When Coconut Oil May Not Be Right for You

by Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner April 3, 2014

Coconut
By Carla Hernandez, NTP of Wise Roots Nutrition

Like most people in the Real Food community, I LOVE my coconut products: coconut flour, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut butter, coconut chips, and obviously coconut oil.  

While coconut is no doubt a healthy traditional food, what many do not realize is that it has the potential to negatively affect the skin. This potential occurs whether it is ingested or put on the skin directly.

From what we know of the immune system, it is not adequately developed until the age of two. The foods we are exposed to in childhood, are usually foods that will be less problematic later in life as we have already developed the antibodies for our immune system to recognize these foods as safe.

However, if we over expose ourselves to a particular food, or that food begins to be produced in a way where it impacts digestion or the immune system, this is typically when it can still cause issues, as in the case of dairy and gluten for many.  My point here is that most people did not consume coconut products in their diet growing up, unless they were born in the tropics or are of African or Polynesian decent. Because this is a staple of their traditional diets, they are adapted and can tolerate it better.

Dr. Weston Price made this same observation when studying different cultures and their staple foods. The healthy diets he found encompassed a wide variety, from plant and animals to almost exclusively meat-based, to fairly low in animal foods, and yet all these cultures were considered healthy. This is why it’s nearly impossible for everyone to thrive off the same “healthy” diet, and why it is important to keep in mind when we discover new “super foods”. Many foods look great on paper, but how they react inside each individual will vary greatly, and depending on one’s ethnicity, will dictate how well they can tolerate them.

Within the last year, I have been exclusively focusing on the root cause of acne internally with clients, but topically I have not given this much thought until recently. I fortunately met with Kimberly Tan, owner and esthetician at skinSALVATION Acne Clinic in San Francisco. This is where I discovered the term comedogenic, which refers to the ability of something to produce or aggravate acne, usually tending to clog pores on a topical level. Products that contain comedogenic ingredients continue to cause pimples for acne prone skin, no matter the nationality or gender of a person.

Like many terms that are used freely for marketing purposes, products that claim to be “non-comedogenic” “oil-free” “dermatologist tested/ approved” does not necessarily mean it is free of clogging ingredients. Just like the supplement industry, beauty and personal hygiene products are not regulated, so there is no standard or truth to what a company has to comply to on labels. Therefore, like everything else you choose to put in and on your body, understanding what ingredients to look for is vital to know if it is truly acne safe. Just one comedogenic ingredient alone in a product, is enough to cause pimples in someone who is acne prone.

Not everyone is affected by comedogenic ingredients. It depends on a person’s skin, pores and genes, as to the severity of the problem. If you suffer from acne and have addressed other factors such as diet, digestion, hormones and recognizing food sensitivities, then this is something you should consider.

Coconut Oil Scores High as an Acne Aggravating Ingredient

Kimberly Tan has had great success in addressing acne of all types by educating people on this matter, and of course treating it topically, as the right products make a big difference in skin recovery.  I am definitely reaping the benefits of this knowledge. I eat what I consider a very high quality, clean and anti-inflammatory diet, and naturally in my line of work, am very aware of other causative factors, yet still break out consistently. I couldn’t figure out why, until I began to take a closer look at what I was applying on my s kin. Even within my “natural” and practically edible products I was using, Many of them contained coconut oil, and to my surprise, coconut oil is one of the highest scoring comedogenic ingredients on the comedogenicity scale.

I was worried and hesitant at first to give up my precious coconut oil, but wanted to give my skin a fair chance. I not only tossed my makeup, shampoo’s, toothpaste and any haircare products that contained coconut and any other clogging ingredient, I also took it out of my diet. The good news was I could keep other coconut foods, just not the oil itself, as internally this seems to be the biggest culprit since it is concentrated in the fatty acid that has the clogging ability.

Personally, I feel fine when I consume coconut, and with all the health benefits we know it contains, including the antibacterial properties, this was the last thing I would have suspected that could be causing my stubborn breakouts. It has been only about a month since switching out all my products containing coconut oil and eliminating it from my diet and I have already seen an immediate difference in my breakouts.

