Why I Stopped Using Coconut Oil On My Face

Coconut oil hit the scene like a tropical storm with people snapping it up for use in smoothies and skincare alike. But not so fast! This fruit is not the panacea for skin that many people purport it to be. In fact, it’s further proof that there are few ingredients and products that are universally beneficial—no matter what the latest fad insists.

Believe me, I love coconut oil and use it often. For baking, it easily replaces margarine in most chocolate cake recipes with delectable results. And on sweet potatoes? Nom nom! My hair drinks it in as a leave-in treatment like a dog laps up water on a summer day. Spreading it over my body after a shower, I’m transported to a getaway worthy of Organic Spa Magazine, and my torso gleams. But my face? That’s another story.

Many people erroneously believe that when they switch to more natural and organic products, their skin will automatically clear up. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Trial and error plus a bit of research never hurt before embarking on a new regimen.  When I use coconut oil on my face—rather than improve my complexion—it causes me to break out in blemishes. Evidently, I’m not the only one, as I recently started noticing more and more people saying that they can’t use it either.

So I wanted to understand why. What is it about coconut oil that does not work for all skin types?

The answer, it turns out, does go skin deep.

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It’s a warm + dry oil

Michelle Czolba, founder of Wildly Natural Skincare, takes an Ayurvedic approach to skin. She said:

Coconut oil is a warm and dry oil, so if a person is having issues with a ‘hot’ condition or is prone to these, coconut oil can make it worse. Acne and other red, inflammatory imbalances tend to be hot in nature. Likewise, if somebody tends to be on the dry side, anything that makes the skin more dry will throw it off balance and potentially make their skin produce more oil, leading to breakouts.”

To get a better understanding of what that means and how to know if coconut oil would suit you, check out this chart here about the two questions you need to ask to discover the right oil for your skin type.

This explanation clarifies why some skin types tolerate coconut oil better than others. However, it’s still not totally clear how coconut oil functions on the skin leading to flare ups.

It is highly comedogenic

Kristina Holey, holistic skin specialist, explains that the molecular structure of coconut oil is simply too large for the skin to absorb. So instead of benefiting the skin, it sits on top of the skin and can actually clog pores.

She said:
It’s not that it’s a bad oil—there are just many better oils out there. The epidermis has a layer of barrier lipids that help protect the skin, to keep it moist and plump. That barrier lipid layer is comprised of mostly linoleic acid. Molecules containing high levels of linoleic acid are found to have the highest permeability factor [Coconut oil contains low levels of linoleic acid. More on that below]. Also, the dermis, right below the epidermis, is composed of many essential fatty acids which help provide physical and nutritional support to the epidermis. Basically, by topically applying EFA 3 & 6 we can introduce important nutrients for the epidermal layer. As coconut oil does not contain those EFAs there are many other oils which are much more effective at keeping the skin healthy and providing the nourishment it needs.”
According to this guest post on The Healthy Home Economist, coconut oil is one of the highest scoring comedogenic ingredients on the comedogenicity scale—a list that rates a substance’s ability to clog pores. EEK! I don’t want that anywhere near my skin.

Better oils

For a helpful discussion about the right oils for different skin needs, I found this post on Minimalist Beauty to be extremely informative and well-researched. It is well worth the read! Blogger Dawn Michelle offers the profile of 28 different oils and their linoleic/oleic ratio. She explains that acne-prone individuals do better with oils that are higher in linoleic acid. Coconut oil, however, is higher in oleic acid and is listed among the more balanced oils—along with jojoba, tamanu, argan, and flaxseed oils. FYI, she really loves organic, cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil for her blemish-prone skin. Other oils that are higher in linoleic acid include rosehip seed oil, hemp seed oil, and grapeseed oil, among others.

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Coconuts lurking everywhere

Obviously, skin types differ. Some people find that coconut oil works great for them. Then it’s a perfectly fine oil to use. But for those of you who don’t, you may also want to steer clear of some hidden coconut ingredients such as caprylic/capric triglycerides. These are found in most creams as an emollient as well as a stabilizer that increases the shelf-life of a product. Why avoid it? It is derived from coconuts or palm oil and used to create a barrier on the skin’s surface, decreasing the amount of moisture lost through the skin, functioning not only to prevent dryness in skin, but also as a skin conditioning agent. If your skin doesn’t take to coconut oil, you’ll want to watch out for its potential pore-clogging activity.
Most ingredients that start with the word “lauro” come from coconuts, as well as a list of potential coconut derivatives in this blog post. While you may not need to avoid all of these—unless you’re highly allergic—it is good to know what may be disrupting your skin in a product so that you can make informed choices. Also of note, many natural emulsifiers are sourced from coconuts. Emulsifiers are added to products to prevent the combination of oil and water from separating. That may be why blemish-prone people like myself don’t do as well with most creams and lotions. Of course, sadly that also means us coconut-avoidant peeps don’t do well with rms beauty [deep sigh] since the base of its makeup is the ubiquitous coconut oil.

