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Coconut Oil Causing Acne – My Story

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Let’s talk coconut oil causing acne and breakouts

Recently, I’ve been posting a lot of blog articles and videos about oils, including:

One question I’ve been asked a lot about is coconut oil.

I don’t recommend using pure coconut oil for oil cleansing or as a facial moisturizer (especially for acne prone skin). The reason why is because it’s rated fairly high on the list of comedogenic ingredients (ingredients that can potentially clog pores and cause breakouts). I also had a terrible experience using coconut oil (more on that later), so seeing with my own eyes (and skin) how it can adversely affect your skin, I don’t recommend it.

But… I do use, review, and recommend some natural products and makeup that contain small amounts of coconut oil in their formulas, and I know a lot of you are confused – is it just 100% pure coconut oil you’ve got to stay away from, or everything that contains it?

There’s a big difference between the two, and I would like to share my personal experience of experimenting with both, and hopefully you’ll feel more clear when selecting skin care products and makeup.

coconut oil causing clogged pores and bumpy skin texture, my story.

My bad experience of coconut oil causing breakouts

A few years ago, just around the time I gave birth to my daughter Luna Ray, I switched from using honey to wash my face to the oil cleansing method. I made the switch because after giving birth to my daughter, my hormones were all over the place, my skin was breaking out like crazy and I needed a cleanser that was much more moisturizing.

Oil cleansing seemed to be the right fit. Within days my skin was a lot softer and moisturized, but I was still getting breakouts. Over time, I started getting tiny raised bumps all over my face. Because I started oil cleansing around the same time I gave birth to my daughter, I didn’t connect the breakouts and tiny bumps to the coconut oil, I thought it was from postpartum hormones and breastfeeding. Over time I was able to manage the breakouts by drinking water infused with fresh mint (my favourite remedy for breakouts), but the tiny bumps remained on my face for months (maybe even a year or so!).

It was only until one day I ran out of coconut oil and I was too lazy to get more, that I started using the olive oil from my kitchen to wash my face. Within 3 days all the bumps disappeared and my skin was soft and smooth. I couldn’t believe it! It was pretty obvious to me it was the coconut oil that was causing the issues all along and not my postpartum hormones.

A few weeks after I started using the olive oil, I received my first bottle of Living Libations Best Skin Ever. I had been eagerly awaiting it to arrive, but when I looked at the ingredients and saw the coconut oil listed, I thought “Oh no!!” The last thing I wanted to do was put anything with coconut oil on my face.

But on the other hand, the olive oil wasn’t working so great for me either. The tiny bumps vanished, and my skin was extremely soft, smooth and clear from the olive oil; but within hours of washing my face with it, my skin would get REALLY oily and I was afraid I was having some sort of allergic reaction to it.

So I decided to give the Living Libations Best Skin Ever a try. I had already used many of their oil-based serums before and never had any issues. I figured if it gives me those bumps on my face like the pure coconut oil did, I could always go back to olive oil until I found something else.

And I’m happy I gave it a try because it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in an oil cleanser – it thoroughly washed and moisturized my skin, didn’t give me those terrible bumps or make my skin oilier (in fact it balances out my oily skin and I find double cleansing with it in the evenings makes my skin super smooth and bright).

Using pure coconut oil vs. products containing small amount of it

Since realizing pure coconut oil was giving me raised bumps all over my face but not Living Libations Best Skin Ever that contains small amounts of coconut oil, I’ve done other experiments with other natural skin care products and makeup containing coconut oil. And to my relief, nothing gives me those raised bumps or breakouts like using pure, undiluted coconut oil.

So why does pure coconut oil give me breakouts, but not products containing it?

I believe it’s because even though coconut oil is listed as an ingredient, there’s probably not enough of it in the products and makeup I’m regularly using to adversely affect my skin (unless it’s predominately made of coconut oil). It’s kind of like essential oils – many of them need to be diluted by carrier oils to be safely applied to your skin (if not, they can burn or damage your skin). Same with coconut oil. Putting it straight on your face could very well give you breakouts, but having tiny amounts mixed with other carrier oils and ingredients might not be detrimental to your skin at all.

Also, when ingredients are tested to see if they’re comedogenic, they’re tested on their own, in their pure undiluted form. So something like coconut oil on it’s own is rated pretty high on the comedogenic list, and causes breakouts and issues for a lot of people (especially those prone to acne and breakouts). But, if it’s mixed and diluted down by other ingredients, it might not be such an issue.

Also it is important to mention that the comedogenic list is general guidelines. At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different and you need to do your own experiments and observe how your skin responds to what you’re using. For example, recently I was talking to someone on Instagram that was telling me that rosehip seed oil gives her terrible breakouts, and she can’t even go near products that contain it. On the list of comedogenic ingredients, rosehip seed oil actually rates really low, and many people rave about the skin clearing properties of the oil – but obviously it’s not good for everyone.

