Is Coconut Oil Good for Skin?
Coconut oil has many purported health benefits, but is coconut oil good for skin? Find out as we dive deep into the science-backed benefits of coconut oil.
In recent years, coconut oil has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity due to its many purported health benefits. From curbing appetite to treating dandruff, there seems to be nothing this plant-based oil can’t do.
Is coconut really the end-all-be-all miracle skin care product that some people claim? To find the answer, we decided to dig deeper into the science-backed benefits of coconut oil for the skin.
So, is coconut oil good for your skin or not? Before we answer, here are three things to know about coconut oil and your skin:
- Coconut oil is composed of a variety of fatty acids that can benefit the skin
- Coconut oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties
- If you have acne-prone skin, you may want to avoid using coconut oil
What is coconut oil and what benefits does it have for the skin? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from—you guessed it—the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera). It contains a unique combination of natural fats that are made up of smaller molecules known as fatty acids, which offer a wide range of health benefits for the skin.
According to a 2016 study published in Ghana Medical Journal, coconut oil is comprised of the following fatty acids:
- Caprylic acid (8%)
- Capric acid (7%)
- Lauric acid (49%)
- Palmitic acid (8%)
- Stearic acid (2%)
- Oleic acid (6%)
- Linoleic acid (2%)
Amazingly, there is not a single fatty acid on this list that doesn’t offer some sort of skin-boosting benefit. Below, we’ll explore a few of these skin benefits in more detail.
What Are the Skin Benefits of Coconut Oil?
From moisturizing the skin to fading acne scars, coconut oil is often touted as a cure-all skin care product. Is coconut oil good for skin, or does the science say differently?
As a matter of fact, coconut oil does appear to boast an incredible range of skin-boosting benefits. Here are just a few of the many benefits of coconut oil for the skin:
Dealing with redness on your face? Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can potentially help soothe your red, irritated skin.
In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, researchers demonstrated that virgin coconut oil could reduce inflammatory cytokines and, thus, inhibit the immune system’s inflammatory response (see claim: “Our study showed that VCO can alter the expression of several genes concerned with inflammatory response and skin beneficiary effects.”)
Coconut oil has been shown to have anti-microbial properties, which can largely be contributed to its high levels of lauric acid. As you may have noted above, lauric acid comprises nearly 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil.
Monolaurin, a monoglyceride that comes from lauric acid, has been reported to display anti-microbial activity that can potentially reduce acne breakouts and prevent bacterial infections. In fact, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that lauric acid had greater antimicrobial properties than Benzoyl Peroxide and could serve as an alternative acne treatment (see claim: “The lower MIC values of lauric acid indicate stronger antimicrobial properties than that of BPO.”)
Repairs Skin Barrier Function
Anyone who struggles with dry skin on a regular basis has probably considered using coconut oil on their skin. Indeed, using coconut oil to treat dry skin may just be one of its most popular uses.
Existing research appears to support the claim. In a 2004 study published in Dermatitis, researchers found that coconut oil was more effective than mineral oil for the treatment of dry skin (see claim: “Subjective grading of xerosis…showed a general trend toward better (though not statistically evident) improvement with coconut oil than with mineral oil.”)
Who Shouldn’t Use Coconut Oil?
Despite the many benefits of coconut oil for the skin, it isn’t without its problems. For starters, coconut oil can give skin a greasy, unattractive appearance.
Furthermore, coconut oil may not be the best option for individuals who have acne-prone skin. Although it does have antimicrobial properties which can reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria on the skin, coconut oil has been known to clog pores and cause breakouts.
It’s true that coconut oil can help some people improve their complexions. But if you want to achieve clear skin, you may be better off sticking to your current acne treatment system.
The Bottom Line
So, is coconut oil good for skin? Clearly, coconut oil can offer the skin a wide range of benefits. However, it can also cause your face to break out all of a sudden if you have acne-prone skin.
The bottom line is to be careful with coconut oil. You probably don’t want to completely give up your existing skin care system in favor of something that may clog your pores. If you desperately want to use it for your skin, make sure to do a patch test on your skin first before slathering it all over your face and body.
Varma, Sandeep R., et al. “In Vitro Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Protective Properties of Virgin Coconut Oil.” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 5–14. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012.
Nakatsuji, Teruaki, et al. “Antimicrobial Property of Lauric Acid Against Propionibacterium Acnes: Its Therapeutic Potential for Inflammatory Acne Vulgaris.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 129, no. 10, Oct. 2009, pp. 2480–88. www.jidonline.org, doi:10.1038/jid.2009.93.
A.L. Agero, V.M. Verallo-Rowell. “A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.” Dermatitis, 15 (3) (2004), pp. 109-116.