Many years ago, I wrote an article about the many benefits of coconut oil for skin for an information platform that, since then, garnered plenty of interest.
I was perplexed that my own passion for wellness products wasn’t a very well-known fact in wellness circles, but it seemed that my experimentation with coconut oil (which started when I lived in Europe), wasn’t as popular in the US. Although back then, coconut oil usage for the skin, hair, and health wasn’t as prevalent as today, the curiosity about its benefits was very high and continues to be!
Even today, the amazing knowledge of the benefits of coconut oil for sensitive, dry and oily skin is not as mainstream as it could be, given the availability and the sheer dietary benefits of this tropical panacea.
Not only is coconut oil beneficial internally, but its anti-inflammatory properties and antimicrobial properties are highly healing for external wounds, rashes, and abrasions and the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
In fact, I helped a friend heal her deep cut a few years back with my simple healing tools consisting of banking soda (to wash the wound) and coconut oil, and she was so shocked about the fast healing and no redness that she looked at me straight into my eyes and said: “you can make a living doing that for people.” And as a detoxification teacher who loves to share her best wellness tips, her prophecy came to be!
Using coconut oil both internally and externally is important – since everything you consume internally will reflect in your state of being and skin externally and vice versa. Skin is a permeable membrane that absorbs everything that is placed on it directly into the bloodstream, and as I always tell everyone I know, “if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.”
How is Coconut Oil Made and The Composition of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is produced by heat pressing or cold pressing coconut meat to extract its oil. While most unrefined coconut oil uses high-quality cold press extraction methods to produce virgin or extra virgin coconut oil that is extracted from the wick and meat of coconuts, the lesser quality refined coconut oils are usually extracted from the copra or the dried meat of the coconut.
Coconut oil is mostly composed of saturated fat with some components of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as many beneficial fatty acids that protect the brain, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion, lower inflammation, and help control blood sugar levels.
Coconut oil contains many medium-chain fatty acids, including caprylic, caproic, capric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acids – with lauric acid being the most dominant in composition, followed by linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is known for its ability to help improve brain, skin, heart, bone, and reproductive system function, while lauric acid is known for its anticancer properties and immune system regeneration, which enables the body to fight viruses and bacterial infections.
Saturated Fat Composition in Coconut Oil
At 100% fat content, 80-90% of coconut oil is composed of saturated fat which most health experts seem to frown upon as unhealthy. However, nothing can be further from the truth! The designation of “unsaturated” and “saturated” is only applied to categorize the consistency of fat at room temperature.
Saturated fats tend to solidify at room temperature, which many healthcare practitioners see as detrimental to cholesterol and lipid levels in the body.
For one, the body operates at a higher heat than the average room temperature and is a biological entity that doesn’t work through a mechanistic, reductionist understanding of biological processes and that deems certain isolated compounds as “good” or “bad” for us.
However, this logic doesn’t take into account the source, chemistry, and composition of the oil, which comes from some of the healthiest, nervous-system-feeding foods that nourish the body from the inside out. Neurons require more energy than a typical cell, and coconut is known for its ability to revitalize the function of the brain!
Aligning with this sentiment, Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine doctor, states that “even when saturated fat does raise your cholesterol, the type of cholesterol becomes more important than cholesterol itself.”
What many conventional researchers and doctors fail to take into account is that although coconut oil does raise cholesterol, it is the good cholesterol, or HDL, which is responsible for making hormones, helping to process and utilize Vitamin D, creating enzymes needed for digestion and lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, among many other benefits!
Studies point to the many health benefits of certain saturated fats in the diet, particularly if the fat comes from healthy food sources as opposed to animal products. Admittedly, a 2018 study of the effects of saturated fat on health concluded that:
there appears to be no consistent benefit to all-cause or cardiovascular disease mortality from the reduction of dietary saturated fat. Further, saturated fat has been shown in some cases to have an inverse relationship with obesity-related type 2 diabetes. Rather than focus on a single nutrient, the overall diet quality and elimination of processed foods, including simple carbohydrates, would likely do more to improve cardiovascular disease and overall health.
Saturated fat has its place in our diet, especially if it comes from plant-based sources like coconut and palm oils, but it should only account for a small percentage of our daily calorie intake (about 10 percent), since large amounts of any fat and oil can overburden the function of the liver and other organs.
