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Does Coconut Oil Clog Your Pores?

Cracking open one of skin care’s biggest questions, and other important tips for using coconut oil for skin

Written by: 100% PURE®

Chances are, you’ve heard some of the buzz about coconut oil in the past few years. Different skin care gurus and holistic doctors have made various exaggerated claims, touting coconut oil as a skin and health saving superfood — with unrivaled abilities to heal your external and internal health. In more recent months, there have been new health headlines declaring that coconut oil isn’t as good for us as we were originally told.

This confusing (and often contradictory) advice around coconut oil also spills into the skin care world. Some advice will tell you that coconut oil is a skin savior, while other advice will warn you to steer clear. So which one is it? Particularly in conversations about acne and pore health, things can get super confusing, and frankly, we’re ready for some answers!

In terms of coconut oil for skin, the debate typically boils down to one key question: does coconut oil clog your pores? The answer, unfortunately, isn’t so simple. As with all skin care, coconut oil will work differently for different skin types; that being said, it does have some serious proven benefits. So skip the controversy, and arm yourself with knowledge by reading up on coconut oil pros and cons!

Coconut-Oil The TYPE of Coconut Oil Matters

First, it’s important to point out that there are two main categories of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Refined oils are cheaper to produce, processed from dried rather than fresh coconut, and are subject to significant amounts of heat and chemical treatment in order to remove the coconut-ty flavour and aroma. This means that refined coconut oils are essentially weakened in their production process, ending up with fewer nutrients and compromised nutritional profiles.

Unrefined coconut oil on the other hand is produced from fresh coconuts, which are mechanically pressed (either at high pressure or with a cold press), extracting oil from the seeds and nuts while allowing the chemical structure of the coconut oil to stay intact. Look for cold pressed varieties, as this means that the processing heat is kept low for maximum nutritional integrity.

The takeaway on types of coconut oil for skin? Choose raw, unrefined coconut oils in your DIY skin care treatments. And to avoid pesticides and genetic modification, both of which compromise nutritional properties, opt for organic whenever possible.

Applying Coconut Oil to Your Face: Yay or Nay?

So you’ve managed to find some raw, organic, and unrefined coconut oil. Dare you apply it to your face

If you suffer from clogged pores or blemishes, this oil could be a game-changing antidote. The essential fatty acids present in coconut oil are unique, known as medium-chain-fatty-acids. MCFAs are shorter than other types of fatty acids, and are integral to producing energy and promoting cell metabolism. This means the MCFAs applied topically can contribute to healthy skin cell turnover, and the development of strong new tissue (key in the context of healing blemishes).

Coconut oil also contains high quantities of lauric acid and capric acid, both tremendously beneficial fatty acids that are naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral — meaning they’re particularly effective at minimizing the bacteria linked to acne (P. acnes). In fact, studies have shown that lauric acid is more effective at killing acne bacteria than benzoyl peroxide, a popular lab derived over-the-counter topical that can leave you with dryness and irritation.

For those suffering with post-acne marks and scarring, coconut oil can be super effective at efficiently fading discoloration. Topical application helps promote collagen production, speeding up the process whereby your skin sloughs away dead cells and replaces them with new, healthy tissue.

So for skin types dealing with bacterial acne (rather than hormonal, cystic, or stress-induced acne), topical coconut oil application can be immensely helpful and healing, while being less harsh than conventional acne treatments.


Other pros of applying coconut oil on your face? For those of us dealing with too much oil production, greasiness, and sebum buildup, coconut oil can actually help train the epidermal barrier into producing fewer natural lipids. The application of too many stripping anti-acne ingredients, even plant-based astringents like witch hazel or tea tree oil, can actually produce a situation in which your skin over-produces oil as a reactionary mechanism. Light application of coconut oil can re-fortify your lipid barrier, sending your pores the message that there’s adequate moisture, so they can stop going into lipid overdrive.

To sum things up: coconut oil can be an immensely helpful for those dealing with bacterial acne, post-acne scarring, pore congestion, and oil overproduction that’s caused by stripping ingredients.

Who Shouldn’t Use Coconut Oil for Skin?

With these glorious benefits in mind, it’s important to note that coconut oil won’t work well for every skin type.

Since it’s somewhat comedogenic (meaning that it can clog pores), coconut oil may not be the smartest choice to apply coconut oil to combination skin types. Combination refers to those suffering from naturally oily skin as well as dryness and flaking. Key to keep in mind: while some people suffer from oil overproduction as a reaction against stripping products, others have naturally greasy skin, regardless of products. In this case, it’s not a matter of ‘re-training’ your lipid barrier. Rather, it’s necessary to use non comedogenic oils like grapeseed oil, which is high in antioxidants and Vitamin E but won’t clog pores. In terms of the flaking often experienced by combination skin types: this can also react negatively with coconut oil if proper exfoliation habits aren’t adopted. If coconut oil is applied in the presence of dead skin cells, the lipid and dead skin cells can mix, producing a clogged pore and the eruption of a comedone.

Another possible coconut oil mishap can occur if you’re suffering from extreme skin dehydration, and decide to apply coconut oil to remedy the dryness. With it’s waxy substance and rich lipid profile, coconut oil acts as a barrier on your outermost skin layers; this means that if you apply it to skin prior to properly hydrating with H2O, your skin will be left with too many lipids and not enough water (meaning skin will still be thirsty). Dehydrated skin can actually contribute to clogged pores, by producing flaking, dead skin cells, and dullness.

To sum things up: those of us suffering from combination skin, intense oil overproduction, or extreme dehydration might want to use coconut oil sparingly: enough to reap its benefits, but not enough to potentially exacerbate existing issues.

Our last tidbit for you is that coconut oil isn’t just for skin. It boasts a long list of benefits for hair, nails, and also internal digestion. Intrigued? Peep our post about coconut oil for skin and hair to get the full scoop!

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