There are few beauty ingredients (or cooking oils, for that matter) that have the power to garner a cult following quite like coconut oil. Although it's been praised as a multipurpose miracle worker, there is one thing coconut oil can't do for you: cure a sunburn.
Yes, you can shave your legs, condition your hair, wash your face, and oil pull with coconut oil, but it will not heal scorched skin after diligent sunscreen reapplication slips your mind. Coconut oil already comes with a few caveats: For example, people with acne-prone skin are advised to steer clear, as coconut oil is an occlusive moisturizer that can clog the pores, aggravating breakouts in the process. It has a similarly complicated effect on burnt skin.
"The oil prevents the body's ability to release heat," says dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD. In other words, coconut oil will not heal the burn or ease the pain; in fact, it might even make it worse. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau explains that soothing a sunburn requires getting rid of the inflammation as quickly as possible — and coconut oil could potentially prolong that process. Instead, opt for proven at-home sunburn remedies, like applying an ice pack to the fresh burn, taking oral anti-inflammatories, or smoothing on a dollop of pure aloe vera.
However, coconut oil isn't totally useless when it comes to recovering damaged skin. Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it can be useful on the skin after — and only after — the burn stops developing, which could take up to 12 hours after you first spot it. Even then, whether you prefer coconut oil or not, you should avoid immediately covering your sunburn in any kind of heavy lotion. "While you do want to keep the skin moist to prevent it from getting brittle from the damage, it's best to use a lotion that has a lighter consistency," Rouleau explains.
Now, to answer the other great coconut-oil conundrum, which is whether it's physically possible to keep it from turning your kitchen counter into a slippery mess every time you unscrew the jar...