How to know if skin care products & makeup containing coconut oil will be safe for acne prone skin?

If there’s an oil blend, skincare product, or makeup you want to use, but it contains coconut oil and you’re unsure if it’s safe for acne prone skin, I recommend contacting the company to find out what percentage of the product is made of coconut oil. If it’s more than 5-10% coconut oil, I would probably avoid the product.

Reading the product’s ingredients is very important, but it isn’t always telling of the quantities being used. For example, an oil blend could be composed of 10 ingredients, but 98% of it could just be one ingredient, and the remaining 9 ingredients could make up only 2% of the product. Same with makeup, coconut oil could be listed as an ingredient, but only trace amounts can be found in it.

Also looking up reviews on the internet can be quite telling of a product too, so if you’re unsure, do the research too!

And lastly, like any skin care product and ingredient, everyone’s skin reacts differently, so the only way to really know for sure, is by trying.

For acne prone skin, what oils should you use instead of coconut oil?

For acne prone skin that is either normal, combination, or oily, I recommend:

Jojoba Oil

Hempseed Oil (only suitable for oily skin types)

Grape Seed Oil

An Oil Blend (I love Living Libations Best Skin Ever)

For acne prone skin that may needs a richer oil than the ones list above (like acne prone skin that is dry or maturing), I recommend:

Rosehip Seed Oil

Safflower Oil

Sunflower Oil

Squalane Oil

An Oil Blend (I love Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser or One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil)

Avoid:

Mineral Oil (or baby oil)

Coconut Oil (pure, undiluted)

Beware, Marula Oil too can be an issue for some people with acne prone skin.


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About the Author

Natasha St. Michael is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. She is a member of the American Association For Drugless Practitioners. For over a decade, Natasha has been coaching her clients how to improve their diet, lifestyle and skin care routine to reach their health goals and have clear youthful skin.

DISCLAIMER

This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.

All product reviews, recommendations, and references are based on the author’s personal experience and impressions using the products. All views and opinions are the author’s own. 

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Comments

31 Comments

  1. My skin is dry and flakey.I have tried alot of oils on my skin. The only oil that works for me is fraconiated coconut oil. This is a liquid not a pure hard coconut oil. It takes away the flakiness. I suffer from adult acne around my chin and mouth I still haven’t found anything that works 100% I believe it’s something missing inside my body if anyone has a suggestion please let me know what it could be.

    • Hi Angela, I recommend increasing the healthy fats in your diet and decreasing sugar. Also if you are getting dry patches and don’t have active breakouts, I recommend gently exfoliating once a week (to remove the build up of dead skin cells), and you can try using castor oil as a spot treatment just on areas where it’s really dry. Castor oil is non-comedogenic, but very rich, so best to just use it on areas that really need it (and not on your entire face). Let me know how it goes 🙂

    • Hi, I tried coconut oil for a night time moisturizer two nights in a row. I now have raised bumps on my face. I am not acne prone. I stopped the coconut oil, should I try olive oil to rid the bumps? Or is there another suggestion?
      I have ingested coconut oil in the past and that has no effect on me.
      Thank you

    • Hi Arienne,
      I had a similar reaction to coconut oil, and I switched to olive oil and the bumps went away, but I found my skin got really oily from olive oil (no breakouts, but very oily). Each oil we can react differently to, so you can try the olive oil out and if it works good, continue, but if you notice any adverse reaction to it, you can try other oils like grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, jojoba, argan oil, etc.

    • i tried coconut oil and within one month got several tiny pimples about my face. no other oil has ever done that and being a massage therapist really into natural oils and essentials, i’m familiar with most oils. i even used cherry pit oil and loved it too. so i had similar experience and even though i am 63 i guess i have oily skin still 🙂 i take borage oil internally a couple times a week and i think it helps a lot to hydrate skin and little known ~i have always had tender breasts (don’t ask me why) but i ran across somewhere that borage oil helps relieve tender breast pain and lo-and-behold after two weeks of taking borage oil caps, tender breast is gone for first time in my life LOL i have to say, always always clean the outside of any oil bottle! ~air gets to oil and makes it go rancid and anything in the plant/food world that is rancid is suspected of causing cancer. You can smell rancidity but you get better at it with each time you actually come across rancid oil. as a massage therapist that traded massages with other therapists, it seems more often than not, i touched their bottle and it was sticky-rancid!!! so i would have to scold that therapist (scolding is awkward but necessary when life threatening stuff is going on lol). maybe i lose a friend/colleague but at least i know i let them know. over time, the more things you smell, the more your nose knows 🙂

  2. Hi Natosha!i just want to first say I have been watching you on YouTube for the last 6 years, you have truly inspired me and taught me so much about natural remedies, thank you 🙂 as for the coconut oil, I use it on a daily bases as a moisturizer before bed after washing my face, I also use it as a makeup remover, so far I love it and no break outs yet anyway.

