with it' thank you for the reminder! I have been using welida almond oil, loving, but this sounds so refreshing!

  • Tori Min

    Just make sure you aren't prone to breakouts from coconut oil before using it regularly on your face! I bought RMS Beauty's Un Cover Up to cover some acne scars on my chin; however, after I started using it, I starting breaking out terribly there. I didn't realize that the cause might be the concealer and continued using it to cover the acne, which only resulted in more - it was a vicious cycle. Long story short, I stopped using Un Cover Up and now the pimples that used to appear daily have ceased, although I'm now left with awful acne scarring on my chin.

  • Vaniessa Chit

    I use coconut oil as hair mask and it's lovely! Gave my damaged hair an extra boost and life. I also use it in my cooking - food taste better somehow! ;p