The Coconut Oil Controversy: Ingredient spotlight

Coconut oil has been fairly popular over the last several years: in hair, in food, in soaps, in lotions. But how do we know which points are really true and which ones are just marketing?

When it comes to skin, it’s quite controversial. The comedogenicity index refers to a scale from 0 to 5, and attempts to quantify the degree to which a cosmetic ingredient (usually oil) clogs pores, which leads to blackheads. The lower the score, the less it should clog pores and the closer to 5 the score, the more comedogenic (pore-clogging) the ingredient/ oil is. Coconut oil scores a 4 out of 5, making it quite pore-clogging. However, the comedogenicity index is based on animal tests (the rabbit ear assay) which are known to show different results at different times. Moreover, the tests are done at high ingredient concentrations rather than the concentrations at which they are actually used in cosmetics. Concentration is also known to affect comedogenicity. Some people rave about coconut oil, saying it helped their acne or their oily skin where as others can attest to the opposite. Me? I find that my skin loves soaps made with coconut oil but I hate the feeling of 100% coconut oil on my skin or hair. The comedogenicity of coconut oil seems to vary from individual to individual. Conclusion: experimenting and finding out for yourself would be a good idea.

In terms of coconut oil for food, the information gets much more black and white. Yes, coconut oil contains some Medium chain Fatty Acids (which are said to, theoretically, promote less LDL cholesterol – the bad kind) but it is also 90% saturated fat. 45% of that saturated fat isn’t even MFAs, just plain artery-clogging and obesity inducing saturated fat. There’s no omega-3 fats, no minerals, carbohydrates, or proteins. The only vitamin present is a small amount of vitamin K. If you’re trying to eat healthier foods, it’s best to stick to oils with higher percentages of unsaturated fat when cooking and baking.