Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

Wondering if coconut oil is causing your acne? Get all your questions answered from the experts at CLEARSTEM.

More than a flavor boost to your favorite curry, coconut oil is also a prolific ingredient in hair, skin, and other cosmetic products. It is a powerful moisturizer for dry or irritated skin, as well as a natural remedy for damaged hair. 

However, despite its incredible hydration, coconut oil has been found to clog pores. Depending on your skin type, coconut oil could be the cause of acne or other skin issues. 

The expert skincare team at CLEARSTEM is here to discuss the pros and cons of coconut oil, including its role in acne production (spoiler: it’s comedogenic). We’ll suggest ways to safely use coconut oil before highlighting other non-toxic oils that can rejuvenate your skin without clogging pores.

What is Coconut Oil?

Pure coconut oil is the thick liquid squeezed out of fresh or dry coconut meat. Its composition is 100% fat, so it actually has a more solidified texture than other typical oils and remains firm at room temperature. Unlike olive oil, for instance, it does not naturally pour out from a jar—it must be heated up to turn into a liquid. 

There are several different types of coconut oil:

  • Virgin coconut oil – Made from either dry or fresh coconut meat, this type of natural oil is pressed directly from the fruit. Heat is used with fresh coconut, while a cold press is used for dry. This type of natural oil has a distinct coconut smell and lasts for 2 to 3 years.
  • Refined coconut oil – Made only from dry coconut meat, this oil is filtered through clay to remove color, smell, and bacteria. As a result, refined coconut oil has no flavor or odor. It lasts in your pantry for a few months. 
  • Partially hydrogenated coconut oil – Made commercially, this type undergoes a hydrogenation process to increase its shelf life. In the process, these chemical reactions add trans fats to the coconut oil. 

Before making a purchase, check to see whether the coconut oil is natural or processed, as this will affect its health and cosmetic benefits. 

What is Coconut Oil Used for?

Coconut oil is perfectly safe to eat in moderation, and it is often used as a substitute for olive or vegetable oil. It can provide a subtle flavor to a savory dish or replace fats like butter in baked goods. Studies show that it can also be used to help manage blood sugar, reduce stress, improve oral health, and minimize the risk of liver disease. It is rather high in saturated fats, so like anything in your diet, it’s recommended to consume in moderation. 

Of course, coconut oil can also be used outside the kitchen. It is found in a wide array of skin and hair care products due to its moisturizing and hydrating properties. But it does come with its own risks.

What Are the Benefits of Coconut Oil in Skincare & Haircare?

Coconut oil’s greatest strength for skin and hair products is its natural moisturizing ability. It easily hydrates skin and creates a healthy, dewy glow. Coconut oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help restore your skin’s barrier.  

In the hair world, coconut oil is known to make locks softer and shinier, and is a common ingredient in products for dry or frizzy hair types. 

Thanks to its hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties, common uses of coconut oil include: 

  • Non-facial moisturizer – The thick texture and hydrating effect of coconut oil make it a great natural lotion. You can use it all over your body for softer, smoother skin. Plus, depending on the type you use, it can leave your skin with a fresh coconut scent. 
  • Nail care – Gently massage your fingers with coconut oil to nourish your nails and soften your cuticles. For an at-home spa treatment, leave the coconut oil on your nails overnight. 
  • Lip balm – Coconut oil can help moisturize chronically dry and cracked lips, and since it’s safe to eat, there’s no problem having it so close to your mouth. 
  • Minor wound care – We don’t recommend coconut oil for serious injuries, but for minor cuts, scrapes, rashes, or burns, it helps reduce inflammation while also moisturizing the wound site. 

You may have noticed that we specified using coconut oil as a non-facial moisturizer. This is because despite its many health and cosmetic benefits, coconut oil may cause acne—read on to learn why. 

Is Coconut Oil Comedogenic?

Yes, coconut oil is comedogenic—and in certain cases, it can cause breakouts. 

Comedogenic is the skincare term for “pore-clogging,” one of the key causes of acne formation. It doesn’t matter that coconut oil is all-natural—many natural and non-toxic substances are pore-clogging ingredients. These ingredients simply block pores naturally, making an acne breakout more likely. 

Studies show that coconut oil is highly comedogenic. On a scale from 0 to 5, it has a comedogenic rating of 4. 

Why is Coconut Oil Comedogenic?

