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What You Need to Know Before Using Coconut Oil for Skin

September 13, 2019

What You Need to Know Before Using Coconut Oil for Skin

A quick Google search of “coconut oil for skin” will yield plenty of results, mostly positive. It has a pretty impressive track record for being so heavily discussed in various health realms for over a decade now. 

Coconut oil made headlines again earlier this year when the founder of Whole Foods Market dissed it as being worse for you than sugar (ouch!), and consumers resumed the debate surrounding this so-called healthy product. 

The Verdict?

Despite the plentiful skin benefits of coconut oil, it’s not the cure-all that many web sources make it out to be, and it might not be the best oil for your skin type.

But there’s good news, too! Read on for everything you need to know before using coconut oil for skin (plus some alternative solutions).

What Are the Skin Benefits of Coconut Oil?

First things first: there are many skin benefits of coconut oil. Its main component is lauric acid, an antimicrobial and antifungal saturated fatty acid. Paired with its abundance of vitamins E, A, and other antioxidants, coconut oil has proven abilities to moisturize, reduce acne-forming bacteria, and help with wound-healing through collagen cross-linking.

Sounds great, right? But that’s not the whole story. Here’s what you need to know before you add coconut oil to your beauty regimen. 

Coconut Oil for Face Moisturizer

While some skin types are receptive to the use of coconut oil as a facial moisturizer, we recommend staying cautious of its high alkalinity — typically a 7 or 8 on the pH scale, which spans from 1 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). Research has shown that an ideal pH level for skincare products is around 4-5. (The pH of skin is naturally slightly acidic, sitting right around 5.5.) 

So what does this mean for your skin? A healthy pH helps maintain a healthy microbiome. Recent studies have shown that probiotics — which are essentially the opposite of antimicrobials —help reduce acne inflammation. Probiotics can also help restore acidic skin pH, resulting in anti-aging effects.

But don’t let coconut oil’s high alkalinity discourage you from using facial oils. Jojoba oil and olive oil are two great alternatives. Find out more about the best facial oils for your skin type here.

Coconut Oil for Acne

Coconut oil as an acne treatment is somewhat complex. While ithas been shown to reduce acne-forming bacteria, it is also highly comedogenic, meaning it has a greater likelihood of clogging pores.

Coconut oil sits pretty high (at a 4!) on the comedogenic scale (which spans from 0 to 5). Highly comedogenic products have been known to cause acne breakouts and blackheads. Therefore, anyone prone to breakouts should avoid coconut oil. 

Fortunately, there are other less comedogenic (and even non-comedogenic) oils that you can use for acne-prone skin types. Read more about common skincare oils and their ranking on the comedogenic scale here.

Coconut Oil for Skin: Take-Aways


  • Moderation. While coconut oil has high alkalinity, most exfoliants have high acidity. For the same reason it’s okay to exfoliate 1-2 times per week (for most skin types), it’s also okay to use coconut oil for face moisturizer in moderation.
  • Organic is best. If you do use coconut oil, always buy organic and unrefined. Look for labels reading “raw,” “virgin,” or “cold-pressed.”
  • Consider coconut oil's other uses. While you should exercise some caution when using coconut oil on your face (where skin is thinnest and often the most sensitive), feel free to use it liberally as a body moisturizer, shave oil, or eye makeup remover.