Dermatologists explain why you should never put coconut oil on a sunburn
- You shouldn't apply
coconut oilto sunburnbecause it can trap heat on your skin.
- Coconut oil can prolong painful inflammation and is too thick to be an effective moisturizer.
- If you're going outdoors, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to avoid getting sunburnt.
Coconut oil underwent a surge in popularity a few years ago, with a seemingly endless string of applications from an antibacterial mouthwash to skin moisturizer. But what about helping a sunburn heal? Here's what the research says.
Why you shouldn't apply coconut oil to a sunburn
Experts agree that coconut oil is not a good treatment for a fresh sunburn, particularly if your skin is raw or blistered.
Coconut oil is a thick, fatty substance that's solid at room temperature - picture something like vaseline. And it's one of the last things you want on sunburned skin because it doesn't address the effect of a burn, says cosmetic dermatologist Kenneth Mark, MD.
That's because applying any kind of oil over a fresh sunburn will trap heat on the surface of your skin, worsening the burn. This can prolong inflammation and keep your skin hot and red for longer, prolonging the healing process.
Quick tip: For proven sunburn remedies, check out our comprehensive guide on how to treat a sunburn.
Don't use coconut oil as a moisturizer after a sunburn
Orit Markowitz, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancer at Mount Sinai in New York adds that coconut oil only functions as a "topical oil," and is too thick to penetrate the skin and offer any significant hydration.
It's mostly just providing some temporary moisturization, one that's not nearly as long-lasting as a thick moisturizing cream. In fact, Markowitz suggests using a product with ceramides, like CeraVe, and reapplying multiple times per day to support the skin in its healing process.
When to use coconut oil
However, you could test out coconut oil's moisturizing abilities after the worst of your sunburn has healed. It might not help as much as other remedies, like thick moisturizing creams or aloe vera gel, which is anti-inflammatory.
And you might want to try it out on a patch of skin first. If you don't experience any adverse reactions, you could apply it a few times a day. Look for a product with few, if any, other added ingredients, so that the product is as clean and pure as possible.
Also, think about the importance of avoiding sunburn in the first place. Sunburn causes discoloration, wrinkling of the skin, and ultimately skin cancer, says Markowitz. If you're not already incorporating a daily application of sunscreen in your routine, it's time to start.
And no, coconut oil is not a good sunscreen substitute. One 2011 study found that oils including coconut, peanut, and olive oil blocked 20% of UV light from the sun. But that's nothing compared to SPF 15, which filters out 93%, SPF 30, which filters 97%, or SPF 50, which filters 98%.
"It is vital to always apply sunscreen a part of your morning routine after you moisturize and before you apply makeup," says Markowitz. "It is important to start your routine at least 30 minutes before you leave the house so that your SPF is absorbed by your skin."
You should never use coconut oil as a sunburn remedy. It can trap heat on your skin and prolong the inflammation caused by a sunburn. Instead, you should opt for a better topical remedy like aloe vera and always wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher if you are going to be in the sun.7 sure-fire ways to stop a sunburn from itching Why you should never treat a sunburn with vinegar Dermatologists explain how to find the best sunscreen for your face based on skin type The 7 best sunscreens of 2021 for every skin tone and type
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