Coconut oil has been the subject of a lot of hype recently, with many people claiming that it offers a host of health benefits.
There are articles online and in the media linking this natural substance with everything from weight loss to healthier hair. However, unlike many other natural products which are promoted as being the latest miracle substance without any clear evidence, there are actual scientific reasons to back up coconut oil as a valuable healing product.
The question then, is whether coconut oil can be helpful in treating acne. Let’s take a closer look at the evidence to find out more.
A Moisturizing Oil
When coconut oil is topically applied to the skin, it’s believed to moisturize more effectively than some treatments favored by dermatologists. Coconut can prevent the skin from drying out, and this makes coconut oil an effective moisturizer.
Your skin suffers from dryness when the water inside and between the cells evaporates. When the skin has its own layer of oil on it, known as sebum, a barrier is created which prevents water inside the skin from being able to evaporate. Coconut oil, applied to the skin, creates an extra layer on top of the natural sebum which provides extra protection from moisture loss.
We know that people who suffer from acne have a damaged skin barrier function. This means that the skin can become dry much more quickly and easily. Adding a layer of coconut oil to the skin can help to effectively retain the hydrating water that your skin needs to protect against dryness which can exacerbate acne.
Powerful Antibacterial Properties
Coconut oil also has strong antibacterial properties. This is another reason why it’s believed to reduce acne.
Coconut oil’s main fatty acid is Lauric Acid (or LA). This accounts for around half of all of its fat content. Lauric Acid can kill the bacteria which causes acne 15 times more effectively than traditional treatments like benzoyl peroxide.
Capric acid, another fatty acid found in coconut oil, has also been shown in a study to be effective in combating the P.Acnes bacteria, although its effect is weaker than that produced by lauric acid.
Coconut oil also contains a number of substances known for their anti-inflammatory properties. These include p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid and some other phenolic compounds.
Many high-quality skincare products contain Ferulic acid which acts as an antioxidant to protect the skin from the damage caused by free radicals. Since inflammation has a role to play in triggering acne breakouts, coconut oil’s antioxidant properties are highly beneficial.
A study carried out in rats showed that when coconut oil was applied to their ears, they were protected from chemical exposure. A different study revealed that coconut oil applied topically to a wound accelerated healing. This shows that coconut oil can help to heal the skin and repair damage.
Coconut oil also helps to protect your skin from UV rays. Although it is only a weak sunscreen, it can block around a fifth of UVB radiation. This equates to around SPF7. If you suffer from acne-prone skin, this is helpful to protect against the damage caused by occasional exposure to UV rays.
UV radiation damages sebum, and this triggers acne to develop. When your skin is exposed to UV rays, its squalene goes through a process of photodegradation. As a result, by-products are formed which have a harmful action on the skin. Squalene peroxide, one of these by-products, is comedogenic, causing pore blockages. When coconut oil is applied to the skin topically, its antioxidant properties can protect your natural sebum from oxidative damage, helping to guard against the formation of acne breakouts.
Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?
There is one potential problem to bear in mind – coconut oil is comedogenic. It blocks the pores. That means it may result in acne breakouts. Therefore, it should be used with care. Nevertheless, it is a safe substance which is highly unlikely to cause any negative reactions of contact allergies.
Should I Use Coconut Oil For My Acne-Prone Skin?
Although many natural products are touted online as an effective cure for acne, there is very little, if any, evidence to show that they are effective.
However, coconut oil is an exception to the rule. There are many science-based valid reasons to suggest that topical application of coconut oil onto acne-prone skin will offer benefits.
Since coconut oil is quite a heavy oil, it can form a barrier which prevents water in the skin from escaping. This helps to protect the skin and strengthen the skin barrier. In fact, it can even do this more effectively than mineral oils favored by dermatologists.
Not only that, but coconut oil is capable of killing the bacteria which can cause acne. The antioxidants in coconut oil also offer a limited amount of protection from UV rays to the equivalent of SPF 7. This is also helpful for those with acne since it helps to protect the skin’s natural sebum from damage by the UV radiation.
On the downside, however, coconut oil is a comedogenic substance which can block the pores and exacerbate an acne problem. While comedogenic ingredients don’t normally cause a problem, coconut oil has around a 50% lauric acid content which means that coconut oil could result in more acne breakouts in some cases. Therefore, it’s advised that if you want to experience the benefits of coconut oil on your acne-prone skin, you should start out slowly and carefully, only applying a small amount to a small part of your face to observe any reaction before applying it in larger amounts.
Coconut oil certainly is an interesting alternative for anyone who is keen to use a natural skincare solution rather than a harsh chemical treatment. If you use it in moderation, you may find that you reap the benefits of the natural antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that it contains when it comes to treating the symptoms of your acne breakouts.