I was curious about the inflammatory affect that coconut oil has internally on the skin. As it seems, there is many different types of acne that may appear and be different for every person. According to Kimberly Tan, “eating it internally may not be causing inflamed acne, but the seeds are still planted, especially for those who are acne prone. These people NEED to stick to an acne free lifestyle to prevent breakouts. Products help to take the seed (which causes follicles to clog) out once diet and acne safe topical products are in place, but it can come back. Planting a seed is the first step to causing a breakout, and is fairly easy to do if exposed to these factors. Even just one exposure can bring acne back”.

What to Do if You Suffer from Stubborn Acne

If you have been struggling with getting your breakouts under control, take a look at everything you have been using on your skin and check for comedogenic ingredients, including skin care, face wash, moisturizer, masks, shaving cream, toothpaste, lip balms and lipsticks, sunscreen, toner, scrubs, foundation, face powder and any other makeup. When choosing products to buy, make sure that the company discloses a full list of ingredients on their label (not just the active ingredients) and check all of them against the comedogenic list before buying.

Bottom line: Everyone is different.  Like changing your diet and cleaning your pantry of junk food, you’ve got to purge old acne to get a clean slate to work with, including an acne-safe lifestyle and proven non-comedogenic products. Stay with this routine for at least 6 months, and then you can reintroduce each questionable and untested product ( like those with coconut oil) to see if you notice a reaction in your skin, very similar to introducing food sensitivities back into your diet. Make sure the manufacture does not change the formulation to these acne safe products. Most importantly, be consistent with your actions and always double check ingredients on everything before applying to your face, body and even hair, as it will all eventually come in contact with your skin.

Implementing an acne-safe lifestyle will prevent acne from forming internally (anti-inflammatory diet and the right nutrient support), and non-comedogenic products will prevent acne from forming externally.

Beating acne is a whole body approach!

About the Author

carla hernandezCarla Hernandez is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She is the founder of Wise Roots Nutrition, which is an integrative approach that focuses on customized plans to support the root cause of a person’s health and skin challenges.

Carla educates and empowers you to make responsible and healthful food choices that restore balance and proper function to your body, as well as offers lab testing to provide accurate recommendations and effective solutions. She believes in finding the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Carla works with people locally in San Francisco, as well as long distance via phone and Skype. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions.

Sign up to get Carla’s Healthy Skin Smoothie Recipes and latest skin information and tips on her site, wiserootsnutrition.com or connect with her on Facebook.

More Information

Eczema Treatment: Avoiding the Drug-Based Domino Effect

Why Buying Costco Coconut Oil is Risky Business

How to Use Coconut Oil for Weight Loss

Red Palm Oil:  Great Alternative to Coconut Oil

Picture Credit

 

Comments (199)

  1. Pingback: Why I Stopped Using Coconut Oil On My Face | Peace on the Skin & Peace Within

  2. Sandra Sorenson via Facebook October 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Yes! great post as this applies with other foods as well. No such thing as one size (diet) fits all.

    Reply
    • every time i put coconut oil on my face my face turns red and i have no idea why and it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for it to go back to my natural skin tone does this mean that I’m allergic

      Reply
  3. interesting, thanks.

    i’m just the opposite — my skin seems OK with coconut oil;
    but as much as i like coconut, i always get a mild cramp with coconut (raw especially).
    coconut is not my ancestor’s diet that may be why

    regards,

    Reply
  4. What about a substitute for internal? I of course eat plenty of grass Fed butter, but like some alternatives. What about red palm oil? (I have tested and seen huge improvement with cutting out the coconut oil).

    For on skin, what is your second choice? I am potentially allergic to jojoba oil

    Reply
  5. I love coconut oil for my hands and hair. However, my face doesn’t like it too well. Lastly, it makes me sick to my stomach which is why, no matter how many health benefits it has, I cannot take it. I don’t seem to do well at all ingesting any tropical oils. I find that I do better with animal based oils – Cod liver; beef tallow; lard, etc.

    Reply
  6. I am continually amazed at what a what a great product coconut oil is, but I suppose everything has its negatives.

    Reply
  7. Currently, I am avoiding all dairy including ghee and grass fed butter. So I use only EVOO and coconut oil so my question is what oil can I cook with? I use coconut oil for lots like almond butter, eggs, vegetable hash, etc.

