Why Putting Coconut Oil on Face Could Worsen Your Skin + Learn Top Alternatives

Coconut oil has long gained traction in the beauty community for its long list of beneficial properties. From curing acne to moisturizing the skin and reducing wrinkles, it seems as though there is nothing coconut oil can do! But is it really the skin-improving panacea the beauty community has touted it to be? After thorough research, the Beautylectual team discovered that putting coconut oil on face might worsen your skin problems. 

Here’s what you should know about coconut oil and why including it in your skincare routine might not be a good idea. 

What Is Coconut Oil? 

Coconut oil in a glass jar

Coconut oil is a fatty, plant-based oil derived from the coconut fruit’s meat, wick, and milk. The type of coconuts utilized and the process of oil extraction varies across coconut oils. Like olive oil, coconut oil comes in various grades, including refined, virgin, and extra virgin

  • Refined coconut oil: This type of coconut oil is bleached, deodorized, and void of coconut aroma or taste. It does not contain sterols, or vitamin E. Refined coconut oil is often used for cooking. 
  • Virgin & extra virgin coconut oil: These types of coconut oil are unrefined, with a fresh coconut aroma and taste. It contains sterols and vitamin E and is often the oil of choice for applying topically. 

What Are Its Alleged Benefits?

While coconut oil is perceived to have plenty of benefits when applied to the skin, studies on these benefits are limited or based only on animal or test-tube studies. Here’s what coconut oil claims to do:

  • Kills bacteria Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid – a fatty acid that may kill microorganisms. It is said to cure skin infections caused by bacteria or fungi. 
  • Reduces inflammation. A study made on rats discovered coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory properties. This may benefit people suffering from eczema, psoriasis, or contact dermatitis. 
  • Treats acne. Some research showed that coconut oil’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties might help reduce acne. 
  • Moisturizes. One study discovered that coconut oil might significantly improve skin hydration just as much as mineral oil, while several studies concluded that it might help treat eczema. 
  • Heals wounds. Several animal studies discovered that coconut oil speeds up wound healing and enhances collagen production, a protein essential for wound recovery. 

The Real Deal About Putting Coconut Oil on Your Face

coconut oil from coconuts

What do the experts say about adding coconut oil to your skincare routine? After thorough research, we discovered that many dermatologists caution against it. But why so? The answer lies in coconut oil’s comedogenic rating. 

Dermatologists consider a substance highly comedogenic if it clogs pores, and oils with high comedogenic ratings aren’t the best solution for blemish-prone or sensitive skin. On a scale of 1 to 5 on the comedogenic scale, with 5 being the most comedogenic, dermatologists list coconut as level 4 and sometimes even higher. 

With its tendency to suffocate the skin, coconut oil can worsen many skin problems. Here’s the real deal about putting coconut oil on your face. 

1. It can make your acne worse.

As one of the most comedogenic oils, coconut oil can worsen breakouts by blocking pores, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. The good news is that not all highly comedogenic products guarantee an acne flare-up. Several factors determine how your skin will react to pore-clogging substances, including how dry your skin is and your pore size. 

2. It’s a great moisturizer but not for your face. 

Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and is great at sealing in moisture, so it only makes sense that it serves as an effective hydrating agent, right? Well, yes and no. 

While coconut oil is excellent at combatting dry and flaky skin, it’s not the best moisturizer for the face due to its high comedogenic rating. Use it instead on cracked heels or dry elbows – just try to keep it away from your facial area. 

3. It isn’t an effective wrinkle reducer. 

The beauty community believes that coconut oil can remove wrinkles and reduce the appearance of sagging skin thanks to its alleged collagen-boosting properties. However, many dermatologists believe that very few topical collagen boosters are effective, and oils have difficulty penetrating the skin to hasten collagen production. 

While oils may give the appearance of reducing wrinkles thanks to their moisturizing properties, the effect is only temporary. 

4. It shouldn’t be used as a night cream. 

Many in the beauty community suggest leaving coconut oil on the skin before sleeping as an overnight emollient. However, coconut oil’s high comedogenic rating makes this practice a massive skincare boo-boo. Leaving coconut oil on your face while you sleep could leave you waking up with a breakout. 

How To Use Coconut Oil

While coconut oil is not great for your face, you can reap its many benefits on other body parts. 

  • Moisturize dry patches. Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizing lotion to hydrate dry patches of skin on your body, like your heels and elbows. It can even be used to calm down eczema
  • Heal wounds. If you find yourself in a pinch without a wound dressing, a dab of coconut oil on a small scratch or cut may help it heal faster
  • Condition hair. Coconut oil can tame frizz and strengthen and condition hair thanks to its lauric acid content. You can also apply it to your eyelashes to make them stronger. 

Skin-Friendly Alternatives

If you must use an oil to moisturize your face or remove makeup, stick with non-comedogenic variations:

  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Neem oil

These are less likely to clog pores and serve as excellent face massage oils, lip balms, or hair conditioners.