Coconut Oil: 7 Times It’s NOT the Answer

by | Read time: 5 minutes

The definition of a staple ingredient is one you can use again and again, in a variety of ways – including food recipes, DIY beauty products and useful home solutions. Vinegar, baking soda, flour and sugar are prime examples. And yes even your beloved coconut oil is a staple. The seemingly endless coconut oil uses span every area of your life. However, that doesn’t mean it can do it all. Here are seven times you’ve thought to use coconut oil when you should really be using something else. 

Coconut Oil & Shell on Wood: Uses are Limited |

1. To cook at high heat

Have you been sautéing veggies with your favorite extra-virgin, certified organic coconut oil? You’re not the only one. Unfortunately, you are a little off track. Virgin, or unrefined, coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts that cannot withstand high heat. The smoking point for unrefined coconut oil is 350 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning this is the maximum temperature before the oil begins to burn and damage the natural nutrients.

Try this instead: Use your beloved, unrefined coconut oil as a butter substitute in baked goods. When you want to sauté or stir-fry your favorite foods, however, use refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconuts and has a slightly less coconutty flavor. But this equally nutritious version can withstand heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. To clean or whiten your teeth

Sorry, but science has spoken. A 2015 comparative evaluation of 52 healthy children, six to 12 years old concluded: “The efficacy of fluoride and herbal mouthrinses was found to be comparable while oil pulling did not provide any additional benefits to be used as an effective antimicrobial agent.” While oil pulling – the practice of swishing (coconut) oil in your mouth – is a long-standing Ayurvedic technique, it hasn’t been proven to be the catchall for oral care.

Try this instead: If parabens and fluoride are on your no-buy list, simply select a natural toothpaste with whitening power. NOW Foods Xyli White™ uses baking soda and xylitol to help clean and whiten teeth. You won’t find SLS, gluten, parabens or fluoride in this formula – just a refreshing mint that lingers on the tongue. 

3. To help heal a wound…or something more serious

So you nicked yourself with the razor again, huh? Your first instinct is probably to put pressure on the open wound to stop the bleeding. Good job. But then you reach for the jar of coconut oil, hoping this supposed miracle food will help heal your boo-boo. Here’s the thing: If coconut oil hasn’t proven to be an “effective antimicrobial agent” in your mouth, you might also assume it won’t be an effective disinfecting solution for other areas of the body.

Try this instead: First thing’s first, seek medical attention if you know – or even suspect – that you have an infection. Coconut oil is not an antibiotic. For minor cuts, scrapes and burns, Neosporin® is still the top-notch first aid ointment. Plus, it offers Pramoxine hydrochloride, which is used to temporarily relieve pain and itching. Cover open wounds with bandages (latex-free bandages are perfect for sensitive skin) to keep it clean – and so Neosporin® can go to work. More serious health concerns may require prescription medication to treat. Note: if such issues are left untreated, they may worsen.

4. To fuel your workouts

Coconut oil is composed of medium-chain triglycerides, which your body can quickly absorb and use for energy. That’s good news if you’re gearing up for a 15-minute HIIT session. Anything longer than that, however, and coconut oil consumption has shown no difference in performance or VO2max. (VO2max is the max volume of oxygen your body can use in a given period of time.)

Try this instead: Fill up on slow-digesting carbohydrates that will provide sustainable energy for the long run. Oatmeal, fresh fruit, veggies or crackers with hummus and even yogurt provide those low-glycemic foods. Low-glycemic foods are those that rank under 55 on the glycemic index and take longer to digest. It’s best to fuel up on these carbs at least one hour before your workout. That being said, if you’re headed out for a 60-mile bike ride, a quick pick-me-up along the way might come in handy. Go ahead, bring on the coconut oil energy gel.

5. To defend against body odor

Not only is coconut oil a poor pre-workout fuel source, it doesn’t have much function as a sweat-blocker either. If you can get past the greasy texture, you’ll probably love the natural aroma of coconut oil slathered on your underarms. However, that beachy-keen scent won’t stick around when you’re drenched in sweat. Your glands produce a potent sudoriferous secretion. In other words, you’ll be stinky.

Try this instead: Concerned with aluminum and other potentially harmful ingredients found in antiperspirants? What you could do is combine coconut oil with baking soda and essential oils to create a more fragrant solution. Better yet, opt for an aluminum-free stick deodorant you don’t have to worry about and that dries completely after you apply it. Win-win!

6. To sunbathe

Coconut oil today is what baby oil was in the 1980s. Sun-worshippers have transitioned to this tropical treasure with the hope of added benefits, including moisturized skin and natural sun protection. It’s true that coconut oil offers some sunscreen properties. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the SPF value of coconut oil is around 8, which, of course, is better than going bare on the beach. But it’s still far below SPF 30, the recommended level for adequate shielding from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Try this instead: It’s really quite simple. Lather up using a natural sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Look for broad-spectrum protection, which means it helps block UVA and UVB rays. If you really want your sunscreen to work double-time, added ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter are sure to calm and moisturize skin.

7. To repel bugs

Summer barbecues can be ruined by persistent insects buzzing around heads and biting at ankles. A quick fix may be to grab the coconut oil and coat yourself head to toe. This could work…almost. The fatty acids in coconut oil “have shown some repellent efficacy,” according to a review of plant-based insect repellents. The review goes on to say plant-based oils like coconut oil “are far less effective than DEET, they may be useful as carriers for other repellent actives.”  

Try this instead: Essentially, this is another scenario when coconut oil alone cannot do the job. But it may work effectively when combined with proven plant-based oils and extracts, including well-known citronella and Neem leaf oil. Mixed together as a homemade buy spray, the combined powers may protect you from annoying insects like the mosquito. Beware, though. Even the proven plant-based solutions may not be powerful enough to defend against many disease-stricken bugs. For instance, if you’re traveling overseas, you might need a bigger boat.