    Reply
  8. Catherine de Médicis May 13, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I’ve never suffered from allergies or acne. I bet the most sufferers of acne have never touched coconut oil, though. People who do tend to be die hard vegans and the like.

    A few people I knew off did have bad acne, most were school colleagues when I was a child. I think its true that it is genetic as most didn’t have a problem other than just one or two pimples usually going into puberty. Hygiene is crucial, if possible never use a face towel twice always use a new dry washed one dipped in boiled water, let it cool three seconds and wipe. Damp face towels are hotbeds for bacteria put it straight into the face towel bin for washing. Buy a lot, enough for a new one twice a day everyday, cotton. And never use oil.

    If your skin is constantly dry you could have a deficiency in your diet or a medical problem. Adding oil to your skin is not such a good idea any oil as it goes off and is not absorbed making a good bed of bacteria that might cause infections or worsen acne. Oil also attracts dust and grime to settle as it doesn’t dry easily.

    I lived in a cold area for a few years and my skin did get dry a lot mostly from indoor heating. I used a water based vitamin E cream wiping with a new face cloth before application. Was perfect. It dries quickly and forms a very thin porous film over the skin which if made wet again immediately dissolves.

    Never IMO use soap on the face that can also cause inflammation, rather just use warm-hot water on a face towel and a water based scrub once a week with a very mild disinfectant like salt.

    Water based creams not oil based are the best if you do have dry sensitive skin.

    Coconut oil is not often used on skins in Asia anymore or on hair. A lot of older people did when they were younger though. They have stronger thicker skin than caucasians do for example and with more pigment that isn’t so sensitive mostly so it isn’t such a problem if you also do.

    Reply
    • Just a point of clarification – I am not sure which part of Asia you mean but I have lived in (and still do live) many parts of Asia and coconut oil is very commonplace even today. And it is not only the older people who use them. In fact, I just saw my maid oil her hair with coconut oil and rub the remnants on her body & face.

      Reply
  9. Coconut oil cleared up the razor bumps on my legs from shaving and helped some breakouts on my arms. I have acne so do not use it in my face, but I love it on arms and legs.

    Reply
  10. I’m quite curious to what ‘seeds that clog pores’ means. I’m not very familiar with the topic but by this post alone it makes no sense at all that eating coconut oil ‘plants the seeds’.
    I’m by no means an expert, but I have some personal experience with die off/detox symptoms due to foods. Coconut oil, having many antifungal and other properties, is extremely likely to worsen whatever symptoms you may have due to your particular toxicity and genetic and environmental background. So in case of acne being part of a detox/deficiency ingesting something that gives your body the nutrients it may have needed for detox or by affecting your gut flora by causing some die off, you can certainly worsen acne, but seems like in that case, you don’t just want to quit the coconut oil, but work more on detox and keep reintroducing it while keeping detox/die off symptoms more under control.

    Reply
    • when interviewed by carla for this article, i mentioned the term ‘seeds’. ‘seeds’ are what we call impactions that form in the pore of acne-prone skin. they are comprised of dead skin cells, sebum, and debris (comedogenic ingredients – or ingredients in skin products that will literally clog pores). these seeds are the actual matter that we remove from the pores during corrective acne treatments, during extractions. once these ‘seeds’ are removed, the skin clears.

      skins that are genetically acne-prone naturally over-produce skin cells and sebum, and additional factors like diet or endocrine system imbalances can put this already-present-over-production into overdrive, causing even more acne to form.

      however, in our candida-related acne cases, we do agree that there are die-off and detoxing symptoms that occur; including those that manifest in the skin – rashes and the like. in our clinic, we have, over the years, honed a clinical eye to be able to see the difference between candida “acne” and actual acne vulgaris; and recommend that our clients who are battling the yeast try acne-safe alternatives, like oregano oil, or pure herbs’ cansol tincture – along with a specially formulated acne + candida safe protocol – to get the yeast under control. we’ve been able to get good results in an average of 2-3 month’s time using this technique.

      that all being said; acne is a threshold thing – some body systems and skin follicles can tolerate more coconut oil (or other foods like soy and dairy) than others – we’ve just found that time and time again, coconut oil causes trouble in our client’s facial complexions.

      sounds like you are a rad, determined detoxer – keep on keeping the good fight!

      to a healthy body and clear skin – kim.