Fortunately, I do have a number of favorite products that do not include coconut oil.

 Stellar products without coconut oil

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How about you? Are you able to use coconut oil successfully or do you share my coconut blues? What product replacements have you found that you’re enjoying?

 

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71 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Using Coconut Oil On My Face

  1. Hi Sarita,

    I’ve never put coconut oil on my skin, but I’ve used it on my hair after your recommendation. The problem has been (I’ve experienced this problem with a few products) that it clogs the sink when I wash it out. The whole process of using it gets a bit messy, but it’s worth it in how wonderful it feels while it’s on my hair, & I know it helps with dryness. Now, as for oils for the face, I use Weleda Arnica oil, & I’m pretty happy with it. I thought about what you’d said about how you’d wished you’d known about oils when you were younger and dealing with early pimples, and I was so excited to see how good oil has been for my son who’s going through puberty. He started out with big-ish pimples, and typical face washes weren’t helping at all. I got him the DHC deep cleansing oil that turned my husband’s skin around, and voila! no more pimples! I hope it’ll continue to work as he gets older & we won’t end up going the dermatologist/prescription route. I know my knowledge is rudimentary, but your recommendations have influenced me a great deal, and I’m grateful to you for sharing your expertise and advice! Plus, I enjoy just reading your posts so much, my beautiful in every way Sarita! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment makes me do a happy dance, Josie! I’m glad that my posts are helpful to you and your family. That’s so interesting that you use Arnica oil on your face. I’ve only thought to use it on my body since Arnica is an anti-inflammatory remedy for muscles and bruising. I’m going to check that out now. So thank you! I remember getting samples of the DHC in the mail a few times. I’m glad to hear it helped your husband’s skin. It’s such a relief to find the right match! Big hugs and love to you for your kind comment. Xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have always felt that coconut oil was not being absorbed properly in my skin. It has a cheap feel, no matter how high the quality I tried. I was so happy to read the scientific back -up for this phenomena in your blog above. “Kristina Holey, holistic skin specialist, explains that the molecular structure of coconut oil is simply too large for the skin to absorb. So instead of benefiting the skin, it sits on top of the skin and can actually clog pores.”
    In contrast the argan and prickly pear seed oil from KENZA International Beauty absorbs instantly and completely into my skin. I love the feeling. I adore the soap !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! For my acne-prone skin, I love rosehip oil. It’s just amazing and my skin loves it. However, right now I’m going through a nasty bout of breakouts after being relatively clear for a long time. I was late to jump on the coconut oil bandwagon, it just never appealed to me. Instead, I used some of the oil suggestions from Minimalistic Beauty, which really helped.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Megan! (And so sorry for late reply!) It’s great to hear that you found the right oils to suit your skin type. It is so important and not discussed enough, in my opinion. There are too many “one size fits all” oils out there. Hope you’re doing great! XO

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  4. I must be one of those rare few for whom coconut oil DOES work! I use it to cleanse my skin (similar to a dry oil cleanse) and also to moisturize. I do have dry, dehydrated and maturing skin and break-out very rarely (usually one big one in the middle of my forehead or side of my nose every few months). so perhaps these breakouts are simply pores that were clogged with coconut oil that wasn’t properly rinsed away. I have been using CO for over a year now, and I love the effect it has had on my skin, but I also use it along with a combination of rosehip oil, argan oil or jojoba oil, which i tend to switch back and forth between but always with coconut oil as a staple base. I also mix it with sugar to use as a physical scrub and it works beautifully, for me. But now I understand why it may not work for others, so thank you for sharing this information!

