The Bottom Line: Can I Use Coconut Oil for Acne?
Coconut oil is something everyone knows about, because of all the hype it gets in the "natural" health industry. According to Coconut Oil Crusaders, or COC for short (as I've so lovingly coined them), coconut oil can cure everything.
Of course, in most cases, this is simply not true. Coconut oil just doesn't have the evidence backing it to make those kind of erroneous blanket claims.
Coconut oil, although it has some undeserved accolades, does have some uses, and one of them seems to be in skin care. When I first started my acne journey, I was all about that coconut oil life. I slathered that stuff all over my face and body, convinced by the COC that it would cure my acne overnight.
Well, needless to say, it resulted in a whole slew of cystic acne along my jawline that left me with hideous rolling scars. Despite this, I hold no ill-will against coconut oil, because I know that just because something didn't work for me, doesn't mean it won't work for someone else. After all, the comedogenicity of something is not as important as you'd think - the comedogenic ratings are highly unreliable. Something could be considered "highly comedogenic" but not break someone out. Something that's considered "not highly comedogenic" or with a low rating could break someone else out. Everyone's skin is different, you need to try a product before determining if it will affect your skin.
So here's some information regarding coconut oil if you're interested in trying it out for your skin!
One of the benefits people often tout about coconut oil is that it's actually anti-bacterial! The good news is that coconut oil really is a great anti-bacterial. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has been shown to kill bacteria 15x better than a benzoyl peroxide! It also contains another fatty acid type called capric acid which is also effective against bacteria.
This may be why so many people with acne are told to use it topically - but keep in mind not all acne is bacterial in nature. Studies have shown that some people with acne have completely sterile lesions! This simply means that coconut oil may not be the answer to your acne. For people like me with pores that easily clog, but whose acne is not rooted in bacteria, coconut oil was a no-go for me.
Not only is coconut oil anti-bacterial, it's also anti-inflammatory as well. This means that it could help to bring down the inflammation (redness, swelling, pain) in pimples.
Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, what else?! Oh, yeah, it also has a lot of great antioxidants in it, which as we all should know by now, are one of the most important things we need to be applying to our skin. Antioxidants help fight free radical damage (such as those caused by UV exposure), and help keep our skin and sebum healthy and acidic to prevent acne!
Another reason coconut oil may help your skin is that it's a ridiculously good moisturizer. It helps create a barrier over the skin, like your sebum, that prevents trans epidermal water loss, which dries out your skin. In one study, coconut oil demonstrated its benefits for dry skin in children with atopic dermatitis. So for someone with very dry skin and acne, coconut oil may help by keeping the skin hydrated, and thus, healthier.
Coconut oil is also ideal for healing wounds (and what is a pimple but a wound?). Three of the identified mechanisms behind these healing effects are its ability to accelerate re-epithelialization, improve antioxidant enzyme activity, and stimulate higher collagen cross-linking within the tissue being repaired.
At the end of the day, while coconut oil may or may not work for you as a moisturizer, if you haven't tried it and these benefits seem intriguing, it's worth a shot. There's certainly enough valid evidence to justify trying it out.
Keep in mind though, that studies have shown the importance of distinguishing between coconut oil types - not just any will do. Virgin coconut oil like this one has stronger anti-inflammatory properties than processed coconut oil does, so you definitely want to splurge for the extra anti-inflammatory benefits.