      Reply
  11. I’ve been using a homemade deodorant w/coconut oil for about 6 mos. I just recently started getting sores (not a rash). I’ve never had a problem when using just coconut oil on my face though. Isn’t this a bit strange?

    Reply
  12. Courtney L Plain via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I have had wonderful results with coconut oil internally and externally and I live in Canada.

    Reply
  13. Becky Nicklas via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I had a horrible reaction to it..almost hive like. I use avocado or olive topically.

    Reply
  14. Colleen Knox via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Anything you are sensative or allergic to can cause inflammation and acne. And that can change at any time.

    I don’t know exactly what I have issue with but it’s something. And rancid oils are trouble! That was what I ran into w jojoba. Never ending battle.

    Reply
  15. Abigail Sweeney via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Drea, I was having the same issue with using coconut oil on dermatitis around my nose and chin. While reading up, I discovered that the yeast overgrowth that causes sebhorric dermatitis actually feeds on oils! So I stopped with CO, applied crushed garlic to irritated areas as a poultice, and washed with a combo of raw honey and a bit of baking soda. This was maybe a month ago and my dermatitis is almost completely gone.

    Reply
  16. Gidget Blunt via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 8:35 am

    I found the complete opposite for me. I was very acne prone, but my skin cleared up with coconut oil and apple cider vinegar.

    Reply
  17. I have never heard this and never found it in any research I’ve done on coconut oil. We’ve been using it for many things, especially skin care, for years. My 15 year
    old son had acne really bad for several years. He tried EVERYTHING out there, even lots of natural remedies. He finally started to see results when he used coconut oil. He consumes 3 tablespoons a day and puts a thin layer on his face before bed. His skin got clearer, less inflamed and angry looking, and his complexion has smoothed over. No more bumps or dry scaly skin around pimples. His skin has never looked better. It practically glows!

    Reply
  18. Drea Jenney via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 6:59 am

    I don’t have acne but I do have terrible dermatitis around my nose and eyes that got progressively worse while using coconut oil on my skin and I recently removed it.

    Reply
  19. Rachel Worthington via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Thank you! I have been so frustrated by skin that gets worse the healthier I am (apparently), and recently discovered that my old natural concealer has coconut oil as one of the main ingredients! I am switching to 100% Pure, their concealer has much less pore clogging ingredients… does anyone know of any others? Maybe makeup that actually cleans my skin? haha

    Reply
  20. Patricia Bartholdy-Fifield via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 2:36 am

    The Primal Esthetician Thanks, but I already knew that. I was talking about eliminating it from my diet.

    Reply
  21. Jenya Rafi via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 2:31 am

    I will try to get some jojoba oil like you recommend… Anything else I can do to avoid stretch marks?

    Reply
  22. Maureen Driscoll-Boyle via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 1:57 am

    My skin looks best when i use kirks castile soap and coconut oil for moisturizer. Never have breakouts or blackheads.

    Reply
  23. Keri Garza via Facebook May 6, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Paige I know we love our coconut oil.. This is interesting.. I noticed major breakout after eating raw coconut

    Reply
    • yes I thinks for me too its the raw coconut meat…had the worst breakout of my life skin breakout with this yello crust. it was like I had a chemical peel in my face and arms and stomach. I had cooked some in the oven and was eating a lot of that than any bout a week and a half earlier and had an upset stomach but no breakout. Also I can drink raw young and mature water and milk with no problem. I had hardly ever ate coconut before in my life im 25. Itt was bad, real bad. be careful! and I think im breaking out a second time bc I ate some raw not that much hopefully it wont be bad smh

      Reply
  24. And one more thing…. acne is a genetic condition of hyperkeratinization (excessive production of skin cells within the follicle). That has to be controlled with salicylic acid. Oil production also has to be controlled. Keeping the overproduction of cells in control will help to keep the bacteria at bay, as will using a washcloth to keep skin gently exfoliated. It’s an intricate process. Sugar, peanuts, iodides, grains, and dairy all contribute to acne aggravation.

