Non-volatile plant kernel oil whose high saturated fat content has emollient properties for skin. It’s used as a solvent, skin conditioner, fragrance masking agent, hair conditioner and all-around generally emollient. Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain fatty acids, also known as medium-chain triglycerides (these have an anti-inflammatory benefit). Used by itself as a moisturizer, coconut oil’s effectiveness is similar to mineral oil, though coconut oil is far more volatile and likely to turn rancid (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com).
Coconut oil is actually a common cosmetic ingredient (coconut byproducts are in everything). It’s actually highly comedogenic (has the ability to clog pores). Some people can practically bathe in it and not get one pimple but others can be really sensitive and can’t even use it on places not known for getting clogged pores (like legs, for example).
Coconut Oil as Natural Sunscreen
There is no scientific evidence that coconut oil protects skin from sun damage.
Coconut Oil & Acne
All reports of using coconut oil (virgin, which means unrefined), to heal acne are anecdotal.
However, there is one study showing that lauric acid, the major fatty acid in coconut oil, has antibacterial activity against the strain of acne-supporting bacteria, aka P. acnes. Although one study isn’t much to go on and this research did not demonstrate that the lauric acid reduced or eliminated acne, it’s still intriguing.
It seems that when lauric acid from coconut oil is applied to skin via liposomes (a type of delivery system) it fuses with the cell membrane of the acne-causing bacteria, where it then releases its fatty acid as the liposome dissolves, killing the acne-causing bacteria (Source: Biomaterials, 2009).
This isn’t the same as applying pure coconut oil to skin; for example, the use of delivery systems varied in the study, and it did not address topical application of coconut oil (just lauric acid), or whether the pure oil would produce similar results on acne. There is also the consideration that not everyone who has acne benefits from topical anti-bacterial treatments, regardless of their source. That’s one reason there are so many treatment options for acne.
- Antimicrobial property of lauric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: its therapeutic potential for inflammatory acne vulgaris.
- Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of capric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: a comparative study with lauric acid.
- In vivo treatment of Propionibacterium acnes infection with liposomal lauric acids
- Antibacterial activity of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus.