Introducing coconut oil to your beauty regimen may not be a new concept, but it is becoming more mainstream. It seems like every product from shampoo to shaving cream has coconut oil on the label. And here’s the thing: you can use it straight from the jar to get some of the same benefits. My goal: find out which of those DIY coconut oil uses you see on Pinterest are actually worth trying.
Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, packed with antioxidants like vitamin E, and loaded with moisturizing fatty acids. So there are a ton of different ways you can use it on your body. From Saturday to Saturday, I replaced as much as I could in my regular beauty routine with pure extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil—everything from mouthwash to makeup remover.
What played out was at time’s pleasantly surprising and sometimes a living nightmare. OK, that’s a bit dramatic. But after what will now be referred to as the “Hair Mask Debacle of 2016,” I am a bit scarred. Find out which coconut oil beauty hacks are pure genius, and which ones I’ll never try again ahead.
Hack #1: Use it as a face moisturizer.
The method: This was the first trick I gave a try. It seemed a safe and simple place to start, but I completely misjudged the amount of solid oil I needed to take. With the big chunk I took the first night, I could have moisturized a whole damn elephant. I didn’t realize that it would quickly melt and become a very runny liquid. Oops. After the third attempt, I had the amount down, which was about a two finger scoop. And from then on, I used it every day and night.
My experience: Going into the testing, I thought my pores would clog up with all the excess oil. But it actually helped even out my skin tone and calm down redness on my face. It didn’t leave my face shiny either. With that being said, it was a little tricky to apply liquid foundation after moisturizing. Instead of covering, the makeup just kept spreading. Any eyeliner I applied would smudge on my slippery skin.
The verdict: If you’re a makeup lover, I’d skip using it as a day moisturizer and stick to a nighttime-only routine.
Hack #2: Use coconut oil to remove waterproof makeup.
The method: I scooped up about a teaspoon of coconut oil with a cotton round. Then, I’d hold it against my face to melt it with my body heat. Once it was soft enough, I’d gently rubbed makeup away. The amount I used depended on how much makeup I had worn that day. If I had done bold eyes and a lip, it would take about four cotton pads. But my average foundation and mascara pairing would usually only take one or two.
My experience: I expected coconut oil to be too gentle to remove a full face of makeup. Boy was I wrong! It works just as well as an oil-based makeup remover. My bold red lip and dark black eyeliner from Sunday brunch swiped right off. There was no leftover mascara smudged all over my pillow the next morning or remnants of red in the dry cracks of my lips. Nothing! All gone!
The verdict: This was my favorite way to use coconut oil. Even after the week-long trial, I’m going to use this hack to remove my stubborn, longwear eye and lip products.
Hack #3: Use it as a substitute for body lotion.
The method: I slathered myself with a small handful of coconut oil every night after my showers. My hope was that the heat of the shower would allow the coconut oil to sink in faster.
My experience: The oil I put on my body absorbed faster than it did when I applied to my face, probably because there was more surface area to spread it around. Surprisingly, neither my clothes nor my sheets ended up with oil stains. However after a week, the oil just kept piling up, and I never really felt clean, since my skin wasn’t able to absorb it all so fast.
The verdict: I will probably try coconut oil as a body lotion again during the summer months because the oil left a subtle sheen on my legs that looked like I just walked off a Victoria Secret shoot. Alas, no one got to see their beautiful J. Lo glow except me. So, I will be pulling that trick back out along with my bikinis in June.
Hack #4: Use coconut oil as shaving cream.
The method: At the end of my shower, I took a three-finger scoop for each leg and rubbed it down from knee to ankle. With the warmth of the water, it rubbed on just like liquid oil.
My experience: As a lover of foamy shaving cream, I thought this part of the experiment would leave my legs with tons of nicks. However, I didn’t get a single cut. I’m not 100% sure if that’s because I was more hesitant and rushing less, or if it was the oil. But the razor did glide up and down my legs smoothly, while removing everything in it’s path. The oil didn’t clog up my razor blades, and it was easy to feel the spots I missed through the slippery oil.
The verdict: I’d definitely use this hack again, even though the oil is a little harder to rinse away than your classic foam.
Hack #5: Use the oil as a pre-shampoo treatment.
The method: I started by applying coconut to my dry hair. Then, I wrapped my head in a shower cap before blowdrying for about 15 minutes. Then you’re supposed to rinse, shampoo, and condition like normal.
