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Two common diy skincare ingredients you should think twice about

hand holding coconut oil sugar scrub

Did you ever have an unexpected reaction to a natural ingredient? Probably. People do all the time. The way a person’s system absorbs…or rejects…the compounds it comes in contact with is unique. While natural ingredients are wonderful, they are not risk-free. I can speak from experience. Here are two common diy skincare ingredients that are usually but, not perfectly, safe and how I found out.

It’s not all that surprising that we all process things differently. Think about your own family. You’re genetically related; yet, your Aunt says onions don’t agree with her. Grandpa avoids lactose. Your niece has a nut allergy. Your sister feels great since she’s gone gluten-free. One of your twin cousins is up all night if he drinks coffee, the other can down an espresso and crash on the couch for 12 hours. Or some similar scenario. You’re all processing natural foods differently.

The same is true when it comes to the natural ingredients you rub on your skin.

I mentioned that I had my own experience with this. Yes, me. Even a natural lifestyle blogger had to tone down my usage of a certain essential oil, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Here I am highlighting some of the dangers of two super common all natural ingredients you will see everywhere. Don’t avoid them, just think twice before you use them. Test them on a patch of skin. Be mindful when you use them. Be aware of how your skin reacts and that changes can occur over time.

The first occasionally-allergenic ingredient is…

Coconut oil

Cue the gasps.

The darling of the natural skincare world. Coconut oil is the base ingredient in an unbelievable number of Pintrest skin care pins. It might actually be the most common natural skin care go-to.

Widespread popularity is precisely the reason I am introducing the idea that coconut oil is not 100% fail-safe. The absolute worst time to learn that you are allergic to coconut oil is immediately after you just slathered yourself in a coconut oil body scrub.

Most people will tell you to use coconut oil on your skin and your baby’s skin, and everything is wonderful. Yet, I personally know two people with an allergy to coconut oil.

Coconut oil allergies are uncommon but do occur. They are not the same as tree nut allergies. If you were thinking that you would not be sensitive to coconut oil because you are not allergic to tree nuts, well, it turns out that those two allergies are not related.

What should you do?

The vast majority of people reading this post are not allergic to coconut oil; however, some of you will find that coconut oil clogs your pores or causes mild breakouts. And a few of you will realize overtime that you are so sensitive to coconut oil, it’s probably actually an allergy.

If you are not allergic to coconut oil, consider yourself lucky. It’s a wonderful, mild moisturizer that makes wonderful body scrubs and DIY skincare. If you haven’t tried coconut oil in your everyday skincare routine, test a patch of your skin to be sure you’re not allergic, and then, try my favorite, simple DIY recipe…

My favorite coconut skincare recipe is just unrefined, organic coconut oil mixed with sugar. In a pinch, you can use baking soda as well. If you have lime essential oil or a fresh lemon or lime, squeeze in a few drops. It smells delicious, and citrus and sugar make a natural glycolic acid. You can use this simple, effective coconut scrub on your face and body everyday in the shower. I find that it keeps my skin smoother than any store-bought product.
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Coconut oil with a coconut

Lavender essential oil

Oh this is not going to go over well. What could I possibly have against lavender essential oil? It is the world’s go-to miracle for sleeplessness and healing burns. Yeah, I know. It’s a wonderful oil. It’s gentle enough to be in tons of baby products. I really do like it. But, remember how I mentioned earlier that I had my own unexpected reaction to a natural skin care remedy?

My sister started selling essential oils about five years ago. Click here to visit her essential oils site. She told me a million times I had to try them. She said I’d love them. She couldn’t believe I didn’t already have a cabinet full of essential oils. It’s so up my alley. All true.

She studied the benefits and uses of each essential oil better than she ever studied for a class. She flew with her infant across the country to attend a conference. She was serious. And, she really enjoyed learning about the lesser-known uses for essential oils and sharing those with her friends and family.

DIY skincare warning

Lavender is often used in face oils for anti-aging. It’s a common ingredient in face creams, both DIY and store-bought. One of the lesser-known tips my sister found claimed that you should put a drop of lavender essential oil in your mascara to make your lashes grow long and lush.

I thought it was all great. I added lavender essential oil to my face creams and mascara. It made even the cheapest drug-store mascara smell like a luxury product. And my eyelashes…fell out. The exact opposite of what was supposed to happen.