Likewise, keep in mind that once compounds are extracted from a source artificially, they won’t contain the holistic benefits that are highly beneficial.
You can imagine how essential oils are extracted from pounds of plants and flowers and how a few drops of essential oil are highly concentrated and even harmful if they come into direct contact with the skin. The same goes for all extracted material; therefore, we should use extracted compounds diligently and in small amounts!
Does Coconut Oil Clog Pores?
Since coconut oil can potentially clog pores, it may not be the ideal topical face or body oil for acne-prone skin. If you do suffer from acne, my personal recommendation is to use shea butter topically instead. However, the best part is that you can still use coconut oil internally (in your food), even if you break out often; this way, you will get all the positive benefits of coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory and healing properties for the skin and won’t have to worry about it causing further acne problems.
However, if you don’t have acne-prone skin, coconut oil makes for the perfect body moisturizer, especially if you want to improve the state of your skin barrier function.
Essentially, coconut oil helps protect the good bacteria that live on our skin from harmful bacteria through its antifungal and antibacterial properties, enabling the skin to maintain healthy pH chemistry and providing soothing relief to inflammation, dryness, irritation, scars, and stretch marks. It also feeds the good bacteria with nutrition, strengthening its capacity to protect the body from oxidation and free radicals.
And although it may not be topically ideal for certain skin types, coconut oil is known to soothe eczema, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and athlete’s foot, and makes for the perfect healthy skincare routine, especially for dry and sensitive skin types.
The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Skin
The skin is the largest organ in the body and is one of the major elimination organs that the body uses to purge waste, acids, toxins, and chemicals from the body. A permeable organ, it is a porous and breathing entity that is constantly working to keep us protected through the excretion of acids (such as uric acid, ammonia, and urea), immune function, absorption of essential nutrients from the environment, and heat regulation.
The benefits of coconut oil for the skin are multi-fold! Coconut oil works as a body lotion, lip balm, gentle cleanser, makeup remover, massage oil, a base for a natural hand sanitizer, and sunscreen. It is also ideal as a facial moisturizer for aging skin, as it helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Given its detoxifying properties in the body, it is one of the best oil to use for a health and beauty routine for the skin, hair, nails, and mouth (oil pulling), since it reduces inflammation, balances the skin’s pH chemistry, creates a protective barrier from pollution and environmental toxins and protects one’s skin from prolonged sun exposure.
One of the only studies out there on the effects of virgin coconut oil and its skin protective properties in-vitro “demonstrated the anti-inflammatory activity of VCO by suppressing inflammatory markers and protecting the skin by enhancing skin barrier function.” The implications of this protective ability assist the body to detoxify its metabolic waste through the barrier more effectively.
By strengthening the skin, we can actually help support the function of other elimination organs – primarily the kidneys. Skin problems usually reflect internal elimination problems and lymphatic system stagnation, which the skin compensates for by helping the kidneys filter waste through its pores.
The most symptomatic sign of this compensation is eczema, psoriasis, fungus infections, and rashes. By supporting all the elimination organs – including the skin – internally through a detoxification diet, the skin will automatically clear up.
Another few ways to help the skin detoxify and promote better circulation of lymph and blood is through sauna treatments and sweat, dry brushing, and light exercise (which helps move the lymphatic body waste to the kidneys for elimination). By feeding your skin internally and helping to treat it externally, you’ll look and feel healthier and years younger!
Here is a short video from Dr. Bruce Fife, a coconut oil expert and the author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, who has read every study out there about coconut oil and decided to write a book to help educate others on its incredible benefits:
Coconut Oil for Wrinkles and Aging Skin
Not only is coconut oil wonderful for skin conditions, but it is also vastly advantageous for skin elasticity, irritated skin, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone. Its anti-aging antioxidants and fatty acids in coconut oil promote collagen production and help to regenerate the skin and reduce chronic inflammation.
Additionally, lauric acid can shed dead skin cells and revitalize dry skin. It is also known to help fade scars, and dark spots and to reduce the appearance of skin pigmentation over time.
Wrinkles and premature skin aging are mostly caused by internal inflammation and dehydration as well as the oxidation of the skin fat molecules. Likewise, improper blood circulation leads to a lack of nourishment and nutritional supplementation to the skin epidermis and causes skin degeneration and premature aging over time.
Coconut oil hydrates and nourishes the skin from the inside out. If your skin is particularly dry because of internal dehydration, applying coconut oil as a facial and body moisturizer will promote natural sebum production that will hydrate your skin.