    Reply
  25. OMG, I’m an esthetician and an NTP, I could have told you that! In fact I have told many people about the comedogenic properties of coconut oil used topically! I have lots of research to back it up. Just check out my page.
    It’s much the same as we would not eat soybean oil, but lab manufactured soybean oil that is transformed into phosphatidylcholine, is very skin similar and imparts the benefits of omega 3′s to the skin.
    So is coconut oil extremely beneficial for our insides but it clogs up our skin. However, there is a silver lining for those of you die-hard coconutters! FRACTIONATED coconut oil is NOT comedogenic! Use it with abandon! The comedogenic properties have been removed. There IS a very valuable reason to NOT be afraid of science and lab made cosmetics. They are made to be BENEFICIAL to the skin. Nature in it’s pure form is not always the right answer for your skin, and one ingredient products are also not the answer.
    You cannot squeeze an orange and get usable vitamin c for your skin.
    You cannot put lemon juice on your skin without damaging the delicate pH of your acid mantle.
    You cannot scrub with salt and not create micro tears in your skin.
    And PLEASE… do NOT use your own urine on your face!
    There is an art to using nature for your skin. And there are formulators that devote all their energies to create natural products that you can use to actually address skin conditions. Trust in those of us whose job it is to know this stuff!
    Your job is to do your research and find an esthetician that reflects your values and that has extended advanced education behind her!
    We can fix the damage you have done with your Pinterest recipes!

    Reply
  26. Veronica Colby Midgley via Facebook April 12, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Kelli Dutton I certainly think this may be true for some people. JJ has a hive-like reaction when he eats coconut oil. I also know several people who use it on their faces daily & have clear, beautiful skin. Everyone is different!

    Reply
  27. I always believe 2 things about food
    (1) Local fruits has local energy, and is suitable to those who stay “local’ , so if you stay in Thailand you can eat the spicy food there because of the hot weather, they meed to eat spicy food so that the sweat can bring down the heat inside their body; but if you eat spicy food during winter time in other part of the world, you probably will catch a cold due to sweating in cool weather.

    (2) Moderation – Do not over eat anything even if it is good.

    Reply
  28. Shannon Martin via Facebook April 12, 2014 at 12:04 am

    I am irritated by coconut oil topically & ingested. I love it but it causes hives & eczema flare ups.

    Reply
  29. Rose Melody- Nicolas Rivera via Facebook April 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    my son has really bad eczema everywhere and we found out through blood testing that one of the things he’s alkergic to is coconut. and his eczema gets worse depending what he eats.

    Reply
  30. Jean Francy via Facebook April 11, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve been suspicious that my ever peeling skin on my face is caused by ingesting coconut oil. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  31. Pingback: Coconut Oil May Not Be Right For You

  32. Hello,

    Very interesting article, I have been using coconut oil for scalp folliculits on my neck for inflammation. Does anyone know any oil that help with this type of situation?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks

    Reply
  33. I took a probiotic made with coconut water, and my eczema flared up so badly on my neck I looked like I had a chemical burn. I’m allergic to latex which apparently is in the coconut family.

    Reply
  34. I learned a long time ago that coconut oil doesn’t let the skin breathe. If you can’t tolerate coconut oil you might consider looking into whether you have leaky gut.

    Reply
  35. I knew this about coconut oil from working in a dermatology office, so I tried it cautiously. However, I have had severe psoriasis, it’s now controlled with diet. It’s all cleared other than a stubborn spot on my scalp and I find that coconut oil gives me the most relief. It goes to show that we all have to experiment and find what works best for us individually.

    Reply
  36. Understanding how the gut works explains this. Increased saturated fat will increase lipopolysaccharide (lps), a powerful endotoxin from bacteria. This will make acne go nuts. Clearing up these bacteria will go along way to having clear skin and much improved health. Then one can go back on a high healthy fat diet.

