If natural beauty products had a prom,
coconut oil would be queen this year. I mean, you can add it to desserts, use
it as a great hair mask, and even apply it as a cuticle-softener. What more
could you ask for?
Which begs the question: What would happen if you tried using
coconut oil for acne?
First things first: What’s so special about coconut oil?
“Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of
mature coconuts,” says Dr Shari Marchbein, a New York City-based
dermatologist. “It is 99% fat, composed mostly of saturated fats, with
the most common being lauric acid.”
Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid and has antibacterial and
anti-inflammatory properties – both of which can be powerful weapons in the war
There are a few ways acne-sufferers are using coconut oil for
acne. “Most people using coconut oil topically are either using it to cleanse
their skin as an oil cleanser, as a moisturiser, or as a spot treatment,” says
Dr Shari Marchbein, a New York City-based dermatologist.
Read more: True or false: Coconut oil can help you grow out your hair
But is using coconut oil to fight acne really a good idea?
Uh, not necessarily.
There’s reason on the benefits of using lauric acid to treat
acne – but most of those studies were conducted using pure lauric acid, as
opposed to coconut oil, says Marchbein. “And lauric acid makes up only about 50% of the fats found in coconut oil,” she says. “This does not translate
to efficacy of coconut oil in treating acne.”
In general, Marchbein would actually advise against using coconut
oil to treat your acne, “given the high potential for coconut oil to clog pores
and worsen acne”.
Still, Dr Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical
research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says coconut
oil has its advantages. “For most people, coconut oil can be a useful addition
to your traditional acne regimen,” he says, “but with the exception of perhaps
the most mild acne, coconut oil by itself will likely not be effective.”
So, how can I use coconut oil on my skin?
One more time for the people in the back: “I would not recommend
using coconut oil to treat acne as it is can act like a wax, sitting as a layer
on top of the skin, suffocating and clogging pores, leading to significant acne
breakouts,” says Marchbein. “At best, coconut oil may be useful for
removing makeup, but I think even for that, my preference would be a
gentle foaming cleanser or micellar water.”
If you’re going to use coconut oil as part of your cleansing
routine, Dr Sejal Shah, founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology, says it’s
important to remove all traces of the oil with a second cleanser. Since coconut
oil is so comedogenic (a.k.a pore-clogging), you don’t want to leave any
residue of it on skin, says Shah. This double-cleanse method allows you to reap
the soothing benefits of coconut oil – without risking a huge honking breakout.
You should also continue to use your usual acne-fighting
treatments, Zeichner says. “Because if its outstanding hydration benefits,
coconut oil [could be a] great partner to topical retinoids, which are
extremely effective in treating acne,” he says. That’s because retinoids are
known to cause skin irritation – and coconut oil is a powerful moisturising
This might seem counter-intuitive (after all, you’d think oily,
zit-prone skin wouldn’t need hydration) but lots of other treatments used to
treat acne are drying, which can strip skin of its natural oils. “Maintaining
the integrity of the skin barrier is essential for not only acne treatment, but
also helping the healing of acne lesions with minimal scarring,” says Houston,
Texas dermatologist, Dr Jennifer M. Segal, of Metropolitan Dermatology
Dry skin takes longer to heal, and if you have acne on top of
that, you might see more scarring. Nourished skin is then better able to
tolerate acne-fighting ingredients like retinols, alpha and beta hydroxy acids,
and benzoyl peroxide, which means clearer skin, too.
Read more: 6 things you’re doing that are causing your skin to break out badly
What kind of coconut oil should I buy?
New York City dermatologist Libby Rhee, of Craig + Austin Medi-Spa
suggests looking for unrefined coconut oil. “It has a great balance of natural
fatty acids, which can be effective as a moisturiser for healthy skin,” says
Rhee. You’ll also want to make sure there’s no added fragrance, as perfume is a
common trigger for acne and sensitive skin, adds Segal.
Tip: Look for a raw, organic virgin coconut oil, which means it’s
both unrefined and very likely fragrance-free.
If you can’t use coconut oil for acne, what should you be
Acne treatments are not one size fits all, but Marchbein typically
recommends looking for skincare products that are oil free and non-comedogenic.
If you are breaking out, make sure to consult your dermatologist for a
comprehensive acne routine.
“Most patients require a combination of prescription creams
including retinoids, like prescription Retin A or over the counter creams for
those with more mild breakouts, as well as benzoyl peroxide and topical
antibiotics,” says Marchbein. “In addition, for those who suffer from adult
female acne, oral contraceptive pills, as well as the anti-androgen pill
Spironolactone, can very effectively be used as a part of a treatment routine.”
This article was originally
published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock