So many people are researching online to find out how to treat acne! Coconut oil is now becoming a popular way to treat acne at all stages of life.
The discovery that coconut oil can be an effective agent for acne treatment is just one of the many wonderful uses for this versatile, naturally occurring oil.
In fact, you may already be using coconut oil for cooking, as a nutritious addition to your smoothies, for hydration in your shampoo or conditioner or even as a soothing hand lotion. But maybe this is the first time you are hearing that coconut oil can also help your skin to fight back against acne!
In this article, learn about using coconut oil for acne – how it works, what to do and what results you can expect.
What Is Acne?
Acne is one name for a number of different types of skin blemishes. According to Medical News Today, some of the most common types of acne include blackheads, whiteheads, pimples (zits) and cysts (nodules).
As you no doubt are already aware, acne can occur anywhere on your face or body. You may experience whiteheads or blackheads on your nose and pimples and cysts on your cheeks and forehead. You may have more breakouts on your neck, back or chest.
Acne used to be considered a rite of passage during the teenage years, but now doctors know that acne can happen at any stage of life. This is depressing news for most people!
What Causes Acne?
Acne can occur as a result of stress, hormonal changes, dietary changes, health issues and skin trauma. Taking certain medications, using some types of beauty products, going through the monthly cycle (for women) and even genetics (hereditary acne) can also cause breakouts to occur.
But what you probably want to know is how to get rid of acne when it happens! Happily, coconut oil has natural properties that have been shown to be effective against acne.
How Can Coconut Oil Be Used for Acne?
According to WebMD, coconut oil is made from extracting the naturally occurring oils out of the “meat” (the white inside flesh) of the coconut itself.
When coconut oil is cool, it is a white solid. When it is heated, it turns into a clear liquid. Coconut oil is a very resilient oil that can tolerate temperature extremes and long storage times without going rancid.
You may have heard that coconut oil is full of saturated fat, aka “the bad fat,” and this is true. About 85 percent of coconut oil’s composition is saturated fat and the other 15 percent is unsaturated fat. But coconut oil has some other unique properties that researchers say make it much healthier than other types of saturated fat.
Chief among these is that coconut oil’s fat content comes from MCFAs, or medium-chain fatty acids (also called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs). These acids are different from the long-chain fatty acids found in most saturated fat. Researchers now believe the body may process them differently as well, and in a way that is healthier for you than other saturated fats.
Why mention MCFAs? For many acne sufferers, it seems flat-out counterintuitive to put oil on a face that is affected with breakouts! But MCFAs have strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties hidden inside their oily goodness. Antioxidants are protective agents and antimicrobials can kill bacteria, fungi and microorganisms that cause infections and lead to breakouts.
So when you use coconut oil for acne, you are giving your skin the ammunition it needs to fight off acne-causing agents (antimicrobials) while at the same time protecting your skin from further onslaughts (antioxidants) and hydrating your skin to help it heal (the oil itself).
The most potent active antimicrobial agent in coconut oil’s MCFAs is called lauric acid. The other active fatty acids are called caproic, capric and caprylic. In this next section we talk more specifically about how lauric acid can help your skin stay healthy and acne-free.
Benefits of Lauric Acid on Acne
Lauric acid has been extensively studied by researchers who are keen to learn more about its antimicrobial impact. The following recent impactful research studies show how well lauric acid performs against the microorganisms that can lead to skin breakouts.
In this National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, lauric acid outperformed 29 other fatty acids as a bactericide and antimicrobial.
In this Biomaterials study, lauric acid outperformed two top competitors to kill P. acnes, the bacterium responsible for the inflammation that leads to acne breakouts.
In this Journal of Investigative Dermatology study, lauric acid performed better than benzoyl peroxide, which is one of the most popular and commonly known acne treatments!
In this Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology study, lauric acid combined with retinoic acid made for a powerful duo in fighting back against acne, with the retinoids being enhanced by the antimicrobial properties of the lauric acid.
And in this Journal of Dermatology Science study, coconut oil’s other active fatty acids (capric, caproic and caprylic) were also found to be effective as antimicrobial agents to fight off P. acnes.
Coconut oil also has Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant that can fight against skin cancer and environmental toxins to keep skin healthy and nourished. Coconut oil is an excellent source of Vitamin E that can be kept potent for a long time, according to ResearchGate.
The science is clear – lauric acid works to fight off acne. But is there a specific way to use coconut oil to clear up acne blemishes? That is what this next section will talk about in detail!
