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Can Coconut Oil Really Deliver? I Tested 14 Uses & Here’s What I Found


Coconut oil: the darling of the natural beauty world. Miracle product. A spoonful of the stuff can cure almost any beauty woe you throw its way. We’ve had writers extol it’s virtues in the bathroom and kitchen (and some readers have even commented that it’s welcome in the bedroom). People claim it’s saved their skin, brightened their teeth, cured their body odor.

But is all this hype warranted?

To separate the “too good to be true” claims from the “wow, this is actually legit,” I dove headfirst into the wild world of coconut oil as personal care savior. I experimented with 14 ways to use the product for all things beauty and skin care, and have lived to tell the tale.

Here are my findings. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are weird. Hopefully they’ll save you some time.

  1. Hair treatment

I had to devote an entire afternoon to this one, but I’m glad I did. When my boyfriend gently pointed out I had a few flakes of “stuff” in my hair (aka dandruff), I freaked out a little and lunged for the coconut oil. Between the dry scalp and my bleached-blonde ends, it was clear my hair was rather thirsty.

So I massaged it into my scalp and coated each strand from top to bottom before meticulously combing it through my hair several times to make sure the coconut oil got into every nook and cranny. Then I secured it in a loose bun, draped a towel over my shoulders and the back of the couch and waited.

Short of sleeping in the stuff, I left this on for as long as I could (four hours) before jumping in the shower. And though it took almost six rounds of shampooing (which, in retrospect, might have negated the hydrating benefits of the mask), the next day my hair felt baby-soft and shinier than it’d been in a while.

Final verdict: It works!

  1. Moisturizer

I’ve been using coconut oil as a moisturizer on my legs for about a year, so I’m already a fan of this route. My one suggestion is to make sure you’ve got ample time (at least 30 minutes) for the oil to really soak into your skin before getting dressed or going outside in the heat. It’s a little slimy, so if you don’t let your skin absorb it, you might feel like you’re melting.

Final verdict: It works!


  1. Shaving “cream”

Let me start by saying that bringing a glass jar of coconut oil into the shower is not safe. Be smarter than me and do not do it (broken glass!). Instead, scoop some out into a plastic tupperware container before you turn the water on if you want to shave with it. Moving on.

I liked this in theory. It smelled amazing and left my legs moisturized enough that I didn’t need to use anything after to keep them hydrated, but coconut oil shaving cream only worked for the first half of my first leg before it gummed up my razor blade, making it impossible to get a close shave after a few strokes.

I’d be willing to try this again with a single-blade razor, but be warned!

Final verdict: Pass!

  1. Deodorant

Sorry guys, I hated this. Maybe I should’ve followed a recipe and combined it with something else, but on its own, coconut oil does not stand up to body odor or sweat. I felt like I was dripping rancid piña colada mix out my underarms (too much?). For now I’ll stick with a different natural approach to deodorant.

Final verdict: Pass!

  1. Lip balm

Just like the skin on my body, my lips drank this in. Just be careful not to lick it all off.

Final verdict: It works!

  1. Antibacterial

It’s embarrassing to admit, but a few weeks ago on my walk to the subway, I tripped over my feet and landed knees-first on the pavement. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had scraped knees and my adolescent instinct kicked in — I wanted to cry while my mom cleaned and bandaged my wounds (physical and mental).

Instead, I slathered on some coconut oil. Just a thin layer every morning was enough to not only keep the cuts clear of infection (which, given the sidewalks here in New York is nothing short of a miracle), but also helped the scabs heal in record time.

Final verdict: It works!

  1. Cuticle oil

Yes yes yes yes yes. Everyone should try this. I dunked a cotton swab into the jar, applied it to my cuticles and went to bed. They were noticeably less hangnail-y the next day and that weird skin at the base of my nails was soft enough to push back for optimal nail polish application.


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