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  5. Great post Sarita! I actually don’t like coconuts but do like using coconut oil to put onto my body. I tried it on my skin as an eye make-up remover however I would notice a few days after that around my eyes & temple area it would get a bit spotty so I stopped using it. I have a few products that have the caprylic/capryl triglycerides so I try to not use them too often but I don’t find them as bad as using pure coconut oil. I also find that I don’t react that much to the RMS concealer but then again, I don’t use it every single day 🙂

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    1. A lot of cosmetics contain caprylic/capryl triglycerides. When my skin is especially breakout-prone, I go for the products without it to keep multiple ingredients to a minimum. Once I clear up, I can usually go back to using it for a while. I adore rms beauty and hope that some day it doesn’t cause the bumps under the skin. Thanks for the comment, Amber and sorry about the embarrassingly late reply. XO

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    1. Thanks for that link, Samantha. I just tweeted it and want to credit you. What’s your twitter handle? The Green Derm is such a wonderful blog and resource of good info. YULI is a well-formulated line. My skin is appreciating it more and more. I’m still early stages of testing certain products that have been working for me better than some of the others, so I look forward to sharing my routine soon. Thanks for reading & commenting! 🙂

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  6. Great, thorough post, Sarita! I didn’t know the details behind coconut oil irritation and this was very helpful. My sensitive skin does not seem to be irritated by coconut oil though I only use it to remove eye makeup and cautiously on my face.

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    1. You’re lucky, Kasey, though it probably helps that you don’t leave the coconut oil ON your skin. Hope you’re doing great and excuse the very, very long delay in replying. I must have been on Instagram or something. Ahem. *embarrassed grin 🙂

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  7. I love this post. So helpful. I have a weird relationship with Coconut Oil. I love to use it in my hair… My hair adores it. I also love it on my body and for my teeth. And cooking of course. As for my face- I find it breaks me out on it’s own but certain products that contain it, like the Kjaer Weis foundation do not break me out, whereas the Rms foundation does. (It didn’t at first, though). I also can use the rms bronzer and blushes with no issues. So it’s confusing! It must be the amount I use on my face that causes breakouts and clogged pores. I also use a few moisturizers with caprylic/capryl triglycerides and have no issues with them.

    I am a huge fan of Argan, Grapeseed, Seabuckthorn and Almond oils. I love Rosehip too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Britanie! Just answering all these comments now (I guess I’ve been on Instagram a bit more than on my blog!) Kristina Holey’s comment made a lot of sense that there are so many better oils for skin than coconut oil in terms of their properties. I love the ones you mention too, as well as jojoba oil and camellia oil. Because ingredients in some products tend to be long, it is often hard to isolate the culprit of the clogged pores. It’s a matter of trial and error usually. Thanks for chiming in! XOXO

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  8. SUCH! A great post! It bothers me when people jump on an ingredient bandwagon and it’s especially bad with coconut oil after all of these “all the celebrities use and love it” puff pieces. Anyway, I actually adore coconut oil, but certainly not for my face. It doesn’t cause me problems per se and I use and love RMS products, but there are just so many more oils that are far better for the face and that do not carry the risk of breakouts and congestion. X

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    1. Can’t believe I haven’t seen all the comments on this post! Been too busy on Instagram I guess. 😉 I’m happy you found the post informative, Lola. Glad you can use rms…I’m still in denial and sneak it on every so often and hope my skin doesn’t notice. Hehe…XO

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  9. Great helpful & informative post on coconut oil. I love it for cooking but my face hate it . Although I found that I can use it in face products only if its combine with lavender as it seems to create a balance that avoids me form break out . Understanding ingredients & your skin type in depth is a helpful tool to avoid skin reactions issues .

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    1. Exactly! I had no idea how many people find that coconut oil doesn’t agree with their facial skin. You point out the balance of ingredients and I’m sure that’s true, though for me it doesn’t seem to make a difference, sadly. Pore clogging is pore clogging, no matter how hard I wish it were not.

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  10. This is a great post! My son has eczema which is worsened when he is hot. I tried coconut oil but it never seemed to work, and I assumed it was because coconut oil is warming. I remember searching for the Ayurveda information on coconut oil but I could not find it. Thank you for compiling all of this great research. I am excited to read through more of your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. How interesting about the coconut oil used on eczema. It does make sense that a heat issue wouldn’t respond well to it. Even with natural ingredients, experience leads us to dig deeper and more specifically into an individually-based protocol. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  11. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I thought there is something wrong with my skin, since all these beauty gurus keep talking on how all they use it coconut oil and i got covered with acne within a week. Now, here is an answer. I use Tats Harper Beautifyin oil and …so far so good. No breakouts. Gotta go check what kind of oils does she use. 🙂

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      1. Thank you for your quick reply! I will try both of those brands. I may try the W3ll people foundation stick too… no coconut oil but does have beeswax. I may take the risk 🙂

        PS do you have any more information on cocoglucoside? I found a great cleanser that I’d like to try and it doesn’t have coconut oil but instead the former ingredient. Wondering if this makes a difference?