At first I thought it was a fluke. I did not make the connection between my use of lavender on my face and eyes and the shedding of my eyelashes. To confess, it took me months and several delusional re-tries with the lavender in my creams and mascara to figure it out. But, the same thing kept happening. First, my lashes became patchy. Then, with continued use, I lost 40% of my eyelashes. It was noticeable.

selective focus photo of bottle with cork lid
Photo by Mareefe on

What did I do?

Mascara didn’t do me a whole lot of good when I was missing eyelashes. But, it still took me more than a year to be 100% sure why my eyelashes were falling out. How was I sure? I changed everything about my routine. I stopped using the face cream. And then, I switched to a new mascara, no additives.

My eyelashes slowly started growing back. It turns out, the only thing less attractive than missing eyelashes, is the spikey regrowth.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone will lose their eyelashes if they use lavender in their face products. In fact, you probably won’t, and if you do, it’s not serious…unless you’re an eyelash model, in which case you should put your resume together.

Back to my example of genetically-related people experiencing natural ingredients differently. My sister does not seem to lose her eyelashes when exposed to lavender essential oil. It’s just me. I am the only person I know who ever connected eyelash loss with lavender. Go figure.

Would you like to test fate?

Don’t avoid coconut oil or lavender.

Just don’t take for granted that they are safe because they are natural.

Tips for smart, safer use of natural skincare:
1) Test a patch of skin before you slather yourself
2) Be honest with yourself if you have a reaction (don’t live in disbelief like I did)
3) Pay attention over time because you might develop a reaction

Pick up some ingredients

If you want to make a sugar scrub with coconut oil, you can pick up the ingredients pretty cheaply at the grocery store or buy them on Amazon. I recommend unrefined, organic coconut oil. It is the least processed and preserves more of the natural properties of the fruit. (Yes, coconut is generally considered a fruit.) Use cheap granulated cane sugar. Turbinado aka raw sugar is too rough. If you have baking soda in your kitchen, you can substitute that instead of sugar.

Keep scrolling to use my quick links and have the ingredients shipped directly to your house.

If you have a little extra disposable income, you can try adding in a few drops of lime essential oil. It’s pretty expensive though. You can just squeeze in a drop of lime juice from the real thing. Just warning you, the scent will be absorbed into the coconut oil for the most part.

Lavender essential oil is also a wonderful product. I still use it. I just use it more carefully than I did before.

You might also enjoy this article on why I prefer to use sugar in a scrub rather than coffee grounds.

13 thoughts on “Two common diy skincare ingredients you should think twice about

  1. I’m allergic to coconut among other things, so I’m constantly looking at ingredients in all kinds of products. I’m highly sensitive to fragrance whether it is natural or chemical. Thank you for this post.

    1. You are not alone! I am happy to help spread some awareness.

  2. I’m not allergic to coconut, eat it ALL the time BUT I’m allergic to coconut oil. So weird! I’d been using it problem free for years and then one day I slathered it on my skin and broke out into an itchy rash that lasted for months! It left dark spots all over my skin and I looked pretty freaky there for awhile. Now maybe it wasn’t the oil itself but some impurity in the oil? I don’t know. I cook with it and have no issues, but I’m never putting it on my skin again!

    1. This is exactly the kind of story I keep hearing. At work, at my kids’ school. So many people have had this same experience. It’s usually a safe and wonderful oil. It just needs to be used with the awareness that it’s not for everyone.

  3. […] who develop a skin allergy to coconut oil. I know several of them personally, which is why I wrote this other post to encourage people to be mindful even when using natural ingredients in their skin care routine. […]

  4. Oh boy. That was a hard way to find out about a coconut oil allergy. Thanks for following my blog.

  5. […] different, and allergies may occur. Coconut oil is usually a good carrier oil, but some people do develop a sensitivity to it over time. You can also consider grapeseed oil, almond oil or even a light olive oil to use […]

  6. We love Coconut oil here but with a hubby and child with food allergies Iam always checking labels and ingredients . Thanks for the post my hubby allergist said over time your allergies can change so you may be fine today but tomorrow look out.

    1. That’s it. Everyone can’t live in denial like I did. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Your posts are very informative and so useful. I’ve had allergies all of my life. Some I grew out of and some I’ve grown into. I use coconut oil on my feet and toenails. It makes my skin feel soft and my toenails have a healthy glow. Otherwise, I use creams for my dry skin. Thank you for following BrewNSpew.

  8. This is good to know. We have a peanut allergy in the family so I have always been on the look out for peanut anything. I have ventured into soap making and a lot of the recipes call for coconut oil. Something to think about for some bars. I had not even thought about coconut oil allergies, I will be more aware.

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