The praise doesn’t stop for coconut oil.
Whether you’re applying it to your skin in beauty products or using it as an edible oil for cooking, its health benefits are lauded in every corner of the internet.
It’s fantastic for people with dry skin.
It’s also widely recommended as a treatment for acne.
I know what you’re thinking:
Should you really put an oil on your face? Won’t it make your acne worse?
And you’re right, there are some things you have to consider before you reach for that jar of coconut oil.
In this article, I’ll show you the benefits and drawbacks of this heavily hyped health and beauty wonder, and how to use coconut oil for acne treatment.
- 1 What Is Coconut Oil?
- 2 How Does Coconut Oil Help Acne Prone Skin?
- 3 What Kind Of Coconut Oil Is Best For Acne?
- 4 How To Use Coconut Oil For Acne Treatment
- 5 Does Coconut Oil Clog Pores?
- 6 Precautions
- 7 Final Thoughts
What Is Coconut Oil?
You can find the coconut palm, also known as Cocos nucifera, in more than 80 countries of the world, mostly in tropical and subtropical regions.
In the areas where it grows, it has a long tradition of important use in a variety of ways.
It’s used to provide shelter, make tools and utensils, for food and drink, and has religious significance in India where it has a part to play in Hindu rituals.
But these days it’s also highly prized in the western world for the oil that’s extracted from the coconut kernel.
This has found popular use in a wide range of cosmetic products, coconut oil moisturizers, coconut oil body lotions, and soaps, and also as a healthy oil for cooking and frying food.
The health benefits that the oil provides include an ability to help with:
- Weight loss
- Blood cholesterol levels
- Dry and damaged hair
- Reduced risk of seizures
Coconut oil also has great benefits for the skin, where it helps to:
- Reduce wrinkles
- Provide sunburn relief
- Treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
It also contains active ingredients that make it particularly interesting for people who are looking for natural treatments for acne.
How Does Coconut Oil Help Acne Prone Skin?
The active ingredients in coconut oil give it antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce acne, prevent its formation, and clear away pimples and blackheads.
Let’s take a closer look at the main actives that give it its acne fighting powers.
Coconut oil contains fatty acids that are amongst the most effective natural antimicrobials in food:
The main fatty acid it contains is lauric acid. This accounts for approximately 50% of the fats that are found in coconut oil. It has very powerful antibacterial properties.
Studies have shown that its ability to kill the acne causing bacteria P. Acnes is 15 times stronger than benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial chemical commonly prescribed by doctors for the treatment of acne (1).
More studies have confirmed that it’s also an effective anti-inflammatory when used in the treatment of acne (2).
It’s considered to be a safe, natural treatment, and is increasingly being included in commercial skin care preparations, soaps, and shampoos because of the outstanding results it’s shown in killing bacteria.
The antibacterial power of lauric acid is probably the main reason for coconut oil’s effectiveness against acne.
Constituting approximately 4-8% of coconut oil, capric acid is another fatty acid that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have proved its effectiveness against P. Acnes, but have also shown that it’s its antibacterial effects are weaker than lauric acid. But its anti-inflammatory effects are comparable (2)
Caprylic acid makes up about 5-10% of coconut oil. It’s another proven antibacterial.
Antioxidants And Photoprotection
Coconut oil contains the phenolic compounds ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid. These are powerful antioxidants that when applied topically help to protect your skin from the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation (3).
This happens through their ability to neutralize harmful free radicals that are created in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet light.
These free radicals oxidize the sebum produced by your skin, and this oxidized sebum is widely considered to be a significant comedogenic factor that blocks pores and leads to the formation of acne.
Ferulic acid is an ingredient that can be found in a number of high-end skin care preparations because of its protective ability.
The increased protection that antioxidants bring is of particular importance to acne patients.
The major antioxidant that is present in your skin to protect you from UV instigated oxidation is vitamin E.
But, studies have shown that people who suffer from acne have less vitamin E in their system than people with clear skin (4). This makes them more vulnerable to the oxidization of sebum.
In addition, coconut oil acts as a weak sunblock that studies have shown helps to protect the skin from UVB radiation (5).
It’s not a replacement for sunscreen, but it does offer some protection, which is helpful for acne prone skin.
What Kind Of Coconut Oil Is Best For Acne?
It’s important to use virgin coconut oil for your skin. The refined type has been shown to be significantly inferior in its effects.
It’s the virgin coconut oil that contains the phenolic compounds (6). During the chemical process of refining coconut oil, these important antioxidants are lost.
Extra virgin coconut oil can also be used. It’s actually no different to the plain ‘virgin’ type. The ‘extra virgin’ terminology is just a marketing device that has been taken from olive oil due to the association with quality.
How To Use Coconut Oil For Acne Treatment
Coconut oil can be used on its own to treat acne. But, it also makes a good carrier oil for essential oils and other acne fighting substances.
Here are some methods that you can try:
Coconut Oil – On Its Own
Directions For Use:
1. Purchase a jar of organic virgin coconut oil.
2. Wash and dry your face.
3. Take a small amount of coconut oil from the jar. If it's in its solid state massage it between your fingers until it turns to liquid.
4. Gently rub it into your face using your fingertips using a circular motion.
5. Repeat each morning.
Directions For Use:
1. Wash and dry your face.
2. Get a jar of virgin coconut oil, and a jar of raw, organic honey.
3. Measure 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons of honey and 2 teaspoons of coconut oil into a small bowl.
4. Mix the ingredients together using a teaspoon until the coconut oil is fully dissolved into the honey which should take on a cloudy appearance.