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  12. I’ve tried 100% organic coconut oil on my hair. Since I checked online to cure embarrassing dandruff. While I was in the shower, I poured it on my hair. And it spreaded out on my face and body. I instantly felt burning on my nose. A little tingling feeling on my body. I realized the coconut removed most of my dandruff, great. But, the next day I saw small white spots anywhere on my body. And I had a huge acne on my nose. It gave me skin pigmentation. My skin is sensitive beige colour. I wasn’t aware of the possibilities, I thought coconut oil was the best for your skin. Since someone also recommended to one of my friends for their skin pigmentation. I regret trying something new & natural. I doubt that I will try anything else. Hope the white spots go away.

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  13. Sarita, I am highly allergic to coconut oil, and mildly allergic to all derivatives. I cannot find a face wash that doesn’t include at least one coconut ingredient. I am so discouraged…do you know of face washes with zero coconut and its derivatives? My face is very sensitive, oily, and reactive. Other oils cause breakouts as well….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure there are! What about trying powder cleansers? I adore de Mamiel and think you may love this one: http://bit.ly/23Htvrd without any coconut ingredients. The Kari Gran Cleansing Oil feels like a dream on the skin and also doesn’t contain coconut oil: http://bit.ly/23HtBiB. Remember to apply and use a warm washcloth to rinse off. Hope these are helpful! Let me know how you make out. Good luck, Rachel! XO

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  14. Found this post after Googling ‘coconut oil facial spotty skin.’ I’ve had friends swear by coconut oil, and have had some virgin cold-pressed that I was cooking with. I just recently ran out of my Liz Earle superskin moisturiser, the only moisturiser I’ve found which keeps my dry skin feeling good. I don’t really understand oil’s very well and I’m always very confused with what I should be putting on my skin. I started a couple of day’s ago applying coconut oil on my face and did worry about it just sitting there. It just didn’t seem to soak in at all. Also after about two day’s I’ve started to get small red and pus filled spots on my cheeks and forehead. I’m not really prone to acne, I get little break-outs usually due to hormones and also if the balance of my skin is off.

    I’ve tried so many products over the years and have never felt happy with very much. I’d love my skin to look healthy, but I find it always seems to look tired and dry. I did have some rosehip oil once that seemed to work nicely, and I’ve noticed that Liz Earle superskin moisturiser does contain rosehip oil. Which is probably why it’s better for my skin. I’ve found rosehip oil to be quite pricey though, and when I was a student I wasn’t really able to afford it all the time. If anyone knows a good rosehip oil that is affordable I’d love to know. Also when using oils, what do you mix them with?

    I’m glad I found this blog and post as I want to look a little more into my product ingredients with a better understanding of why some products I think will work, actually don’t seem to help at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Becca! I’m glad you found this post helpful too. There are so many oils and it’s so hard to navigate sometimes! What I’ve been finding absolutely essential lately is both a hydrating product + oil-based product combination. One adds water to the skin and the other seals it in to prevent moisture loss. I’ve written about Kypris Beauty, Stark Skincare EV, Flight Skincare, T.E.W.L., and Jordan Samuel. If you’d like to look up any of those posts, you’ll find some great suggestions. Let me know how you make out. XO

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I’m so happy that you did and that you can enjoy coconut oil. There certainly is no one size fits all approach to skin care and I’d be wary of any article that makes a claim that coconut oil is great for everyone all the time. Thanks for visiting my blog! XO

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  15. Any ideas for how to clear up the effects of coconut oil on skin? I’ve never had acne prone skin but the oil has given me tons of bumps on my skin and made it very dry. Not pleasant at all! Ideas?!

