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Coconut Oil Skin Care

By Cynthia Bailey MD. This page was updated on Thu, Apr 09, 2020

coconut oil skin care

Coconut oil skin care benefits are well known to the people living in parts of the world where coconuts grow abundantly. As a dermatologist, I've also recommended coconut oil to my patients for their skin and hair care. There is now excellent scientific evidence for the benefits of coconut oil to skin health. I'm going to give you a synopsis of what makes coconut oil a good remedy for skin problems, either used directly or blended in skin care products.

Is coconut oil good for your skin?

I have used coconut oil to treat skin problems in my dermatology practice because coconut oil,

  • helps calm skin inflammation from many causes,

  • is a great moisturizer for people with highly sensitive allergic skin, including patients with atopic eczema,

  • softens scale and reduces redness and itching for people suffering from scalp seborrheic dermatitis,

  • promotes skin healing after laser treatments, and

  • 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?

coconut oil 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.

I created my Natural Face and Body Lotion to capture the benefits of coconut oil without the greasy feel that coconut oil leaves on your skin. Yes, not everyone loves the feel of pure coconut oil on their skin and it also smells strongly of coconut! A cosmetically elegant alternative is to use a product that blends high quality organic coconut oil with other natural skin humectants (moisture-binding ingredients). This can give you coconut oil benefits without the oily feel of pure coconut oil. Look for a product that uses organic coconut oil as one of the primary ingredients. 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.

In my opinion as a dermatologist and skin wellness expert, coconut oil is a great oil for skin care.

References:

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.

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.

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

Fulton James E, Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care. J Soc Cosmet Chem, 1989; 40(6): 321-333