Forget about argan oil. All I hear everywhere I go is how awesome coconut oil is for pretty much everything. So I decided to walk around smelling like a Mounds bar (the most underrated candy bar of them all, by the way) for two days in the name of beauty. I gave up all my favorite hair and skin care products--and wow, do I use a lot!--and used coconut oil instead.
I was inspired by this fantastic story on Well + Good NYC. In it, they list out all the potential uses for coconut oil, and get them all proven or debunked by a cosmetic chemist. Turns out that coconut oil is legit. It can be a substitute for pretty much any product you currently use on your face or hair.
I trekked over to Whole Foods and got a huge tub ($12) of "unrefined organic coconut oil" in the beauty department. The saleswoman there said that I could have just as easily gone to the oil aisle and grabbed one of the "cooking" coconut oils because they were the same. I still felt better buying it in the beauty department. Because then I'm not actually putting food on my hair.
When I got home I opened up the tub and was expecting to see liquid, which is generally what I think of when I envision oil. But this looked like solidified Crisco. However, it liquefies pretty quickly when it hits the warmth of your hands. Also, yes, it smells really coconut-y.
I spent a few hours trolling the internet and Makeup Alley, and after deciding to ignore all the horror stories about people breaking out in hives the minute the oil hits their skin, I just decided to go for it.
Click through for all of my experiences using nothing but coconut oil for two whole days, including my very disturbing calculations about how much money I could save if I ditched all my current products and just used the oil instead. (And a warning for those who may be inspired to try this yourself: Your significant other will make a lot of stupid jokes about piña coladas and coconut Easter lamb cakes. Just ignore him. That's what I did.)
EYE MAKEUP REMOVER
My usual product: • Almay Oil-Free Gentle Eye Makeup Remover Pads, $7.39
After I patch tested some on the back of my hand to be sure my skin didn't immediately start sloughing off, I decided to go right for the eyes, just like one of those poor little cosmetic testing bunnies. To really test the oil's efficacy, I applied a dark navy smoky eye (which is something I never do in real life), complete with eye liner and extra layers of Diorshow mascara. I removed one eye with my beloved Almay eye makeup remover wipes and the other one with coconut oil on a pad.
The eye makeup I removed with coconut oil came off more quickly and with less rubbing than with the makeup remover pad. Big caveat though: It felt like I had a big glob of oil in my eye (which is because I had a big glob of oil in my eye) so I needed to wipe my eyes again with a warm wash cloth. I also experienced some mild burning and itching in that eye (though no redness) for the rest of the evening.
THE VERDICT: If not for the potential blinding, I'd be raving. The oil really took off my makeup easily.
My hair is bleached and even though it's short, I go through conditioner, hair masks, oil, and serum like I have Barbie hair--it sucks up product at an appalling rate. I was skeptical about what coconut oil could do for me.
Mask: Taking a cue from my friends on the internet, I applied big dollops of the oil to my dry hair and let it sit for about an hour. (PS: The smell is really pleasant and not overpowering. I pretended I was in Turks and Caicos while it was on my head.) There are a lot of warnings that it's difficult to rinse out, but it came out pretty easily with my Aveda Dry Remedy shampoo. And my hair was so soft after I shampooed it that I did something I haven't done in months--I skipped conditioner.
Leave-in Conditioner: At night after I take a shower (which I do pretty much every night) I put the Essence Absolue in as a leave-in. It smells divine and I've been conditioned not to be able to fall asleep until I smell that scent all over my pillow. But the coconut oil was not a bad substitute.
Anti-frizz/Heat styler: The next day I washed my hair as usual. While my hair is still wet I usually apply the Living Proof serum to get rid of frizz and to keep it smooth. This time I used the oil and blow dried as usual. My hair took a little longer to dry than with the serum, but the end result was shiny and smooth without any hint of bird's nest.
Finishing styler: I either use another smoothing product or a tacky pomade, but instead I went for--you guessed it!--coconut oil on the ends. My hair looked smooth, but by the end of the day it felt a little wilted and greasy.
THE VERDICT: It kills me to say this, because I love my hair products so much, but honestly I could do pretty much everything except the final styling with coconut oil alone. I may keep it around as a deep conditioning mask, but there's still something to be said for variety and fancy bottles.
My usual night products: • Prescription Retin-A Micro, ~$100 with insurance • Eye cream changes frequently but it's currently Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream, $43.50 • Clarins Double Serum, $85 • Aquaphor Lip Repair, $4.29 (There are lots of other products for day time, but I'll spare you.)
I cheated a little bit on this one because I've been dealing with a break-out situation on my face that is just starting to resolve. The thought of smearing coconut oil all over my blemishes (despite the fact that it reportedly has anti-bacterial properties) was horrifying. So I used it as an eye cream and lip balm, and stuck with my usual products for the rest of my face.
Eye cream: You'd think that I would have learned my lesson about putting this near my eye, but what I noticed after using it as an eye makeup remover is that it left the surrounding skin baby soft. So I applied it on the skin around my eye, avoiding the eye itself. The coconut oil soaked in really quickly and the next morning the area was still impressively soft.
Lip balm: I had high hopes for this as a lip balm, but coconut oil is just too thin to be a really satisfying balm. But if looking like you just got done eating a huge bucket of KFC is your goal--this might be for you.
THE VERDICT: Coconut oil is a really good moisturizer for the eye area--I'd recommend it. Not so much on the lips.
I hate regular shaving cream, and usually use body wash for shaving. Generally I use whatever is lying around, but I'm partial to Kiehl's and Ren. Post shower I religiously spray a dry oil all over my legs to prevent them from looking like tree trunks in a redwood forest.
My usual products: • Kiehl's Nashi Blossom and Pink Grapefruit Liquid Body Cleanser, $24 • Caudalie Divine Oil, $32
Of all the things I used the oil for, this one surprised me the most. It was fantastic. The razor went easily over the oil, and everything was so smooth. No red bumps either. When I came out of the shower, the water was beading on my legs because of the oil residue, but I made a little emulsion and rubbed it in. My legs were incredibly soft the rest of the day.
Warning: The oil makes the shower floor really slippery, so be careful.
THE VERDICT: I have never had such soft armpits in my entire life.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM USING COCONUT OIL FOR TWO DAYS
• I look damn good in a navy smoky eye.
• I could save--ready? $477.18 a month if I gave up my current products (well, some were comped to me) and used just coconut oil. Which means in less than two months I could get this jacket.
• Holy crap, I use way too many products.
• I need to be more open-minded about "natural" beauty treatments.
• Coconut oil works great as a moisturizer, hair mask, and shaving oil.
Have you tried coconut oil?