Can coconut oil help to improve acne-prone skin?

Can coconut oil help to improve acne-prone skin?
Can coconut oil help to improve acne-prone skin?


Studies have suggested there is a natural oil that might be a secret weapon in the fight against acne: coconut! With the beauty industry raving about this skin-saving super ingredient, our experts take a closer look at whether or not you should be switching to coconut oil to help improve acne, or whether it should stay in your stir fry.

What some scientists say

A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Sciences[1] showed that two of the fatty acids in coconut oil (lauric acid and capric acid) contain powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The study suggested that the two medium chain fatty acids can reduce acne-causing bacteria build-up in the pores, and also help reduce the redness and swelling. Other research[2] suggests that coconut oil provides a layer over the skin that prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and thereby balances the skin's sebum production. However, this "layer" is one of the reasons that experts are warning acne-sufferers not to jump on the skincare trend train...

What skincare experts recommend

By creating a layer over your skin, you may end up worsening your acne, depending on your skin. The lauric acid that makes up nearly half of coconut oil is highly comedogenic (can cause pores to become blocked and lead to acne), leaving coconut oil with a high 4/5 comedogenic rating[3]. The key words here are "depending on your skin" - because everybody is different. To treat acne and other skin conditions, the best and most long-term solution is to avoid jumping from trend to trend, which can damage your skin further, and to visit a dermatologist for expert skincare advice and a treatment plan.

Other ways to use coconut oil, away from your face

Just because skincare experts don't recommend using coconut oil on your face, doesn't mean it can't be a useful part of your beauty routine, or have a key role in your kitchen. Coconut oil has long been used as a hair conditioner thanks to its hydrating properties, and scientific studies[4] have confirmed what Indian women have known for centuries: coconut oil prevents against protein loss and helps with water retention to reduce brittleness and breakages. Coconut oil can also be used on rough elbows, heels and knees to soften the skin. Alternatively, you could use your coconut oil when cooking - it's a popular alternative to butter for roasting, frying, even baking! For a sweet coconut aroma to your dish, opt for pure coconut oil. Otherwise, go for the refined version, which has less of a distinctly coconut taste.

[1] accessed 7 Sept 2016.

[2] accessed 7 Sept 2016.