    Reply
  37. I’m a massage therapist. I tried using coconut oil as a lubricant once, and after about two weeks I had little red bumps on my forearms. I quit using coconut oil and they dried up and were scaly, then back to normal. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  38. Very interesting! My daughter is allergic to all coconut products; both internally and externally. So many in the foodie community use coconut products a lot, so sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones in the world who can’t lol! :) It’s affirming to read that it can cause problems for some. I also enjoyed reading the comments and learning that there are others out there with coconut allergies. It’s been challenging because my daughter is also allergic to dairy and eggs. Thanks again for the great article!

    Reply
  39. I never used face creams on my skin because of the breakout issues. I am getting up there in years and decided I needed to use something. I started CO about 3 yrs ago. My skin has never looked of felt better. When my Granddaughter started having acne problems at 14 she started using only CO on her face to clean with. Just smoothed it on and used a warm cloth to remove. Her acne is nonexistent now. I love it internally or externally.

    Reply
  40. Perhaps the reason why coconut is causing acne is because of its ability to draw out toxins of the body. It’s drawing it out through the point of contact and then gets caught at the skin level. It’s just a thought.

    Reply
  41. i’ve had cystic acne for 15 years and finally a year ago i stopped breaking out and besides a little redness my skin is clear! ….i started taking Radiant Life liver powder and i use himalayan salt water as a toner and then i use expeller pressed coconut oil as moisturiser on my face….i find the virgin coconut oil ‘burned’ my skin but i really like the expeller pressed on my skin.

    Reply
  42. I specialize in acne and coconut oil is one of the most common pore cloggers found in my clients skin care products. Oils high in lauric acid cause microcomedones to slowly develop in the pore not just on the face but on the chest and back. Acne doesn’t erupt over night for everyone who uses it. For some it takes weeks or months for the eruptions to start. CO is typically not and issue on the rest of body because there are fewer sebaceous glands.. Not all coconut oil derived ingredients are an issue. There are several surfactants derived from coconut oil that are not comedogenic. I have never seen any data saying internally CO causes acne. More concerning is dietary iodine and androgens as it concerns acne. The only safe oils in my opinion are sunflower and safflower. Jojoba used in moderation is fine. Jojoba is actually mildly comedogenic as well as olive oil.

    Reply
  43. Wait–what do you mean we produce antibodies that recognize food as being safe? Don’t antibodies do the exact opposite and search for invaders? That whole paragraph really makes no sense. Not sure how serious to take the rest of this post.

    Reply
  44. LOVE, LOVE LOVE that you posted this!!!!! This has been the biggest falsehood that people have bought into! Use jojoba oil on your skin! The closest thing in nature to your skin’s own oils.! Don’t use your cooking oil! You might as well put Crisco on your face!!!

    Reply
  45. Lindsay Zywiciel via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Unless you are living in a tropical climate or have a tropical heritage it probably doesn’t make sense to use coconut oil profusely topically or internally. Sebum is mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids so using oils with high pufa on the skin makes more sense to prevent comedones. Argan, rosehip seed, sea buckthorn, and bird fats are nice on skin for people in moderate climates. Eat locally and moisturize locally too–we import shea and cacao and coconut from the climates where their use is most appropriate when we should look at what grows well around us and use that as adaptogens.

    Reply
  46. Amy Neale via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I love it! I use EVCO from tropical traditions and use it all over my face and body, oil pull with, use it as a base for shampoo and toothpaste and cook with it liberally. Very good results for me and my husband. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to use as a moisturizer in our high humidity summer, but I guess I’ll just use a bit less. I always wipe off the excess with a washcloth to save getting it on my clothes.

    Reply
  47. I didn’t even realize what was causing my face to constantly break out; until I went grain free.

    My joints stopped aching and my skin has been totally clear for 7 months now. My skin has ALWAYS been a BIG problem……I wish I had known earlier! I swear my life would have been different.

    Reply
  48. This is very true! I strongly believe in the blood type diet. and as a type A, coconut oil is not suggested. This is probably true for those that it aggravates acne in. For me, acne was caused by dairy. Great article. thanks

    Reply
  49. Dana Tapkowski via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I kept breaking out and didn’t know why until 1 day I noticed that after applying it to my face – I had a rash across the whole face from it.

