This page was updated on Thu, Nov 07, 2019
Is coconut oil good for your skin?
I have used coconut oil as part of the treatment for many skin problems in my dermatology practice over the years because,
it is helpful to calm skin inflammation from may causes,
it is a great moisturizer for people with highly sensitive allergic skin, including in patients with atopic eczema,
it softens scale and reduces redness and itching for people suffering from scalp seborrheic dermatitis,
it promotes skin healing after laser treatments, and
it helps reduce bacterial skin infections for people prone to them.
Coconut oil has broad benefits for skin health.
The benefits of coconut oil for skin.
Coconut oil is a natural plant based botanical oil with numerous scientifically proven benefits to skin.
Coconut oil can help to heal dry skin.
Applying coconut oil to dry skin (xerosis) helps heal the damaged skin barrier and reduce moisture loss. Coconut oil is rich in hydrating triglycerides, oleic acid, and linoleic acid, and it contains natural plant-based vitamin E. Coconut oil lipids penetrate well into skin to replenish stratum corneum lipid levels to promote a healthy skin barrier and reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) from skin.
Coconut oil can reduce skin inflammation and heal eczema.
A study of pediatric patients with atopic eczema showed improvement in the severity of their skin disease and improved integrity of their skin barrier with the application of coconut oil. In my dermatology practice I use coconut oil to treat seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, especially in people with highly sensitive skin. Coconut oil also contains antioxidants to help balance skin inflammation.
Coconut oil helps promote skin wound healing.
I’m a big fan of coconut oil for post laser skin care. I have my patients use it instead of the usual post-procedure ointments after facial laser procedures. I have very sensitive skin and I personally can only tolerate coconut oil on my skin after laser treatments. I find that skin heals quickly and without any problems, even with deep treatments. This is a testament to the healing properties of coconut oil on damaged skin, if ever there was one!
Coconut oil has been shown to kill important harmful skin bacteria.
The main type of fat in coconut oil has been shown to have antimicrobial activity against some important harmful skin bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus (that can cause impetigo and folliculitis), P. acnes (now called C. acnes, the bacteria that can cause acne), and others. It may also have antiviral and antifungal activity too.
Does coconut oil help acne or make it worse?
This is the big question on the internet, and opinions are divided. The original comedogenicity study done years ago showed coconut oil was comedogenic when applied to rabbit ears. That study has sound critics, as does the concept of comedogenicity as a whole. Add to this, the fact that coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and can kill C. acnes, and conclusions become harder to reach. Yet, many acne prone people feel that coconut oil aggravates their acne. There are no new scientific studies to answer the question, and so we will have to wait for a conclusive answer.
What is the best way to use coconut oil for skin care?
Apply coconut oil right after you have bathed or washed your skin. Towel dry and apply a small amount, gently massaging onto skin. You can use pure coconut oil or products that contain coconut oil blended with other ingredient such as my Natural Face and Body Lotion.
Not everyone loves the feel of pure coconut oil on their skin because it leaves an oily feel. A cosmetically elegant alternative is to use a product that blends coconut oil with other natural skin humectants (moisture-binding ingredients). This can give you coconut oil benefits witihout the oily feel of pure coconut oil. Look for a product that uses organic coconut oil as one of the primary ingredients. I created my All Natural Lotion to give my patients the benefit of coconut oil in a hypoallergenic product that is easy to use and that looks and feels great on their skin. It rubs in quickly and absorbs deeply into the skin to hydrate, heal, and fight bacteria. My lotion can be used on all skin including the face.
Coconut oil is a great oil for skin care. It is an ingredient in a number of my products including moisturizers, sunscreens, soaps and cleansers.
Verallo-Rowell VM1, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.. Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19134433
Lin Tzu-Kai, Zhong Lilly, Santiage Juan Luis, Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils, Int J Mol Sci., 2018 Jan; 19(1): 70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
Evangelista MT, et. al., The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol., 2014 Jan;53(1): 100-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24320105
Fulton James E, Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care. J Soc Cosmet Chem, 1989; 40(6): 321-333