Virgin coconut oil is used by many people as a natural and effective treatment for acne. Coconut oil contains many antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which help to get rid of spots, pimples, and zits. Because it contains healthy fatty acids, coconut oil also acts as a natural skin moisturizer, which helps to protect your skin and reduce the number of acne breakouts.
However, there are people who have tried using coconut oil for acne but they found that it didn’t help them. In fact, some say that it caused their skin to have even more breakouts.
So what is the truth about coconut oil and acne? Can coconut oil really help you get healthy skin that is acne-free? The concern many people have is that coconut oil is comedogenic (pore-clogging) agent hence can worsen acne.
In this article, I will look at the various reasons why oil extracted from coconuts can be an effective home remedy for acne for many people, but also why it doesn’t work for other people. You will also find helpful natural home remedies to get rid of acne and reduce the amount of breakouts that you have.
What is Acne?
Glands in the skin produce oil called sebum which is essential to keep the skin moist and protect it. According to Dr. Kathleen Romito on WebMD, changes in the body can cause the skin glands to produce more sebum which then gets blocked in the pores of the skin. Spots, pimples, and blackheads appear when dead skin cells get trapped and become infected. The bacteria in the pores can cause inflammation, swelling, redness, and pus.1
A pimple occurs when the infection is under the skin, and the result is a painful bump on the skin that may or may not have a visible pus-filled center. These are sometimes called whitehead, papules, or pustules depending on the type of pimple.
Blackheads form when sebum and dead skin cell block the pores. Contrary to popular belief, blackheads aren’t a buildup of dirt in the pores but the reaction of the air on the blockage in the pore.
Sometimes, the acne bacterial infection can go deeper into the skin causing cystic acne. According to Dr. Debra Jaliman on WebMD, the symptoms of cystic acne are large, sore bumps that are full of pus.2
The American Academy of Dermatology says that factors like hormones, emotional stress, menstruation, certain medications and foods like white bread, rice and pasta can all cause outbreaks of acne.3
Coconut Oil for Acne – Is this the Real Deal?
Most people find that coconut oil is an effective home remedy for acne and that using coconut oil as a facial moisturizer helps to prevent further acne breakouts. However, coconut oil may not work for everyone who has acne. This shouldn’t be surprising because even pharmaceutical drugs aren’t effective on everyone who has acne.
But the main reason is that coconut oil is ranked 4 out of 5 in comedogenic rating, with 5 being the highest, meaning it is has fairly high comedogenic activity. So there are good chances for it to clog your pores.
While there is scientific evidence that coconut oil is helpful for acne, and I will elaborate more about it later on, there is a mounting anecdotal evidence from many people who complained that coconut oil clogged their pores and made the skin texture rough. Some people complained that coconut oil aggravated their acne and they had more breakouts.
On the other hand, there is also scientific and anecdotal evidence that coconut oil has improved acne for many people.
The best way to find out if coconut oil will help clear up your acne is to try a small amount on a small area of skin.
Very often the acne-fighting properties of coconut oil can be enhanced by adding essential oils which have antibacterial activities or other natural ingredients that are good for acne, such as aloe vera, baking soda and other oils which have been shown to get rid of acne.
Why Coconut Oil is Good for Treating Acne
For many people, it doesn’t seem logical to use an oily substance like coconut oil to get rid of acne. However, coconut oil contains many properties which can help you get clear skin free from unsightly spots and zits. Here are some reasons why coconut oil is good for curing acne.
Coconut oil is antimicrobial
Coconut oil contains a high amount of lauric acid, a fatty acid which studies have shown to have antimicrobial properties that can treat acne.
A study in 2015 reported that lauric acid is an effective topical treatment for acne vulgaris because of its antimicrobial activity. This means that coconut oil can help to kill off bacteria that cause spots and pimples to appear.3
Coconut oil is also effective against Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), a strain of bacteria linked to inflammatory acne.
The Journal of Dermatological Science reported on a study showing that lauric acid has strong antibacterial activity against P. acnes making it effective in preventing the growth of acne-causing bacteria.4
As well as being antimicrobial, coconut oil is also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the redness and swelling caused by acne spots and pimples.
