The Truth About Coconut Oil and Breakouts

Coconut oil and acne

Consumers have gone nuts over coconut oil.

Whole Foods even had to expand their shelf space to meet the demand!

It used to be that we all avoided coconut oil because it’s high in saturated fat. We believed that it contributed to clogged arteries, high cholesterol levels, and heart disease.

But recent research suggests that coconut oil that's not partially hydrogenated (like it was in many early studies), is full of healthy fatty acids that are easier for the body to burn, and has actually been linked to health benefits like increased HDL “good” cholesterol and improved cholesterol ratios.

Add to this the fact that coconut came to light as being incredible for your skin and hair.

A unique combination of essential fatty acids penetrate and moisturize skin in a way few ingredients can; natural antioxidants help protect from environmental stressors; and vitamins firm, moisturize, and brighten.

But despite its many strengths, coconut oil isn’t for everyone. Oily skin types, particularly, may battle with it. If you tried this ingredient and your skin broke out, you may have wondered why. Here’s the answer to that, and what you can do to deeply moisturize your skin without risking occasional breakouts.

Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne Break Outs?

There are pros and cons to oily skin. On the one hand, it can leave you prone to large and clogged pores. On the other, you’re likely to age more slowly than your peers with dry skin.

The problem is that the sebaceous glands are over zealous in their enthusiasm. The skin produces too much sebum (skin oil), which leads to problems like shininess, runny makeup, and an overall thick, coarse texture. It can also increase the occurrence of occasional breakouts.

Oily skin types can still require moisture, however. One of the mistakes many people make is to withhold moisture because they fear they will break out. This often backfires, as the skin gets dry and irritated, and responds by producing even more oil. This just worsens the problem.

Frustrated, many consumers have turned to coconut oil hoping for a miracle. After all, there are a myriad of articles out there saying it’s great for oily skin.

The oil does have properties that may cleanse as well as improve oily skin and clogged pores. It’s a natural oil, which often can help balance. And then there are all those healthy fatty acids that not only moisturize and plump.

Some people with oily skin try the oil and rave about the results. Others try it causes breakouts. What’s going on?

Liquid Coconut Oil May Or May Not Work for You

First, let’s make sure we’re talking about the right kind of oil.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between extra virgin and fractionated coconut oil. A lot of sites encouraging people to use coconut oil for oily skin suggest extra virgin coconut oil as the best option, because it undergoes limited processing and is as close to the raw material as we can get. As a result, it tends to be higher in nutrients and antioxidants than oil that has been refined, bleached, and deodorized.

Extra virgin coconut oil, however, is solid at room temperature. It has a melting point of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In this form, it’s too heavy for oily skin types, and can clog pores and actually cause breakouts.

Coconut oil that is a liquid at room temperature is actually “fractionated” coconut oil—a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed. The result is a product, that though it lacks some of the healthy fatty acids (like lauric acid), is still full of medium-chain fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.

This type of coconut oil works great as a carrier oil for helping other, beneficial oils to penetrate the skin. It absorbs quickly without clogging pores, and can be beneficial for oily skin.

But if you struggle with oily skin and clogged pores, there are some other options that may work better for you.

5 Carrier Oils that Work for Oily Skin

For some susceptible people, even fractionated coconut oil may lead to breakouts. Here are some potential reasons for that:

  • The skin is already clogged with dirt and debris. In this case, exfoliating before moisturizing could help.
  • Pores are large and prone to clogging. In this case, mixing the oil with other oils can help carry the benefits to the skin without the risks.
  • The person’s skin just doesn’t work with coconut oil.

If you’ve tried coconut oil and haven’t had good luck with it, it could be that one of the above situations applies to you. Maybe you need to exfoliate first, or make sure the coconut oil is used in combination with other oils.

It may be, however, that your skin would do much better on another type of oil. Here are some options you can try that help balance and moisturize without clogging pores. After all, coconut oil may be popular, but it surely isn’t the only oil with great benefits for skin!

  1. Hazelnut: This one smoothes and tones skin, while minimizing the appearance of large pores and helping to absorb extra oil.
  2. Grapeseed: Packed with healthy antioxidants and vitamins, this light oil hydrates without feeling greasy, and helps tighten the look of your pores.
  3. Black cumin seed: Your skin will love the vitamins and minerals in this oil, but it also has a reputation for fighting oily skin, with it's cleansing properties.
  4. Sunflower seed: This oil will help protect you from environmental stressors, while tightening and firming.
  5. Olive: Anti-aging is this oil’s strength, as it has a unique combination of antioxidants. It also has healing properties.

Those are the ones you want to look for. Here's a list of oils that don't work well with oily skin.

Consider Hydration Vs. Moisture

Your skin may be dry and prone to clogged pores. In this case, it does lack moisture and can benefit from using a light cream or facial oil.

But if your skin is regularly producing lots of oil, you may not need to use moisturizer regularly. Though there's still a missing piece here: hydration.