    Reply
  50. That’s interesting. I guess it works for me, am I in the minority? I’ve had fantastic results treating my acne with cold processed coconut oil. I have extremely fair skin, and I used to have horrible acne on my upper arms- I massaged it in then went to bed, and in two evenings it had completely disappeared!! I now only use it when needed. :)

    Reply
  51. I do not find this article convincing. From what I understand about Coconut oil, it is very detoxifying. Symptoms that seem like allergies can actually be a healing reaction. I would not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Perhaps starting very small and increasing amounts eaten can produce a less severe healing reaction. At least this is what I have discovered over the years to be true in my family. There is much to support this point of view, from the reading I have done.

    Reply
    • I found this to be the case with me when I was using it daily on my face and as a body lotion. I thought maybe since I am on a thyroid med and coconut affects thyroid, so I’ve read, that this is why. I don’t know, but at the same time, I also was avoiding as much salt as possible and that can affect sleep. I’ve since learned the importance of salt and just use the pink salt. So, I’m not sure it was the coconut oil that was causing my sleep issues.

      Reply
    • Kind of funny, I too started taking it because of all the “health” benefits and found I could not sleep more than 2-4 hours before waking up, my joints started to hurt and my blood sugar numbers went up. I guess this is definitely not for me. Everyone is different, listen to your body and what it is telling you. Sometimes it is hard to get beyond all the hype of products promoting how good they are but it your having a reaction obviously it is not working for you.

      Reply
  52. I’ve been using coconut oil topically and internally for the past year and have noticed that my skin has been dry, itchy and flaky. The skin on my lips and around my mouth peels off constantly. Didn’t occur to me that the miraculous coconut oil could be the culprit. Duh! Thanks!

    Reply
    • I’ve used coconut oil for several years now and I have developed itchy skin all over. Not sure it’s the coconut but I think I will try not using for awhile and see what happens. Do not have any acne symptoms tho although my skin still feels very dry.
      I have used Tropical Traditions expeller pressed.

      Reply
  53. Try using neem oil on your face and neck. It is non-comedogenic and cooling to the skin, which helps if there is inflammation or redness.

    Reply
  54. Corwin Mathin via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I find that article is stupide ! Each person reacts differently to foods. It’s a evidence !

    Reply
  55. robinakagoatmom April 3, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Maybe because I grew up in S. FL decades ago and we ate a lot of coconut from the tree in our back yard and around the neighborhood or that I never had acne issues. My skin has never looked better than since my use of coconut and other traditional oils. I never have the dry itchy skin so many of my post menopausal friends complain of and my facial skin looks better than 20 years ago. All health is individual to our bodies, genetic and other factors. It’s all really trial and error and what works for years may change with aging or the development of a health issue. I also think the concept of moderation is lost sometimes too. Excess anything is usually not good.

    Reply
  56. Roxie Curtis via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Not everything the healthy home economist writes is like the Bible people. The fact that she thinks sonograms hurts babies ears like a concert is ridiculous and caused me to disbelieve anything else she writes. Coconut oil is good for my skin but consuming it being type o blood type caused me severe kidney infections and a stomach ulcer that landed me in the hospital. Do your own research and don’t just listen to one health nut as truth for all.

    Reply
    • Roxie, I do agree we all need to do our own research, but I don’t think it is kind or intelligent to disparge someone else in their own “home”, as this is Sarah’s blog. Just because you disagree is no justification for rudeness. Might consider that your response plays into anyone believing you. Play nice.Make your point without it being at someone else’s expense. Thank you.

      Reply
  57. Meagan Melgares via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    When I started oil cleansing I started with coconut oil, my breakouts didn’t get better and sometimes were even worse. I switched to castor oil and only have breakouts now when I eat too much sugar (which is another trigger for me). My acne is definitely hormonal, so maybe a previous poster (maybe Cristobel?) had something when asked if coconut oil wasn’t good for hormonal acne. Either way, no good for my face although I’m fine eating it or using it as a body lotion.

    Reply
  58. Interesting, coconut oil cleared my skin. I have heard that refined coconut oil will clog pores & virgin will not. Just a thought.