Using Coconut Oil to Heal Skin & Guard Against Scarring
There is more than one concern when you are working to clear up an acne breakout. First, you just want the acne to be gone! Second, you want your skin to heal up stronger than it was before. And third, you want to make sure that the acne does not cause any skin scarring.
Can coconut oil help you achieve all three goals? As you read about in the preceding section here, the research says that coconut oil can absolutely help to achieve the first goal.
But can coconut oil also help your skin heal and can it help to prevent acne scarring? Let’s find out now!
Researchers studied the hydrating and nourishing impact of coconut oil in a study published in Dermatitis. In this study, virgin coconut oil outperformed virgin olive oil in the moisturizing dry skin and warding off a particularly resistant form of bacteria.
Another study published in Dermatitis showed that coconut oil outperformed mineral oil as a moisturizing agent for skin that was dry, rough and scaly.
In a study published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, laboratory rats with skin wounds received topical coconut oil as an aid to healing. The rats had reduced inflammation and improved healing rates, most notably because the coconut oil appeared to help the skin produce more collagen, the structural protein responsible for keeping skin young and healthy.
Research in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science also tells us that well-moisturized and maintained skin is less likely to develop scarring from acne and skin abrasions.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Acne Treatment
So now it is clear that, based on scientific research, coconut oil can fight off the bacteria and microorganisms that can lead to acne breakouts.
Research shows that coconut oil is also intensely hydrating and moisturizing, two requirements for healthy skin. And research showcases how coconut oil can help the skin produce more collagen to guard against scarring and/or reduce the impact of existing scars.
But how do you actually use coconut oil for acne? Now that you know coconut oil can be helpful, it is time to learn how to apply it to your own skin for maximum effectiveness!
There are two main ways to use coconut oil to help prevent or treat skin acne: you can apply it topically (to the skin’s surface) or you can consume it. You can also do both.
Of course, before you do anything, it is always a wise idea to check with your doctor. This is especially true if you are currently under the care of a dermatologist who is treating you for acne or other skin conditions! A quick check can just make sure that coconut oil will be a complement to any other treatment you may be taking.
Your doctor may advise you to do a patch test before applying coconut oil to your whole face. This is always a good idea just to see how your skin responds! What you do is take a few drops of coconut oil and massage them into your skin in a less-visible area, like under your chin or behind your ear. Wait 24 to 48 hours, or as your doctor directs, to make sure your skin tolerates the coconut oil well.
Once your doctor or dermatologist gives you the all clear, and the patch test comes back clear, you can try these techniques to use coconut oil for acne treatment.
You want to make sure that you are using organic virgin or extra virgin cold-pressed coconut oil. Organic coconut oil will be grown without the use of GMOs, pesticides, insecticides or herbicides which can change the oil’s chemical composition and end up adding more toxins to your skin than it removes!
Virgin or extra virgin cold-pressed coconut oil is coconut oil that is extracted without the use of chemicals, compounds or additives, so it stays true to its original chemical composition and retains all of its health properties.
Virgin or extra virgin cold-pressed organic coconut oil is easy to find online or in local grocers and natural foods stores. You may want to purchase the smallest quantity available until you see how your skin responds – with coconut oil, sometimes a little can go a long way, and you don’t need to use much to see results!
Topical coconut oil with a steam bath
First, boil a pot of water on the stove until it starts to steam. You can drape a towel over your head and shoulders to help direct the steam. Stand far enough back that the steam does not scald your already sensitive skin!
After about five minutes of steaming, your pores should be fully open. Remove the towel and discard the water. Take a small amount (about one teaspoon) of coconut oil and massage it into your skin using gentle circular motions.
Saturate a face towel with hot water and press it against your skin for a few minutes. Pat your skin and gently remove any leftover coconut oil, then dry gently with a towel.
Topical warmed coconut oil
As we mentioned earlier here, coconut oil in its cool state is a white solid. When warmed, it turns into a clear liquid. You can use straight coconut oil, applied topically, to treat acne.
This is the best choice if you have dry or combination skin. If your skin is already very oily, you may want to use the pore-opening treatment described previously here to steam open your pores and clear away some of the surface oils before you apply the coconut oil.
So what you do is take a teaspoon of solid cool coconut oil and place it in your palm. Warm it between your palms. Then you can apply the coconut oil directly to problem areas by rubbing it into the skin in circular motions.
You can finish up by moving any remaining coconut oil over all the skin of your face for extra hydrating and acne-repelling benefits.
Consuming coconut oil.
Coconut oil is often used for cooking because it has a delicious taste and can tolerate high heat temperatures. You can consume two tablespoons per day straight or in smoothies or salad dressings to experience the acne-fighting effects from the inside out.