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Coconut Oil Is Not a Safe Alternative to Sunscreen! 5 Popular Consumer Product Myths Debunked

The bad consumer advice you get on the internet can be divisive, costly, and even unsafe.

Photo Credit: alphaspirit / Shutterstock


Nobody knows when the first piece of bad advice was published on the Internet, but over time questionable consumer information has certainly taken hold. Dubious products, like weight-loss pills and water-fueled cars have been the rage at times, luring people into wasting their money on them. But along with the more obvious scams comes fishy advice that may be from anyone from well-meaning friends with homespun solutions to zealots with agendas to push.

We scoured the Internet looking for the questionable advice that’s currently trending on blogs and message boards. And while we found hundreds of bad tips and inaccurate reports, these five seem to be the most often repeated and, unfortunately, believed. Here’s our comeback to these suspicious claims.

1. Muslims are trying to keep pork products out of Subway restaurants. The Internet is rife with chain mails and conspiracy websites which claim that Muslims are pressuring Subway restaurants to stop selling ham and bacon. The original sources of this conspiracy theory were Great Britain’s conservative Daily Mail newspaper, the Islamaphobic website Jihad Watch, and right-wing talk radio shows. Right now, this claim is again propagating on Facebook and Twitter feeds, and stirring up a lot of anger. 

While it’s not true that Muslims are demanding Subway drop pork products, it has been Subway’s corporate policy to allow its franchisees to make menu substitutions in areas where a large segment of consumers have religious dietary restrictions. For example, many Subway franchises in India do not sell meat products at all, while others don’t sell beef and pork. There are also kosher Subway franchises in the U.S. and elsewhere that don’t carry pork products and don’t serve cheese or other dairy products with meat. There are also hundreds of Subway shops outside the U.S. that cater to Muslim dietary restrictions, including only allowing meat from certified halal suppliers. To date, there are no halal Subway franchises in the U.S. and no evidence that any Muslim group has pressured the fast-food chain into removing pork products from its menu.

2. Coconut oil is a safer alternative to sunscreen. Coconut oil is the natural, healthy oil du jour, but some people take its benefits way too far – and listening to their advice can be downright dangerous. Alternative health websites and blogs that tout natural alternatives to common household products are now promoting pure, organic coconut oil as a safer alternative to sunscreen (some of which contain oxybenzone and retinyl palminate, which may pose some health risks). These sites maintain that coconut oil is a great way to get a healthy tan and Vitamin D from the sun without the risk of burning. 

But, as any dermatologist will tell you, no tan is a healthy tan; any prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays damages skin cells, even if you don’t burn. Moreover, coconut does not provide a notable Sun Protection Factor (SPF). So, exposing yourself to the sun after slathering yourself with it is really not much better than putting no skin protectant on at all.

This advice can be especially dangerous when it comes to infants, who are more susceptible to the sun’s rays. For example, while it’s true that the contents of sunscreen may be too harsh for infants, coconut oil is an unsafe alternative because they don’t get the protection they need. Instead infants, especially those with lighter complexions, should be kept out of direct sunlight, as their skin is thinner and may possess far too little melanin to provide natural sun protection.

If you’re concerned about sun safety as well as the safety of sunscreen products, visit the Environmental Working Group’s website. It contains helpful advice on how to pick the safest, most effective sunscreens and information on the hidden damage of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

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