Likewise, coconut oil can mimic the body’s own sebum, which the skin produces to lubricate and protect its barrier.
Research (and my own real-life experience!) shows that oily skin is prone to less wrinkling than dry skin. Therefore, a more hydrated skin barrier will be more elastic and resilient and have a diminished creasing capacity.
Indeed, using coconut oil daily – in addition to shea and cocoa butter – is the best skin habit you can adopt both when young (for prevention) and when getting older (for prevention and reversal).
Coconut Oil as a Natural Sun Screen
I am a big proponent of natural sunshine for health and recommend to everyone I know to have at least 20 minutes of direct sun exposure daily. As a Western culture, I think we had become truly afraid of the sun, finding ways to “protect ourselves” from the source of life with lotions and creams that are quite toxic and which are directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
We had truly been led astray with our belief in sun avoidance, which I believe is causing a health crisis of Vitamin D deficiency.
Instead, we should focus on the extremes. If we decide to spend plenty of time outdoors in direct sun without a hat, then yes, we should take measures to protect ourselves.
But this doesn’t have to include putting conventional, toxic sunscreen on our skin, which, when exposed to UV sunlight, magnifies the absorption rate of the chemicals in the sunscreen. Instead, we can opt to spend more time in the shade, wear a hat, and use the natural SPF protection available to us in coconut oil.
Not only are natural oils and butters beneficial for sun protection, but they also nourish and hydrate the skin, improving and healing its condition. Indeed, coconut oil is even great for sunburn! And unless you spend enormous time outdoors in direct sun and need a stronger natural sunscreen with zinc, you can’t go wrong with mother nature.
Coconut oil has an estimated SPF of anywhere from 1 to 10, which may not seem like much, but think of all the additional benefits it includes that are magnified by the sun’s rays! It provides enough protection but also doesn’t completely block out the UVB rays that are necessary for Vitamin D synthesis.
If you spend a moderate time outdoors with a hat, you should get as much natural sunlight on the skin as possible without any sun protection to get enough Vitamin D daily. And if you feel you need a bit more hydration and nourishment after a long time in the sun, coconut oil is the much-needed moisturizer that will do the trick.
How to Choose the Best Coconut Oil for Your Skin Care
Although coconut oil is healthy in its most natural unprocessed form, the extraction process and therefore the quality of the oil varies from one brand to another. Here are some important designations and factors to consider when looking for the healthiest and the most quality coconut oil:
Unrefined Coconut Oil – This coconut oil is extracted from mature coconuts using natural methods without heat or chemicals; this designation also means that the oil is (extra) virgin.
Refined Coconut Oil – This type of coconut oil is usually extracted from the dried flesh of coconut using artificial methods and chemicals; this is the least quality coconut oil in the market and should be skipped.
Cold Pressed Coconut Oil – This method of extraction ensures that the oil is not heated beyond 120F to ensure all the nutrients are preserved.
Organic Coconut Oil – This oil is made from coconuts that have not been grown with pesticides or which haven’t been treated with any preservatives and chemicals.
(Extra) Virgin Coconut Oil – According to some sources, there is no difference between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil, since coconut oil undergoes only one pressing. It truly depends on the company about which wording they choose for the marketing of the product.
Given these different designation categories, the best coconut oil you can purchase on the market is…drum-roll please…unrefined and organic (extra) virgin coconut oil! if you are looking to consume the oil internally, always go for the highest quality available.
The best way to use coconut oil which is the most effective at healing the skin is to consume it internally and apply it externally. Indeed, skincare should always be a natural process of re-balancing the body with natural anti-inflammatory compounds.
Given the coconut’s ability to both detoxify and strengthen, it is the ideal oil to use (for acne only internally) for inflammatory skin conditions, which manifest as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and premature aging.
The wonderful benefits of coconut oil for the skin range from an effective moisturizer with anti-aging properties and makeup remover, to lip balm and natural sunblock. It is truly the panacea for those looking to heal, strengthen and regenerate their skin and has been a part of my diet and skin routine for many years!
And if you’re willing to dive even deeper into detoxifying and healing your skin from the inside out, I had created a free 20-page skin detoxification guide – which you can find at the bottom of my home page – based on my journey of healing chronic eczema that will teach you all you need to know about detoxification and regeneration!