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    1. Oh man! Sorry to hear that but I totally get it. Firstly, stop using whatever products may contain coconut oil for now so that you know which one is the culprit. Exfoliate skin well but don’t scrub to harshly. Use a quality detox mask with clay that will draw out impurities, like this one. Go light with your oils for a bit and use mainly hydrating gels. I’m loving this one and this one right now. (For Jordan Samuel you can use coupon code SARITA16 for a free shower oil with purchase over $95. My full writeup is here.) If you’re still feeling dry, you can add a light cream. The Pratima Skincare creams do not use coconut oil in them, so you can try those or go for this one that is working really well for me and soothing my skin. I hope these suggestions help eliminate those bumps fast! Good luck, Jessica. XO

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  16. My hair loves it, it’s the best smoothing serum I have found. It also soothes my lupus rashes but it breaks my face out in acne as well as a rash. I use it for a ton of other things like cooking, eating and oil pulling as well as for my dogs but my face is unfortunately a no go zone.

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  17. I an so glad to read this article. I have extremely dry, painful, sensitive skin, my body doesn’t produce enough oil. Everyone is always trying to cure me and I get gifted coconut oil quite often. I thought I might be crazy cause after use the top of my skin would be oily but I kept saying it doesn’t feel like it is absorbing because underneath my skin we be just as painfully dry. Glad to be validated!

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  18. I love coconut oil on my body and do use it on my face alternating it with jojoba and rosehip. I mainly use jojoba.
    I am a lucky one as have never had any issues with using coconut oil on my face and it never leaves a film.
    However I have clients that can not use it for this reason.

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  19. This then explains why I got an infection on my eyebrows, because I used coconut oil to grow them back and instead the pores got clogged, and I got an infection. If I use coconut oil for my hair/scalp 1-2x a week and wash my hair good the next morning that’s fine right?

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    1. Hi Angel! I wish that I could answer your question responsibly but I can’t. Trust yourself to know your body. Now that you got confirmation about coconut oil in your eyebrows, you now know that it may not be suitable for that area. Your body will inform you whether or not it is good for your scalp and hair (my guess is to keep away from your scalp and stick to hair only). That said, there are so many lovely oils designed to feed and nourish hair. Personally, I’d try one of those. Prim Botanicals and Oille Naturals have one worth checking out. Enjoy the path of self-discovery! Xo

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      1. I’ve actually been using coconut oil on scalp and hair, because it helps with dandruff and what not, and I’ve seen no problem. I’ve just never been so confused as to why my eyebrows reacted bad, since my dermatologists told me “Skin on scalp & skin on face are the same”. Also, When you moisturize are you supposed to go around the brow area or your supposed to moisturize your brow too i’m very curious. Thank you so much for your time.

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      2. I have used coconut oil before on my scalp and products containing coconut oil and I have never had a problem… That is until I also suffered a major reaction from using coconut oil in my eyebrows. It has been 5 months since and I am still suffering! Can’t believe it! Also curious if Angel has cleared up her eyebrow reaction yet because that stuff did some major major damage to my skin! MAJOR!

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      3. Hi Alannah. Wow! That sounds like an extreme reaction. Are you sure it’s from the coconut oil? It may be something to get checked out if it’s still there. Meanwhile, flush your system by drinking lots of water. Normally, I’d say take a quality probiotic supplement too, so please look into that and see if it’s ok for you to take. If you do, make sure it’s a good one (I take one from Metagenics that requires refrigeration). Also, eyebrows correspond to thyroid in Chinese face mapping. Something to keep in mind. Hope it clears up soon. 🙂

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      4. Thanks for your reply back! Yes it sure was from the coconut oil. I have had it checked out and the coconut oil manifested a condition called Seborrheic Dermatitis! Which isn’t so easy to treat. I do take a probiotic and drink tons of water. I wish I had seen this website before I ever applied the dang stuff… Sigh. Thank you for putting this out there though.

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  20. Oooh thank you so much for writing this article! Coconut oil burns the skin on my face, while any and all derivatives of it trigger contact dermatitis and a very itchy forehead. Glycerin is a hot culprit for me lately, and it’s so hard to find products that don’t have anything ‘coconut’ or ‘palm’ in ~ the beauty industry is loving the stuff. I’ve been using water and a facial tonic but am excited to check out some of your recommendations!

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  21. I have been using coconut oil on my face for two weeks now. At first it broke out but then it got better. It really helped my skin tone but now i have these skin coloured bumps underneath my eyes. Do you think the cocnut oil is clogging my skin?

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    1. Hey Kathy! It’s hard to say but if you never had them before, try stopping the coconut oil under your eyes to see if there’s any improvement. By the way, I’m no longer blogging here. I switched to The Hub of Clean Living at saritacoren.com. Would love for you to join me there! 🙂

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