Coconut oil is enjoying an unprecedented moment of glory in popular beauty culture, and like many beauty fiends, I love it too!
It's an awesome ingredient with a lot going for it, but it's still just that - an ingredient.
Coconut oil is made up of about 50% lauric acid. A medium-chain fatty acid that functions as both an anti-inflammatory and an acne-fighter, this is definitely an ingredient I like seeing on those moisturizer labels.
But on its own, coconut oil, like any other oil, is only half the story.
A true moisturizer is made up of an emollient phase and an aqueous phase. Oils, butters, and lubricants in the emollient phase repair the phospholipid bilayer of the skin cells, and form a barrier against outside invasion. Some other great emollients are shea butter, jojoba oil, and squalene, found in a variety of home treatment products I offer at the Studio. But many of the beneficial ingredients available for topical use - whether they are botanical extracts or synthesized nutrients - are water soluble, and must be found in the aqueous phase of a skincare product.
The most important example I can think of is humectants. Humectants are the ingredients in skincare that bind water into the skin. These include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and sodium PCA. Ingredients like these must not only be dissolved in water, but must be present in a formulation with enough water to carry water across the barrier and plump skin, providing cell hydration and allowing cell organelles to function at their optimum health! In fact, some professionals believe that these moisture-binding ingredients are what make a moisturizer a moisturizer.
Additional great nutrients like Vitamin C, green tea extract, honey, and hydroxy acids are also water soluble, and thus must be found in the aqueous phases of moisturizing lotions, creams, or serums.
For this reason, it really takes a great, well-rounded skincare formulation in which the emollient phase and aqueous phase are properly emulsified to offer you all the benefits of modern skincare.
While coconut oil has a delightful texture and can be enjoyed as a massage oil or hair conditioner with few risks to the skin (it does still contain myristic acid, so not every acne-prone individual will be able to use it), it's not actually a moisturizer on its own. For topical use, find it in high quality professional moisturizers from your local esthetician.
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