    • Thanks Victoria for your comment. If the coconut oil is working for you, continue! Not everyone is going to get breakouts or reactions to it, so I’m happy you’re sharing your experience 🙂

  3. Hello 🙂 thanks for this post. Sorry I’m late to the game (this was posted in July) but I am scouring the internet because I am desperate for answers! I have dry/sensitive skin, but have never had any problems with acne or major breakouts… I’m 25, active, eat ‘clean,’ no medications, and out of nowhere recently my face has these tiny raised bumps everywhere that you said coconut oil was causing for you. I use only natural skin cares, I was my face with raw honey and throughout the week do the oil cleanse with olive oil… sometimes I put on ten drops of olive oil before bed post-cleanse. But during the day my moisturizer is jojoba oil for after the cleanse. So a couple months ago I started getting what looked like a break out on my chin, raised red bumps… but it turned in to a rash that is staying only on my chin but now moving up under my eye too. Some days my eyelid hurts it is a little swollen. I feel like I am having an allergic reaction but could this be happening so long after using the oils? Not much else has changed. I moved to a new apartment a few months ago in a historic building and am now thinking maybe it is the water … if you could give me any thoughts or suggestions I would be so happy! It makes me so self conscious and I want to clear it up, I used to not have to wear face make up because I had clear skin and now I feel like I can’t leave the house without makeup…. thank you

    • Hi Laura,
      It sounds to me you’re having some sort of allergic reaction. It could even be a food allergy (painful rash or raw skin around the mouth and under eyes sometimes comes from allergy to strawberries, pineapple, and/or citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, etc).
      It could also be from your water. You could do an experiment of washing your face only with bottled or distilled water for a month to see if that helps – if it does, then you’ll need to install a home water filtration system and/or shower filter.
      You might want to consult with an allergist and/or dermatologist to do allergy tests.
      Hope this helps!

  4. hello! I lovee reading your blog! 🙂
    I’ve used coconut oil before as a moisturiser/for treating pimples and it actually worked really well for a period of time but after that once I applied it onto my face again, it started giving me burning sensation and I never ever used it again. :/

    • Hi Rika,
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear the coconut oil didn’t work out so well, but I’m glad you caught it before it could caused further issues.

  5. Hey thanks for sharing! What did your bumps look like (color, size)? I used cocnut oil to heal a part of my face and broke out in tiny seemingly raised white bumps and I am not sure if it was the coconut oil or some other product I am using. Thanks!

    • Hi Katie,
      The bumps I get from pure coconut oil are tiny raised bumps that are the color of my skin (so they aren’t red or pink, or irritated), just little raised bumps everywhere (especially on my forehead). If a products gives me a reaction, I usually start getting the bumps within a few days, and once I stop using the product it mostly goes away in a few days, but can sometimes take a few weeks for it to be completely gone (depending on how bad the bumps were to start with). Nowadays I know what to look out for, so I can catch it quickly before it does any serious damage!

    • How long did the longest take to dissapear? I have one pretty white one that isnt going away. Not sure if it is what youre talking about or if it is some hypopigmentation. I was also using diluted apple cider vinegar at the time.

    • I saw a noticeable difference within a few days, but for the bumps to completely disappear, it took a few months.

  6. Hi! I’m 18 with acne prone skin but I am on birth control so it definitely keeps any constant acne away but I do get break outs. After I tried coconut oil to remove my makeup because it’s so good at that, I realized I wasn’t having hardly any breakouts on my chin anymore (which is usually where I broke out). But after maybe 2 weeks of using it, the skin around my left eye broke out until little tiny pimples with tiny white heads. I never pick my pimples so I’ve left them there and after reading this article, I’m wondering if it’s the coconut oil. But why would it only affect one eye? My eye lids are very sensitive as well as my skin is very sensitive, I liked that the coconut oil didn’t aggravate my face and I’m scared to stop using it because maybe my chin will break out again if I stop. What do you think? 🙂

    • Hi Angel-Lee,
      Sorry to hear about the reaction you’re having near your eyes. It could be the coconut oil causing it. The pores in our eye area can get clogged quite easily, many people get clogged pores in that area from any oil. What you can do is wash your face with the coconut oil avoiding the eye area, and try an oil-free eye makeup remover, this will probably solve the issue where you’re still getting the benefits from using the coconut oil on the rest of your face, but using something without oil in the eye area that can tolerate it.