5. Using your fingertips, softly spread the mixture over your face.
6. Allow the mixture to stay on your face for 15 minutes and then rinse it off using warm water.
7. Pat your face dry with a clean towel.
Coconut Oil And Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is scientifically proven to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation (8). It can unblock your sebaceous glands and helps to regulate oil production by the skin.
In its undiluted form, it’s a bit strong to put on your skin. But, you can add it to coconut oil to get its healing benefits using the following recipe.
Directions For Use:
1. Get a bottle of 100% tea tree oil, and a jar of virgin coconut oil.
2. If your coconut oil is solid, measure 9 teaspoons of coconut oil into a pan and gently melt on a low heat.
3. If it's already liquid, add 9 teaspoons to a small bowl and go to 6.
4. When the coconut oil is melted, turn off the heat and pour into a small bowl.
5. Allow it to cool a bit.
6. Add 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil into the bowl.
7. Mix together using a spoon.
8. Wash and dry your face.
9. Use your fingertips to gently massage the mixture into your skin using circular motions.
10. Allow the mixture to sit on your skin for about 5 minutes.
11. Use warm water to rinse it off and dry your face with a clean towel.
12. Apply each day.
13. Store the excess in a container with a lid, in a cool, dark place.
Coconut Oil And Green Tea
A lot of studies have been done into the health benefits of green tea, including its impressive acne treating properties. It’s comparable in its effects to benzoyl peroxide, and works faster.
It can also reduce the amount of sebum produced by the skin, with one study showing a 70% reduction in an eight week period (9).
Here’s how you can add it to coconut oil to make your own green tea moisturizing lotion.
Directions For Use:
1. Get a jar of virgin coconut oil and some green tea bags.
2. Heat up a pan.
3. Fill one cup with coconut oil and pour it into the pan.
4. Allow the oil to melt in the pan.
5. Open some tea bags and add 2 teaspoons of green tea leaves to the melted oil.
6. Let the mixture simmer on a low heat for 1 hour.
7. After 1 hour turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool down.
8. Get a piece of cheesecloth and pour the oil through it into a bowl. This separates out the leaves.
9. Whisk the oil using a fork until it's firm.
10. Allow the oil to cool completely until it's solid.
11. When you are ready to use it, first wash and dry your face.
12. Take a small amount of the oil in your fingers and rub it until it starts to melt into a liquid.
13. Use your fingertips to apply it to your face.
14. Apply it each day.
15. Keep in a container with a lid, in a cool, dark place.
Coconut Oil And Turmeric Face Mask
Turmeric has a history of use in Asia because of its usefulness in skin care. It’s another powerful antibacterial, containing curcumin that has proven ability to kill P. acnes (10).
You can use it with coconut oil to create an acne reducing and skin rejuvenating face mask.
Directions For Use:
1. Get a jar of virgin coconut oil and some turmeric powder.
2. If your coconut oil is solid at room temperature then gently melt 3 tablespoons in a pan first.
3. Allow it to cool a bit.
4. Add the 3 tablespoons of liquid coconut oil into a small bowl.
5. Add 1/2 a tablespoon of turmeric powder.
6. Mix it with a fork until you have a paste.
7. Wash and dry your face.
8. Use your fingers to apply the mixture to your face.
9. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes.
10. Wash it off with warm water, and pat dry your skin with a towel.
11. Use it 2-3 times per week for the best results.
Coconut Oil And Lavender Oil
Lavender essential oil has antibacterial properties that can fight against the acne bacteria on the skin. It also has a relaxing effect that reduces stress, which can be a factor in acne breakouts (11).
Here’s how you can make a lavender and coconut oil moisturizing lotion:
Directions For Use:
1. Get a bottle of lavender essential oil and a jar of coconut oil.
2. If your coconut oil is solid at room temperature then take 1/2 a cup and warm it gently in a pan.
3. Pour the liquid coconut oil into a bowl.
4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the lavender essential oil.
5. Stir them together using a spoon.
6. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
7. When you want to use it, first wash and dry your face.
8. Take a small amount of the oil in your fingers and rub them together until it turns to liquid.
9. Use your fingertips to massage into your skin.
10. Use every day.
11. Keep the moisturizer in a container with a lid, in a cool, dark place.
Does Coconut Oil Clog Pores?
While using coconut oil has proven benefits for reducing and preventing acne and pimples, there’s one big drawback.
It ranks quite highly on the comedogenic scale, with a 4 out of 5 rating.
This puts it in the high-risk category and means that it does have the potential to block skin pores.
Understandably, this is a concern. Especially if you have oily skin already.
But, it doesn’t mean that you have to avoid it. The comedogenicity scale is not a reliable indicator that you will have problems.
There are many people who apply coconut oil to their skin and find that it clears up their acne absolutely fine.
But there are also people who report that it makes their acne worse.
Without trying it, it’s impossible to know how your skin will react.
- Before using coconut oil for the first time it's best to do a quick patch test to make sure that you are not allergic to it. Rub a small amount of it into the back of your wrist and leave it for 30 minutes to see how your skin reacts.
Coconut oil is a powerful natural acne treatment that is backed by scientific experiments and the anecdotal reports of the many people who have used it successfully.
It can be used to treat facial and body acne, including the back, chest, legs, and arms.
But not everyone reacts well to it, so there’s a risk involved in its use.
On the one hand, it could be the answer you’ve been looking for in your search for clear skin. Some people even get rid of their cystic acne problem by using it.
But the flip side is that it might clog your pores and lead to new acne outbreaks.
The majority of people report having some success with it, so the odds are in your favor.
But, you have to decide whether that is a risk you want to take.
Have you tried coconut oil for acne? Tell us your experiences in the comments.