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 free radical damage; 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 acne break outs.
Can Coconut Oil Help Reduce Acne?
There are pros and cons to oily skin. On the one hand, it can leave you prone to large pores and acne. 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 breakouts.
Acne prone 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 acne-prone skin.
The oil does have antibacterial properties that may kill bacteria before it has a chance to form blackheads and pimples. It’s a natural oil, which often can help balance skin oils. And then there are all those healthy fatty acids that not only moisturize and plump, but may help fade acne scars.
Some people with oily skin try the oil and rave about the results. Others try it and their acne breakouts get worse. 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 acne 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 increase risk of 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. (That’s why we use it in our Herbal Facial Oils.) It absorbs quickly without clogging pores, and can be beneficial for oily skin.
But if you struggle with acne breakouts, there are some other options that may work better for you.
7 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 dead skin cells 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 (such as it is in our Herbal Facial 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!
- Geranium: This unique oil helps balance skin oils and tighten pores.
- Myrrh: Battle breakouts and aging with this one. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helps treat minor wounds.
- Hazelnut: Called the “pore-reducing” oil, this one smoothes and tones skin, while shrinking pores and helping to absorb extra oil.
- Grapeseed: Packed with healthy antioxidants and vitamins, this light oil hydrates without feeling greasy, and helps tighten pores.
- Black cumin seed: Your skin will love the vitamins and minerals in this oil, but it also has a reputation for fighting acne, with powerful anti-microbial properties.
- Sunflower seed: This oil will help protect you from damaging UV rays, while encouraging the production of collagen and elastin.
- Olive: Anti-aging is this oil’s strength, as it has a unique combination of antioxidants. It also has healing properties, and may help fade old acne scars.
Those are the ones you want to look for. Here's a list of oils that don't work well with acne prone skin.
Consider Hydration Vs. Moisture
Your skin may be dry and prone to acne. 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.
Does coconut oil work for your skin type? Let us know in the comments below!