Noticeably effective hair care, makeup remover, lip balm, stain remover, shoe shine, deodorant, detergent, hand soap, and (our personal favorite) skin care!
What majestic ingredient can be used alone or mixed with other ingredients to create all of the above plus over 100 other things? It’s one of the most common tropical island inhabitants (other than sand and shells!).
The coconut, or coconut-based ingredients more specifically, are vital to the above list, and have been around for centuries. Coconut oil predates the 5th century and was referenced in the 13th century by Marco Polo as well as earning its modern name in the 1600s (2). Originally thought to have originated from India (2), coconut oil is now exported the most from the Philippines (3). Coconuts grow best in hot areas with high humidity-- mainly tropical or subtropical regions (2), and consequently, these weather regions are also vacation hot spots for merbabes and merdudes alike!
Why We Love It + Let’s Talk Controversy
We use coconut-derived ingredients for their quintessential multi-tasking capabilities of making skin supple, hydrated, and glowing while keeping redness, bacteria, and buildup at bay (4)(5). But, have you heard a thing or two about the negative effects of coconut oil on skin, especially if you are prone to blemishes and oily skin?
We all have heard. And these negative effects that coconut oil can have on skin have merit if you are directly slathering pure coconut oil on your face, but there is a disconnect in scientific data verses dissemination of information regarding coconut oil. (Also, no one likes something that is over-hyped, and coconut oil has definitely been there -- a victim of its own success; just know we’re only here to discuss the statistically-significant findings.)
Coconut oil is one of the more studied oils in regards to skincare and has countless linked skin benefits that are sometimes disregarded because of the circulating fear of it being comedogenic (4). Again, coconut oil by itself can be considered comedogenic, but our heartening message is that coconut oil when formulated properly is not comedogenic. Note that “not comedogenic” is different than “non-comedogenic” (but they sound so similar!) in that non-comedogenic products contain no ingredients with known comedones (aka. pore blockages), while those that are not comedogenic products may contain ingredients with comedones, but are formulated to counteract these potential blockages while still delivering the beneficial properties of the comedogenic ingredients. (6) Did you also know that comedogenic claims are not regulated by the FDA and that there are no known ways to test and prove that an ingredient or product is/isn't comedogenic? It all comes down to your individualized skin (not even necessarily your 'skin type'!), so the best thing is to do a skin patch test to see how your skin takes a certain ingredient and/or product.
The bottom line is that ingredients said to be "comedogenic", including coconut oil, can have some seriously amazing skincare benefits that skin loses out on (and often can’t be replaced by a non-comedogenic option like in the case of coconut oil), and they don’t create blockages when formulated correctly.
Furthermore, when you are looking through an ingredients list and see the word "coconut", the ingredient isn't necessarily going to be coconut oil, but could rather be a coconut-derived ingredient with different properties and molecular structures than coconut oil that change the comedogenicity all together, always in good ways as well. Ex. Fractionated coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut-derived, etc.
So free coconuts from recent stigmas now that you know the difference between a good use of this beautiful botanical in a formula compared to a not-so-good use of it!
What Beneficial Role Can Coconut Oil Play in a Formula?
For Dry Skin: Hydrate, heal, and moisturize
For Oily and Combination Skin: Protect against breakouts, provide antibacterial and antifungal properties
For Normal Skin: Hydrate, regulate skin function, and provide antimicrobial protection
For Blemish Prone Skin: Reduce inflammation, help clear acne, and minimize the appearance of scars
For Sensitive Skin: Calm skin, prevent irritations, and reduce redness
For Mature Skin: Soften skin, smooth skin, and plump skin
Which Coconut Oil is Worthy of Skincare Formulas?
The main components of coconut oil are: saturated fat, proteins, Vitamin E, and acids (mainly capric, caprylic, and lauric).(1) These properties are excellent for skin care in their own, specific ways. Saturated fat is a MCFA (medium-chain fatty acid) and keeps skin soft to the touch when applied externally. It does this by remaining partially on the skin’s surface and not being fully absorbed which allows it to condition the skin. Proteins aid in tissue repair while Vitamin E fights against skin sagging and aging with its natural antioxidants. Finally, the acids are antimicrobial and kill many microbes that lead to acne (2,1).
The process of creating coconut oil is also important, as there are several methods. The main two we’ll consider for brevity’s sake are unrefined or refined. We recommend organic unrefined. An easy way to explain why is by using the example of white and wheat bread. Wheat is more healthy than white because white has been chemically stripped and bleached. It’s similar with unrefined and refined. Unrefined, or “virgin”, coconut oil is a better option than stripped, refined versions (commonly called RBD, or “refined, bleached, deodorized”)(2). Unrefined coconut oil can also withstand high heat and doesn’t oxidize like GMO oils would in such a situation (1).
Earth Harbor Skincare Gems with Coconut Oil
We only have a handful of skincare gems with coconut oil, but we loooove them and so do our merbabes of all skin types and skin concerns!
That is the complete list of our skincare gems with coconut oil. We do have other products with fractionated coconut oil, coconut cream, and other coconut-derived ingredients that have completely different molecular structures and skin functions than coconut oil, so they're not even worth mentioning in this article since (as you learned above) nothing about coconut oil applies to them whatsoever. :)
More Fun Facts to Make You Nuts About Coconuts!
In many tropical areas around the world coconut oil is also used to create sunburn aloe or UV block (1) to prevent needing aloe in the first place. Earth Harbor still recommends using traditional SPF, but we suggest reviewing the ingredients to avoid harsh chemicals. Coconut oil has a myriad of uses for skin specifically, and it (along with other non GMO ingredients) is used in a handful of Earth Harbor products mentioned above. We love that it’s an all-natural product that keeps skin rejuvenated and soft without using any gross fillers. The coconut is an edible staple in its native regions (coconut meat and coconut water are both nutritious) (4).
Likewise, coconut oil is also healthy-- when used in the proper context. You may notice in personal research (which we always recommend) that some health associations (like the FDA and the World Health Organization) caution against coconut oil in diets. Please note that these cautions are against cooking/ingestion purposes, not topical use. These cautions exist because, while coconut oil doesn’t contain cholesterol, it is a saturated fatty oil (like butter) (3). In excess, saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels in humans and lead to cardiovascular issues over a period of time if left unchecked. We didn’t list cooking or food as categories in the first paragraph because we wanted to focus on our main bread and butter (pun intended)-- skin care!
We believe in coconut oil and, as we already laid out, we use it frequently and with much affection in our products. We believe that its properties keep your skin happy and healthy whether you’re playing in the sand dunes or making a killer presentation at work in between vacations. We have high quality products and are committed to excellence for all of our customers. Please see our certifications and commitments on the main page as well as in the “About Me” section for more information. We are: Purely natural, safe, vegan, and Leaping Bunny Certified. We use fair trade ingredients (all certified organic, non-GMO and/or wildcrafted), ocean nutrients, food-grade plant-based therapeutic-grade oils, microbiome-friendly botanicals, and our packaging is sustainable. We are also members of 1% For The Planet.
If you have questions about how our products are made or want to know more about our love for coconut-based ingredients, please drop us a line at: email@example.com.
*Edited to include our skincare gems with coconut oil.