Hydration (when we're talking about skin) refers to the amount of water in your skin cells. Hydrated skin looks plump, with fewer fine lines.

It's very much a function of how much you hydrate, but also relates to factors such as your skin and body's natural ability to hold water (which changes with age) as well as the climate you're in. Ingredients that hydrate are different than ingredients that moisturize. And for some people with oily skin types, hydrating might be sufficient for your skin on a day to day basis.

Click Here to Read More About Skin Hydration

Does coconut oil work for your skin type? Let us know in the comments below!


USA Today – Consumers Going Nuts Over Coconut Oil

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Reader Interactions


  1. Elizabeth says

    I suffered from cystic acne most of my life. I cleared it by making some diet and lifestyle changes that I cover a lot on my blog. Once it cleared, it became even healthier after I switched to natural skin care. I have been using coconut oil on my skin for years now with no problems at all. Either solid or liquid…they both work fine for me. I also use your aloe herb cleanser, and the ayurvedic scrub has really helped reduce my pores. But the main thing I noticed when I started using oil on my face is that it actually helped my oil production balance out, which was really cool.

  2. karina says

    Interesting. I am in my mid-forties and have dry/normal skin. coconut oil always gives me tiny pimples, almost like a blister rash. I don’t get acne. Do you know what properties of coconut oil do that? Does ingesting it have the same effect?

    • Annmarie Skin Care says

      Hi Karina,

      Extra virgin coconut oil has long-chain triglycerides that are a larger molecular structure. This is usually great for dry skin because it helps to hold in moisture, but for people who are prone to clogged pores, it can clog pores. Because this is topical, ingesting the coconut oil doesn’t have the same effect at all 🙂

    • Disha says

      Hi Karina,
      From what I know, coconut oil does have a purging period. Coconut oil penetrating and energy giving. depending on how much toxins you have this purge could last anywhere from 1- 4 weeks and from there on it should only get better.
      You can help your body detox and reduce the intensity of this flare up by drinking tons of water, vitamin C and exercise.
      Do let me me know if this works for you

  3. Eleanor says

    i suffer with dry skin and now that the cold weather is setting in , I always use coconut oil and find it helps a treat. Coconut oil has so many other benefits too which I didn’t realise. Has anyone tried using it instead of cooking oil? It’s quite nice as a salad dressing too.

  4. Nur says

    Your entry helps me a lot ! But I still have some questions circling in my mind . Can organic Virgin coconut oil mixed with other oil such as grapeseed oil and organic Virgin olive oil and essential oil blend to make a bar soap ?

    • Annmarie Skin Care says

      You can use a blend of oils to make a bar soap, but there does have to be a saponified oil in it. Coconut oil changes when it’s saponified and it’s much less likely to clog pores.

  5. Mopelola says

    There we go. I’m gonna keep coconut oil off my face and see if the clogged pores reduce. It’s been quite challenging since I started using it. I was encouraged to apply the oil morning and night, but I will discontinue it for a while and check for improvements.

  6. Kierah says

    I have quite a bit of acne on my upper to mid back, and marks as a result of the acne. Do you reckon coconut oil will help treat the acne and the marks?

    • Michon Newman says

      Hey Kierah! I would recommend taking a look at your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash products. Using these products on your body daily in the shower can really clog the pores up if they are full of chemicals & fillers. If you use body lotion in that area as well, that could also be a culprit of the breakouts.

      Here are two companies to check out for awesome, natural hair care:

      -True Botanicals-
      -100% Pure-

      For body wash, using our Rosemary Peppermint Body Wash with a loofah would be a wonderful purifying & exfoliating option.

      I would try and identify the source of the breakouts first & get that under control before diving into the coconut oil 🙂 Good luck!

      xo- Michon
      ASC Customer Happiness Team

  7. Jennie says

    I have always had pretty clear skin (besides the dreaded high school days) but have struggled with dry spots all year, especially around my mouth and nose. Not too terribly dry, just enough to make my makeup look flaky after a couple hours. I was tired of using moisturizers full of chemicals, and they never really helped anyway. I stumbled across a recipe for home made moisturizer online and thought I’d try it. It’s coconut oil, lavender oil (it’s very soothing and is supposed to help with wrinkles and blemishes) and vitamin e oil. It stays solid for the most part in my bathroom cabinet. But once I rub it in my hands is becomes liquid. I’ve noticed an improvement in the circles under my eyes and the plumpness of my skin in general. I apply it after I wash my face and also when I get out of the shower. I’ll put just a bit on the spots that tend to get dry before I apply makeup. No more flaky spots! I do get a few more blemishes than usual, but they tend to be very small and don’t bother me at all. And on top of all that, I made a batch 5 months ago and it’s still only half gone. The savings is incredible when making your own moisturizer! 😀

  8. Sal says

    By the way, I have tried VCO on my face and I always get tiny pimples! And I have dry skin, so I guess it can clog dry skin as well. But I dont have any problems with MCT coconut oil though and is it often in my face oil blends.

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