Does Coconut Oil Help Sunburns? You Can Use It, But There's A Catch

What's the worst possible thing that could happen at the beach? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the fraction of a possibility that a seagull will drop a deuce on your shoulder, or that you'll get a parking ticket for “accidentally” pulling into that restaurant lot across the street. You need to make sure you don’t come home looking like a lobster, because while poop can be cleaned, and debts can be paid, your skin doesn’t bounce back from a burn overnight. Luckily, home remedies like coconut oil help sunburns heal, and I’m willing to bet you’ve got a jar stowed away in your kitchen cabinets or above the bathroom sink.

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally convinced coconut oil is the mother of all beauty and wellness products. Not only can you eat the stuff, but it works as a hair mask, conditioner, body lotion, and yes, even a remedy for the nastiest of sunburns. It’s important to point out, though, that coconut oil is not a primary treatment for sunburn. According to Healthline, it should actually be used as a secondary resource. So while it’s definitely used to heal skin that's been damaged from overexposure to harmful UV rays, there’s actually a protocol to do so properly.

You can use coconut oil to help ease your sunburn, but not as a substitute for sunscreen.

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Here’s the deal, friends: Coconut oil is bae when it comes to skincare. Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, reports that the benefits of coconut oil go beyond the obvious. You might already know by now that it’s a healthy source of fat, but it also contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation, and it's highly moisturizing for your skin.

While some people would go as far as to say that coconut oil alone can be used in lieu of sunscreen due to these properties, it’s best used as a remedy, rather than an all-in-one solution. In fact, plant oils and extracts in general shouldn't be used as a sunscreen substitution. According to Formula Botanica, these kinds of oils have significantly low SPF levels, and are “not suitable UV-blocking ingredients.” Translation: There’s a good chance if you’re slathering on raw coconut oil for sun protection, you’re coming home crispy.

Adding coconut oil to your regular sunscreen to enhance protection, however, is an option. Sona Gasparian, makeup artist and founder of Simply Sona, tells Elite Daily that rubbing coconut oil on your exposed skin after you’ve already applied sunscreen with a high SPF will provide added moisture. It can also “help enhance the color of your skin” if you’re looking to achieve that sun-kissed bronze look sans a painful burn and itchy peeling.

Before you apply coconut oil to your sunburn, there are a few steps that need to be taken first.

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There are some rules to abide by when using coconut oil to ease all your sunburn woes. Take it from me — aka someone who has the palest of all pale skin, who knows what it’s like to roast under UV rays and suffer through weeks of dwindling redness — you’re going to want to do everything in your power to heal your skin correctly. Granted, there’s no directions or warning label attached to your glass jar of coconut oil, but consider this your disclaimer.

Before you put any kind of lotion or oil on sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology says to apply a cold, damp compress to the inflamed area. If your skin is burned all over your body, well, the best thing you can do is hop in the shower and stand under the cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. This will relieve the very literal pain, as well as take your body temperature down a few notches.

While Healthline reports it should be fine to apply coconut oil after cooling off and rinsing the affected areas, Bustle suggests using a vitamin E oil to further quench your skin’s thirst for moisture, applying aloe vera to “soothe the sting,” drinking plenty of fluids, and examining the damage should you need medical assistance before going — ready for it? — coconuts (I had to, guys). It might sound excessive, but you really can never be too careful when it comes to skin health.

If, for some reason, you do not own a jar of coconut oil (and if this pertains to you, I'd get on that ASAP), there are plenty of brands out there that sell products with coconut oil that can ease your pain, and then some. Conscious Coconut's namesake product is made of organic, fair trade certified, virgin coconut oil, and is packaged in a small, 3.4-ounce tube — perfect for tossing into your beach bag. Cocokind, a new, personal favorite of mine, has a line of moisturizing salves that contain organic, virgin coconut oil in addition to special ingredients like matcha and shea butter for a deeply hydrating solution.

Coconut oil may not be your main source of sun protection, or even your first choice for sunburn relief, but it's definitely worth stocking up on. If anything, it can help speed up the healing process — and who doesn't want that?