My experience: The oil didn’t completely rinse out for another four days, leaving my hair stringy and heavy. I ended up washing my hair twice a day to try and remedy my mistake. And after all that aggressive shampooing, my hair became completely stripped and dried out.
For days after I tried the hot oil treatment, I sat at my desk with a messy topknot—my only hair option. Filled with greasy oil that would not rinse out, the knot of hair actually hardened, freezing from the cold temperatures outside.
The verdict: It turns out that a coconut oil hair mask is NOT meant for my hair type. This was definitely the low point of the experiment. Although I intended to try it twice, I accepted defeat. My hair is just too fine and straight to benefit from this DIY hair mask.
Hack #6: Use it as a post-blowout styler to get more shine.
The method: After any heat styling I did during the week, I pulled out a single-finger scoop of oil and would massage it into the palm of my hands before running along the ends of my hair. ____
My experience: Luckily, I started doing this before the mask, so I wasn’t completely scarred from using the oil in my hair yet. When I applied a very minimal amount, the coconut oil didn’t weigh down my hair. To be fair, it did calm down frizz and quiet static, but my hair still didn’t look particularly pretty after using. It made my strands stringy.
The verdict: Honestly, it felt like I was greasing up the hair I had just cleaned. Needless to say, coconut oil and my hair just don’t work.
Hack #7: Apply coconut oil to your cuticles to halt peeling.
The method: Once or twice a day, I rubbed the smallest amount of coconut oil over my nails and around the nail bed to hydrate.
My experience: My mom’s been doing this for about a year and swears by it. I really enjoyed massaging coconut oil into my dry, cracked cuticles. The biggest issue was that I did most of my nail experimentation at work. I kept a mini jar at my desk to apply throughout the day, which left my keyboard feeling slippery. But my typing speed did increase due to the lack of friction, so I’m going ahead and put that as multitasking win.
The verdict: This was my second favorite use for coconut oil. My usually cracked cuticles are no longer an issue. They’re the cleanest they’ve been since my last manicure. I’ll definitely be trying this one again.
Hack #8: Use coconut oil as an all-natural lip balm alternative.
The method: I’d apply about the same amount as I would for the cuticles to my lips. I did it every day about five times a day, really replacing my lip balm with it to see the best results.
My experience: I was sure this was going to be an easy, guaranteed positive experience. But to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of coconut oil as lip balm. The oil was really wet and just sat on top of my lips, which made wearing lipstick nearly impossible. The deep red Tom Ford I wore to the office settled in the dry patches, making certain spots look even darker. So instead of looking like I was a dedicated employee doing thorough reporting, I looked like I was sipping cheap red wine out of my coffee mug.
The verdict: Vaseline works better at coating the lips and resolving dryness. As much as I stuck to this one, I saw no healing results, which was very disappointing.
Hack #9: Gargle with coconut oil to get fresher breath.
The method: Oil pulling, or swishing with coconut oil, prevents cavities, freshens bad breath, and whitens teeth. Supposedly, it cleans up all the bad bacteria in your mouth. ____ I used about one tablespoon of oil just like mouthwash for 15-20 minutes.
My experience: I was NOT looking forward to this. I put it off until the fourth day and recruited my three roommates to try it with me. One was eager, one curious, and the other had a lot of questions. “I’ve been thinking about this,” Julia came up to tell me through the bathroom door as I was rinsing out the hair mask for the fourth time, “What happens if I swallow it?” And after she heard we’d be swishing for 15-20 minutes, “20 minutes?! What if I get hungry?”
On the first try, I gagged. After plopping the chunk of solid coconut oil in my mouth, I lasted about a minute. My roomates claimed that it wasn’t so bad once it melted into a liquid, but there was no way I could keep it down long enough. So I put it in the microwave and went back for round two, which was much better. So there we all sat at 11:30 p.m. on a Monday night, watching Pirates of the Caribbean, and oil pulling.
The verdict: After minute seven, it felt like I was just moving around saliva. But my mouth did feel surprisingly cleaner after and not at all greasy. It’s hard to say whether it improved my breath. Typically we’re conditioned to think minty equals fresh. My breath did not smell like spearmint or piña colada for that matter. In any case, I’ll be sticking to my Listerine mouthwash.
All in all, I will continue to use coconut oil in my regular beauty routine as a makeup remover, cuticle oil, and shaving cream. For many of the other uses, I can think of better over-the-counter solutions that are easier to use. So, I’ll be sticking to them. The one thing I can definitely promise—coconut oil will never go near a strand of my hair ever again.