Clinical trials on lauric acid found that it can help reduce swelling and inflammation. One study published in 2009 said that lauric acid is an “alternative treatment for antibiotic therapy of acne vulgaris.”5
Trying Coconut Oil for Acne
So as you’ve seen, coconut oil contains acne-fighting properties which can help to reduce the infection, kill off bacteria that cause acne, and reduce the inflammation caused by clogged pores and acne spots.
Another point is that many people who have oily, acne-prone skin, tend to use aggressively various products to fight acne. These products often have the opposite effect of stripping your skin of its natural oils. This leads the skin to compensate for the loss by producing more oil, which can aggravate acne even more, but a little bit of virgin coconut oil can help to break this vicious cycle.
Although coconut oil works very well for some, it’s not for everyone. While the lauric acid content fights bacteria, the total oil may clog pores depending on the user. The only way to know how coconut oil would affect you is to try it.
The recommendation is to start with really small amount of virgin coconut oil. It’s also a good idea to do a patch test to make sure you don’t develop an allergic reaction to coconut oil.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Treating Acne
The best way to use virgin coconut oil to treat spots, pimples and acne is to massage just a small amount into the affected skin areas. Using only a little coconut oil help to prevent clogging the pores even more and allows the coconut oil to treat acne breakouts.
Coconut oil and essential oils for acne
You can mix coconut oil with essential oils to make a natural treatment for acne.
Tea tree oil has been shown to have acne-fighting properties and you can combine it with coconut oil to make an effective home remedy for acne. One study published in The Medical Journal of Australia found that a topical application of 5% tea tree oil was just as effective as benzoyl peroxide, a popular pharmaceutical drug used in treating acne. Although the tea tree oil lotion was slower to start working, it caused fewer side effects in patients.6
Lavender oil is another essential oil that you can use to fight acne and help you get clear skin. A study carried out in Switzerland found that lavender oil has strong antibacterial activities and it can kill off P. acnes bacteria.7
To make a natural topical remedy for acne, mix 1 tbsp. of virgin coconut oil with 4 drops of tea tree oil and 4 drops of lavender oil. Mix together well and store in a small glass jar. Apply a small amount of the coconut oil mixture to the affected skin areas 2 or 3 times a day until your acne has gone.
I have written about many other essential oils that can be used to treat breakouts of acne.
Coconut oil and aloe vera for spots and pimples
You can combine aloe vera with virgin coconut oil to make a healing lotion for acne.
Aloe vera is a well-known natural ingredient that can be used to soothe skin inflammation and burns. The Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research reported that aloe vera contains many anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It can help to treat acne, reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin.8
You can find out how to make a soothing and anti-acne DIY lotion using coconut oil and aloe vera by reading my article about the health benefits of aloe vera and coconut oil mixture.
Coconut oil and baking soda for acne
Another natural way to reduce the appearance of acne is to combine baking soda and coconut oil to make a smooth paste.
Baking soda also has antibacterial properties which can work wonders on acne-prone skin. A study found that baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is effective in killing off various strains of bacteria. Also, the grainy texture of baking soda makes it a gentle exfoliate for the skin to unblock pores to cure pimples, spots, and blackheads.
To help get rid of acne and unclog pores, mix some baking soda with some virgin coconut oil to form a smooth paste. For more sensitive skin, use at least a 2:1 ratio of coconut oil to baking soda (2 parts of coconut oil for every part of baking soda). If your skin is not sensitive, you can use a 1:1 ratio (equal amounts of coconut oil and baking soda).
Apply the baking soda mixture to the affected skin area and gently massage into the skin to unblock clogged pores and reduce the appearance of acne. Leave for a few minutes before rinsing off with warm water.
After cleansing your skin, apply a small amount of coconut oil to moisturize your skin to protect it from further acne breakouts.
Using Coconut Oil for Acne – Summary
The best way to know if coconut oil is an effective acne treatment for your breakouts is to try one of the above natural home remedies. Many acne sufferers have found that using coconut oil is an effective method to treat acne and prevent spots and pimples reappearing.
You also need to remember that virgin coconut oil is not a magic solution for acne, and that results vary from person to person depending upon their skin type, age, lifestyle, as well as other factors.
There are many other natural ways to get rid of pimples that you can find on this website. Some of these remedies for acne include recipes using lemon oil, witch hazel, willow bark extract, and Manuka honey
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