Everything You Need To Know: Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

Everything You Need To Know:

Coconut oil is a big thing right now. It’s natural, safe and healthy for you.

It got tons of nutrients and benefits that are actually backed by science and a lot of research.

But before you join the bandwagon of coconut oil enthusiasts, there’s something about coconut oil that you should know.

It can actually give you mixed results, which simply means that not everything you read on the internet or see from other people will happen to you. This goes particularly true if your skin frequently breaks out.

But, does coconut oil really cause acne?

Let’s get the facts straight.

How Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

Let’s start off with comedogenicity or the ability of a product or an ingredient to clog your pores.

Compared with other oils, coconut oil has a fairly high comedogenicity rating of 4 and an irritancy rating of 1. This simply means that coconut oil has a great chance of clogging your pores.

But is that conclusive?

Older methods of determining comedogenic property used to include rabbit’s ears because of the hypersensitivity of their follicles. Unfortunately, the results of such studies relate very little to personal experience.

Your skin’s unique chemistry, for example, has a higher chance of predicting whether coconut oil can cause acne or not.

For some people, coconut oil is the best thing that has ever happened to their skin. In other individuals, it’s one of the reasons why their skin is breaking out.

So, the comedogenicity scale is completely useless?

The scale, although it can be unreliable on certain occasions, can still be used to pinpoint the cause of your acne. If you’ve virtually changed your diet and lifestyle, you can use the scale to determine which among your products are making you breakout.

Consider it as a reference but do not rely on it entirely. As I’ve said, your skin is still the best determining factor you can use to know if coconut oil does cause acne.

The Other Side Of Coconut Oil

Contrary to what most people believe in, coconut oil is not, all the time, bad for people with acne-prone skin. In fact, it can actually heal and prevent acne.

Coconut oil, apparently, is more than just an oil. In fact, a lot of people refer to it as the “healthy oil”.

I know. Ironic, right?

But here are some of the most notable components you’d find in your coconut oil:

Lauric Acid

About 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid, which can also be found in mother's’ milk. It’s a potent antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agent that works well against Propionibacterium Acnes- one of the main culprits of pimples.

And to tell you the truth, it’s actually more effective in killing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide by as much as 15 times.

Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid, aside from its capability to fight bacteria and viruses, also has an anti-inflammatory property. It’s particularly good in managing the yeast in your gut.

It prevents the bad bacteria from growing in large numbers while making sure the good bacteria are able to thrive well in your intestines. When there are more good bacteria, your gut is considered a lot healthier.

And we all know how gut health can affect your skin. A healthy gut can prevent toxins from entering your systemic circulation and affecting your skin.

Caprylic acid has also been found to be effective against skin infection, particularly Dermatophilus Congolensis.

Capric Acid

Capric acid completes the Medium Fatty Acid or MFA chains in coconut oil. It has the same function and property as lauric acid but with a much lesser potency.

This acid, along with lauric, has also been found to have an effect on the production of insulin in your pancreas. Insulin regulates your blood sugar, which , in excess, can cause acne to form.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is a common ingredient you’ll find in most of today’s skin care products. It has an antioxidant effect found to be effective against the sun’s harmful rays.

It’s also used in the management of diabetes and in reducing inflammation due to kidney and liver damage.

Why You Should Consider Coconut Oil For Your Acne Treatment

With all these acids and other essential nutrients you’ll find in coconut oil, a lot of people actually use it to treat their acne. Here’s a list of reasons why you should do the same:

  • It’s able to penetrate deep into your pores to help remove dirt, dead skin cells and excess oil out of your skin easily. Experts call this the Oil Cleansing Method.
  • It kills bacteria and Candida that can cause your skin to break out.
  • It makes your gut healthier reabsorption of toxic substances and materials.
  • It makes your kidneys and liver be more efficient with their jobs.
  • It tones down your sebum production.
  • It keeps your skin moisturized. In fact, it’s effective in sealing in water and preventing it from evaporating.
  • It can prevent free radicals from damaging your cells.

How to use coconut oil on acne prone skin?

Now if you’re convinced about how good coconut oil is for the skin but you’re way too afraid to even try, here’s how you can start with coconut oil:

Primarily, you need to find its virgin or unprocessed form because it has a lower, almost null, comedogenicity. Make sure you select one without any dyes or fragrance as well, to ensure you get the oil in its purest form.

Aside from this, it also has the following advantages:

  • Virgin coconut oil has around 62 to 64% MCFA chains. Remember the lauric, capric and caprylic acid?
  • It’s easier to absorb.
  • It has a more potent anti-oxidant property.
  • It helps hasten wound healing and tissue repair.

Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is considered less potent for acne treatment. Because it has already undergone series of processing, most of its benefits get stripped away.

Worse, it may even be filled up with seriously harmful trans-fatty acids.

To get the best out of coconut oil, try to use it both internally and externally. And by that, yes, I meant ingesting it and applying it to your skin.

Before you cringe at the idea, let me tell you a brief overview of how this works.

If you choose topical treatment with coconut oil for your acne, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience more breakouts than before. This is because the burden of toxin removal is placed entirely on your skin.

In comparison, however, taking coconut oil internally helps lift the majority of the work off of your skin. In fact, eating coconut oil clears out more toxins than your skin.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you won’t break out if you use both methods. Skin purging can happen as a result of coconut oil cleaning your system.

If ever you notice sudden breakouts in areas where you don’t normally have issues with, it’s probably the oil working and it’s best not to stop right away. A lot of people actually get freaked out when their skin starts purging out toxins that they readily return to their commercial creams and serums.

If this is your concern, I suggest you go slow with coconut oil. Apply only a thin layer on your skin and closely observe for any reaction.

Internally, it’s best if you can take at least 3 tablespoons every day.

Allergy VS. Acne

Coconut oil can be an allergen to some people and if you experience reactions using it, make sure you know how to differentiate acne from an allergic reaction.

Allergy, particularly the severe type, can be life threatening. It can cause difficulty breathing, chest congestion and other lethal complications.

Milder reaction, on the other hand, can include redness, swelling and inflammation- characteristics similar to breakouts.


Coconut oil can make or break your acne treatment.

It has a lot of fatty acids and nutrients that can help you combat frequent breakouts. However, depending on your skin type, coconut oil may or may not be able to help you.

Because on top of its long list of benefits, this oil is still comedogenic- unless you’re going to use virgin coconut oil. It can cause reactions depending on your skin chemistry and your skin’s tolerance.

You should also note, in case you decide to use it, that coconut oil can cause skin purging particularly in the early stages of use. With this, it’s essential that you also help your body heal itself by being mindful of what you eat and avoid overloading your system with more toxins than it can handle.

After all, getting clear skin comes mostly from the inside, right?

Everything You Need To Know: Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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