Coconut Oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconut harvested from the coconut palm. Coconut is composed of many free fatty acids or FFAs including lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid. Lauric Acid has antibacterial properties. It has humectant and emollient properties and can be used for haircare for protection from protein loss. Coconut oil is roughly 90% saturated fats by composition and has little concentration of oleic acid and linoleic acid. Lauric Acid comprises over 50% of the fatty acid in coconut oil. Due to the high concentration of saturated fats, it has a longer shelf life and will not go rancid for an extended period of time.
Of all the acid components of coconut oil, monolaurin has been shown to have additional significance. Monolaurin is a monoglyceride derived from lauric acid. Monolaurin displays antimicrobial activity by disintegrating the lipid membrane of lipid-coated bacteria.
Coconut oil is highly comedogenic in that most people will break out from using this topically. It isn’t very nutrient rich and can make dry skin drier and clog acne prone skin for a lot of people. Skin breaks out with comedones after using coconut oil. Skincare is pretty much YMMV and you will find a lot of people who do not get reactions with coconut oil. If it works for you it is all good.
Skin moisturizer - this claim does not hold up because coconut oil is not a dry oil in that it does not get absorbed by the skin really quickly. The skin will appear oily even after an hour of applying coconut oil. At best it performs like an occlusive but it tends to clog the skin and create comedones.
Humectant - Coconut oil has been shown in studies to be superior over mineral oil in preventing water-loss and treating dermatitis and is discussed here.
By using coconut oil, we are not feeding our skin with skin friendly oils such as linoleic acid or Omega 6. This causes our sebum to become thicker, clogs pores and create acne.
Bottom line: Just because it is found in nature or organic or is edible doesn't mean it's safe/effective for skin!
Protect against protein loss - Coconut Oil can protect hair against protein loss, thanks to the high levels of lauric acid in it. Here is the science behind it
Although coconut oil compares more favorably to mineral oil for moisturizing and hydration, we are hesitant to use coconut oil due to the comedogenic property. Other oils such as grape seed oil, safflower oil which are high in essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid, linolenic acid or Omega 6 and Omega 3 provide better benefits to skin care without being comedogenic.
Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017, December 27). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Retrieved May 01, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29280987
Agero, A. L., & Verallo-Rowell, V. M. (2004, September). A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Retrieved May, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15724344
Rele, A. S., & Mohile, R. B. (n.d.). Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Retrieved May 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12715094