#AskCharlotte: Is the Coconut Oil in My Kitchen Safe For My Skin?

Charlotte’s Book is a trusted place to find and share information on the best in skincare, anti-aging, aesthetics, and wellness. Ask Charlotte your beauty or wellness question, and we’ll call upon one of the experts in The Book to provide you with the most up-to-date information.

Nutritionists and skin pros alike extol the benefits of coconut oil for both your inner health and your outer skin. This Charlotte’s Book reader asked us to investigate the difference between coconut oil that’s used for cooking vs. the kind you should be slathering on your skin:

“Is there a cosmetic grade of coconut oil for topical use, or can the coconut oil used for cooking also be used on your skin?”

We asked Dr. Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell, MD, dermatologist, dermatopathologist, and founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, to clarify things:

“Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is cosmetic grade—this oil is pressed from coconuts a day or two after harvest. There are a variety of ways to produce VCO, but in my opinion the best is no-heat fermentation, because the heat-sensitive elements of the oil are retained. However, very little difference in technical chemical analysis is found between certified VCOs, so whatever the pressing-process, any VCO can be applied generously to the skin without irritation. Coconut oils used for cooking are generally much cheaper. The copra, or coconut meat, is dried in the sun, then refined, bleached, and deodorized to produce oil for cooking, and chemicals are often used in this process. Invariably, irritant reactions may happen if applied to skin: do not use these kinds of coconut oils as cosmetics.”

Related Read: Pantry Makeover: 4 Healthier Cooking Ingredients

Dr. Verallo-Rowell gave us these additional tips for finding quality cosmetic-grade coconut oil:

“Look for these descriptions when buying VCO: farm-processed (as opposed to factory or refinery-produced), wet-milled, centrifuge extraction, refrigeration separation, and enzyme separation. These oils are usually more expensive. And of course, purchase VCO from an honest company known for the quality of their products.”

Related Read: Instant Skin Transformers Part I: The Body

Charlotte Knows…
Coconut oil is touted far and wide as a miracle cure-all, from the healthier way to cook fish to the best way to naturally whiten teeth. It’s even used to cure eczema, thanks to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. VMV Hypoallergenics Know-It-Oil, $10, and Essence Skin-Saving Conditioner, $22, are great places to start your coconut oil regimen—safely. For more skin care advice, consult The Book to find a qualified cosmetic doctor in your neighborhood.

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