  7. Hey.I have been using coconut oil for like 3 weeks at night and then I sleep.now I have pimples on the right side of my face and it left scars,bumps on nose and forehead but there os no reaction on the otherside it is sooo clear.please tell what to do now plus any remedi for scars.thanks

    • The breakouts are probably coming from the coconut oil, or from the detergent you are using on your linens and pillow case, or a mixture of the two. Best to stop using coconut oil and change your detergent to an unscented eco detergent. Once you discontinue the coconut oil, your skin should clear up after a few weeks.

  8. Mine are bumps take are sore and water under the skin after washing hard then have tons of small white hard bumps all over
    My skin is so mess up messing with it

    • Sounds like you got the bumps from the coconut oil. Best to stop using it. It should clear up in a few weeks.

  9. Hi, so I have recently started using natural products on my face. I wash my face with honey, and I tone with a rosewater aloe mixture that I make myself. I implemented each new step into my skincare routine a couple weeks apart, so I know the honey and rose water helped clear up my acne. For my moisturizer I made a homemade lotion from beeswax, coconut oil, and a tablespoon of carrot seed oil, raspberry seed oil, and castor oil. However, after reading so many horror stories, I am regretting using coconut oil in my lotion. I have only been using it a week and a half but I have gotten more breakouts on my face. Since I added good quality ingredients into this lotion I don’t want to throw the whole thing away. Is there some type of other oil or butter I can blend into this moisturizer to dilute the coconut oil? I considered blending distilled water into it, what do you think?

    • Hi Nat,
      I wouldn’t use it on your face, instead use it as a body lotion or hand cream. You probably won’t get the same types of breakouts on your legs or hands, so it’s safe to use there. I wouldn’t add anything or try to fix it, just use it somewhere else. (you can also use it on your hair as a hair mask, I actually love coconut oil as a hair mask, and as long as I wash it out, I don’t get breakouts from it).

  10. Yes! Me too! I started using pure coconut oil mixed with coffee grounds, sugar, cayenne pepper, and a few drops of grapefruit oil for cellulite. Granted, I rubbed it all over my body, legs, butt, thighs, and I noticed my cellulite was reduced (not 100%, but definitely a very noticeable change). Anyway, I was like, “This stuff is magic, I’ll use it on my face, too!” Oh. My. God. DO NOT use pure coconut oil anything on the face! My forehead broke out with so much acne that every time I looked in a bright bathroom mirror I was like, “UGH! I LOOK LIKE A PEPPERONI PIZZA AND I’M IN MY 30s!!!” Use it anywhere but the face. =)

    • Oh no! Sorry to hear what the coconut oil did to your face, but good you knew where it was coming from. Me I can’t even use pure coconut oil on my body, it gives me painful breakouts everywhere!

  11. Hello Natasha ! I started Oil cleansing with pure coconut oil in April this year. Unfortunately I didn’t read all about this before. I had (and I’m still having) a bad breakout and it just doesn’t seem to get okay. I’ve stopped using everything and I have no idea what to do anymore. They are painful cystic acne. I’ve had a clear skin for entire 26 years of my life.

    • Hi Shreya, sorry to hear about your reaction to coconut oil, terrible! It can take a few weeks for your skin to balance out after you stop using it. I recommend taking my free Acne Solutions 5-Day Email Course, it will get you started with what to do with your diet and skincare routine to start clearing up your skin. You can sign-up here: https://www.inspirebeautyshop.com/free-acne-email-course/

  12. Wow…this explains why my skin went from pretty good to terrible within a week. I decided to do the double cleanse method and bought pure coconut oil.. OMG I have hard white irregular lumps on my cheeks! So distressing. Good to know it is the coconut oil. How do I “get” the coconut oil completely “off” of my skin? Steam it and use a clay mask? I am so annoyed with myself for not researching before I bought it.
    I need this to clear up asap.

    Thank you for all of the good information.

    • Hi Susan,
      Glad this info helped you figure out what’s causing the bumps. I wouldn’t steam, but you could use a clay mask once or twice a week to help speed up the healing. It should go away in the next few weeks. Some people the bumps disappear in days, others it can take a few weeks. You should start to see improvement in your skin once you stopped using the coconut oil.

  13. Omg I should’ve read this before putting coconut oil on my face as a makeup remover, I sadly didn’t have good luck with it. The coconut oil reacted so out so bad on my forehead and cheeks ( red dots snd redness but no bumps ) take the fact that i have clear skin gladly. I don’t know what to put on my skin or if I should go with my normal skin care methods

  14. PS Lately i’ve made a little glass pot of ghee butter mixed with do terra bergamot oil and like it a lot 🙂 i had bought the ghee butter to use in place of regular butter but discovered it has loads more calories LOL so i had such a huge bottle of ghee, am glad i found a wonderful use. also, i’ve been using sandalwood powder (light) for over 10 years as a face powder but recently mixed it with ghee and it is fantastic for light to beige skin tones ~there are darker sandalwood (red) for darker skin tones too. wonderful site!


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