Coconut oil tastes good. It can make your skin feel really good too. But, like most things, it should be used in moderation. If you're not careful about when and how you use this "miracle" product, the
risks of coconut oil can become apparent.
Just as much as coconut oil isn't a cure-all, it's also not something to be completely afraid of. However, the narrative surrounding
coconut oil may have you glossing over some really important points. "Any time a food becomes trendy, the temptation is to fill our diets with it — in any and all forms," registered dietician and Mealshare pro, Katie Goldberg, MCN, tells Bustle. "Just like you wouldn't replace all your vegetables with kale, you shouldn't replace all of your fats with coconut oil." The same truth about moderation is important for skincare, too.
"Although coconut oil is a natural source of vitamins and fats which have numerous
health benefits, too much of anything can be dangerous," Joseph B. Davis DO, FACOG, medical director at Cayman Fertility Center, tells Bustle. Moreover, certain medical conditions may make coconut oil a less-than-ideal option for your skincare and food needs.
While coconut oil is definitely worth keeping around, it's also worth taking stock of what is actually in the product, how it works, and whether it's right for you. Here are seven little-known risks of using coconut oil.
Coconut oil is
relatively comedogenic, meaning it can cause blackheads and clog the pores of your skin. For acne-prone people, and people with oily skin alike, coconut oil may not be the best choice.
"Coconut oil commonly blocks pores slowly and imperceptibly, so I highly discourage acne-prone patients from using coconut oil," board-certified dermatologist and founder of
Curology, Dr. David Lortscher, tells Bustle. "In my experience, many people will find that clogged pores and acne breakouts begin or are worsened when coconut oil is used on facial skin. Furthermore, I’m not aware of the ability of coconut oil to improve acne scars." Coconut oil may be antibacterial, which provides some benefits for acne, but long-term use can actually make your skin worse.
It Is Associated With High Cholesterol
Coconut oil may be plant-based, tasty, and trendy. It also may be bad for your heart if you use it exclusively, or long-term.
"Coconut oil is high in saturated fat," Rachel Fine, registered dietician and owner of
To The Pointe Nutrition, tells Bustle. "Saturated fat has been shown to raise LDL ('bad') cholesterol. LDL cholesterol levels correlate with risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events." Even the American Heart Association found that in randomized studies there wasn't a difference in LDL cholesterol rates between coconut oil and other oils high in saturated fat such as butter, beef fat, or palm oil. So even if it may seem like it would be safer to use in large amounts, it's something worth considering.
It Can Give You Diarrhea
Coconut oil can make you sick. Even in healthy individuals, coconut oil can cause diarrhea and other gut problems when consumed daily.
"The most common side effect in studies of
healthy volunteers taking coconut oil is upset stomach and loose stool," Dr. Davis says. "This can be from a shift in the bacteria in the gut or due to the sugars in the oil pulling water into the gut." This may indicate that if you already have gut problems, you might want to take extra caution in using coconut oil in moderation.
It Can Give You A Bad Allergic Reaction
Even if you haven't noticed an allergic reaction when eating coconut, it's possible that your skin will react negatively to using coconut oil.
"While coconut is not a very common food allergy, it is actually a more common skin irritant," registered dietician and
Mealshare pro, Chelsea Clarke, tells Bustle. "Because coconut oil is cropping up in many skincare products, people should be aware that a mild allergy to coconut can cause a rash. In the case of food allergies, ingestion of an allergen can cause mild or life-threatening reactions, from hives to anaphylaxis." It's important, then, to be careful using coconut as a skin product if you have adverse reactions when eating it, and vise-versa.
It Can Be Dangerous To Use As A Personal Lubricant
Using coconut oil as lube is tempting for a lot of reasons, but can be dangerous if you aren't careful. While it's great that coconut oil is
anti-bacterial, that also means it may have the potential to upset vaginal pH balance. According to Planned Parenthood, the research is inconclusive on whether coconut oil itself is a sexual health risk, but that additives and sugars can lead to yeast infections.
Moreover, it's very important not to use oil-based lube if you're going to use a condom. This is perhaps the greatest danger of
using coconut oil as a lubricant, becuase it can damage condoms and lead to breakage.
It May Include Chemicals Harmful To Pregnancy
As noted by
Planned Parenthood, coconut oil can include additives that are harmful to your health. Whether you're using refined or unrefined coconut oil can make a difference in whether or not there's a risk in using the product.
Especially during pregnancy,
extra virgin coconut oil is the best kind of coconut oil to use for both cooking and beauty needs. Other types of coconut oil may include harmful ingredients that those who are pregnant should not consume. Always check the label, even if you think you're buying something totally simple.
A Lot Of Claims About Coconut Oil Aren't Backed Up
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about coconut oil is all the hype. It's very important for consumers to be aware of what actually goes into a product.
coconut oil is not "pure poison," like one Harvard doctor alleged, it is also not a miracle cure. So if you ever see claims online about a health condition the oil may cure, make sure to do your research. "I think the most dangerous aspect of coconut oil is the health halo surrounding it," Clarke says. "Promoting coconut oil as a heart-healthy oil without scientific evidence to back it up is irresponsible." Anyone with a blog can make a claim about coconut oil curing a disease, so make sure to get your doctor's advice before using it in large doses.
In all, coconut oil is a good occasional substitute, or something you can use to bolster your skin routine if you find it doesn't clog your pores. What coconut oil is not, however, is without risk. Use it as something that adds on to your routine, perhaps, instead of something that replaces other products. "I believe that coconut oil definitely has a place in the diet, when used occasionally in conjunction with other oils for the most well-rounded benefit," registered dietician, and
Mealshare pro, Daniella Cohn, tells Bustle. "Look for unrefined coconut oil — it maintains the most nutrients and the highest amount of antioxidants." And don't forget that olive oil and butter can be great too.