As we’ve mentioned, coconut oil is 100% fat, which means it’s more solid than liquid. It is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, including:

  • Lauric acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Myristic acid 
  • Stearic acid

Medium-chain fatty acids are what make coconut oil an effective moisturizer, as they provide hydration, strengthen the skin barrier, and repair sensitive skin. However, these fatty acids are also the reason coconut oil is comedogenic. 

Why does coconut oil cause acne? It is comedogenic down to its chemical structure—its fatty acids all have moderate to high comedogenic ratings, at around 3 or 4 out of 5. 

When Does Coconut Oil Cause Acne?

While everyone’s skin is different, it is clear that coconut oil is comedogenic and has the potential to cause acne. If you’ve been trying to clear your skin to no avail, coconut oil may be the culprit. 

Since coconut oil is likely to clog pores, this buildup encourages the formation of different types of acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads. Coconut oil can also cause a skin condition called milia, in which clogged pores form small white or yellow bumps on the skin. 

The takeaway? Even as coconut oil hydrates your skin, it could also be clogging your pores. 

How Does Coconut Oil Affect Different Skin Types?

In skincare, it is hard to make sweeping generalizations. What works wonders for someone’s breakouts may cause a flareup in another’s.

Coconut oil is more likely to cause breakouts in acne-prone skin. This is true for many ingredients with a moderate to high comedogenic rating. Due to its pore-clogging properties, coconut oil exacerbates skin issues for people who are already susceptible to oily skin or acne breakout problems. Even if you don’t put it on your face, it can cause acne on your chest or back. 

On the other hand, dry skin types can thrive with coconut oil. It is a highly effective body butter and can help with dry skin

No matter your skin type, we recommend you avoid putting coconut oil on your face. As an alternative, seek out other deeply hydrating products and moisturizers that are safe and non-comedogenic for your face. 

4 Non-Comedogenic Oils for Acne-Prone Skin

Just because coconut oil is comedogenic doesn’t mean that all oils cause breakouts. In fact, there are many natural oils to safely incorporate into a skincare routine, even for those who are acne-prone. 

Here are some non-comedogenic oils, i.e. non-pore-clogging, to try in your skincare routine:

  • Sunflower oil – This anti-inflammatory oil is great for any skin type. Its natural acids and antioxidants, like vitamin E, can help minimize wrinkles, hydrate skin, and soothe irritation. 
  • Castor oil – Used medicinally for thousands of years, castor oil is also found in hair and skin care products due to its hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Just be careful with ingestion—castor oil is also a natural laxative. 
  • Chaulmoogra oil – Historically used as a treatment for leprosy, chaulmoogra oil is also known to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be safely applied to hair and skin. 
  • Squalane – Squalane is a saturated oil that is widely used in wellness products due to its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. This non-comedogenic oil can be a secret weapon for healthier hair and skin. 

Not sure if an oil is comedogenic or not? Use our handy pore-clogging checker or consult our master list of pore-clogging ingredients. 

Choose Non-Comedogenic Skincare from CLEARSTEM

At CLEARSTEM, we’re dedicated to high-quality, non-comedogenic products for all skin types. From exfoliants to conditioners, our mission is to create a daily wellness routine free of comedogenic irritants. 

To banish acne for good, create a hair and skin regimen with completely non-comedogenic ingredients. Even if your skincare is non-comedogenic, anything that comes in contact with your face—makeup, sunscreen, shampoo runoff—can continue to break you out.

Check out our wide range of products for acne-prone skin, like moisturizers, masks, serums, and everything in between. Featuring anti-aging remedies, our skincare helps unclog pores while promoting vibrant, glowing skin. Top it off with our non-comedogenic hair products, designed to hydrate and strengthen hair without any harmful pore-cloggers.   

To more deeply target acne, try MINDBODYSKIN®, a hormonal acne supplement that both clears skin and fights acne at the source. Packed with powerful all-natural ingredients, these daily capsules help balance hormones, boost immunity, regulate digestion, improve liver function, and reduce stress. 

Clear skin starts with CLEARSTEM. Take our skin quiz today to get started. 


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Healthline. What’s Good About Sunflower Oil for Skin?

Healthline. 4 Benefits and Uses of Castor Oil.

Science Direct. Gum arabic/guar gum stabilized Hydnocarpus wightiana oil nanohydrogel: Characterization, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-biofilm activities.

Cleveland Clinic. What Is Squalane?