    Reply
  59. Many people who cannot tolerate coconut oil on the skin are perfectly fine eating it. Acne is commonly aggravated by a slow skin metabolism that suffers from longer exposure to all topical irritants. Things that work well on healthy skin cause inflammation for them. I do not believe it us ever necessary to tolerate a violent detox reaction over a mild ailment like acne. It’s not cancer. If you have a bad reaction, the treatment is unhelpful over overly aggressive.

    Reply
  60. My son is allergic to coconut and breaks out in a rash. He loves popcorn. Which oil is healthy to cook my own popcorn with?

    Reply
    • Grass fed ghee is fabulous for popcorn. Pop it wiith ghee and then top with grass fed butter and sea salt. Yum!

      Reply
  61. You wrote an article about eating according to your genealogical heritage/ethnicity/geography. That article has stuck with me since you posted it as I navigate my way through healthier living. I wonder if this coconut oil phenomenon has something to do with it.

    My acne is hormonally and geneticly problematic, but when I was on the SCD diet (and eating a lot of coconut products), it went crazy. Worst since my high school malnourishment days.

    Now, I’m rethinking my daily banana and any other food that isn’t part of my geography and heritage. I am Germanic and Welsh in heritage and live in rural North Eastern US. I tend to prefer meats (particularly beef), fresh water fish, wheat based products, oatmeal, and dairy. I like fresh fruits and vegetables too of course, but I do tend to follow a seasonal pattern in preference. Maybe if I listen to my body and stop force feeding myself other healthful foods, things will balance out.

    Reply
  62. Anna Claire Michaels via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you for this! My body does really well when cooking with coconut oil and using it sparingly as a body lotion, but I cannot use it at all in my hair or on my face…not even coconut oil based soap. Breaks me out every time and leaves residue in my hair. I am convinced it’s just my personal chemistry…I use the top notch stuff too. Great for other uses though! Love oil pulling before brushing my teeth!

    Reply
  63. Katie Hays Smith via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Hmm, this is interesting, as I’m trying to correct and heal the lining of my gut, and know that a lot of people in the WAP community recommend coconut oil to correct it. One of the symptoms of my gut lining is acne. No, not something I consumed in childhood, but I also know that butter is (obviously) comedogenic, but I consume that, too (raw/organic). I know it depends on each person body, but a lot of fats the WAP community consume can be comedogenic. So where does that leave us?

    Reply
    • Katie,
      Check out “The Plan” eating program by Lyn-Genet. I believe her website is lgenet.net. It’s all about the food you eat and how your body reacts to it. If it has a reaction, your body gets inflamed, which results in a host of problems including gap, weight gain, diabetes and the list goes on. She uses a bathroom scale to determine what foods your body reacts to. Amazingly, she has found that some of the foods considered to be the most healthy are the worst, including oat meal, salmon and Greek yogurt. 90% of her clients have reactions to them.

      Reply
  64. Alison Bamford via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Is it negative or is it actually positive? Rashes and other reactions to coconut oil can be detox responses, not allergies.

    The body will use whatever means it can to eliminate toxins, rashes, zits, boils, coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, fevers, etc., in it’s quest to rid itself of unwanted matter.

    Coconut oil can aid and stimulate the body’s capacity to detox more efficiently. The detox process can be short or take a longer time depending on what, and how much needs to be eliminated. The type of process depends on the individual. Some are more prone to rashes, or coughs, or diarrhoea than others.

    Whilst the process may be unpleasant whilst it lasts, it can be worth going through for the benefits at the end….

    Reply
    • Gluten causes my most severe breakouts. Coconut oil actually helps heal the boils and carbuncles that a pizza would give me. One digression shows, literally, on my face.

      Reply
  65. This was very interesting to me as this happened to my daughter. I kept telling her to use coconut oil to help her acne, but it kept getting worse. She has stopped and her skin is clearing. I love using it on my skin and haven’t had any problems.

    Reply
  66. Claire Poulton via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Make sure the coconut oil is not refined. The chemicals they use to process may cause problems. I only buy cold-pressed virgin coconut oil.

    Reply
  67. Amal Harb Skaros via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    It’s important to keep in mind different types of coconut oil – hydrogenated, fractionated, food grade, organic, cold/expeller pressed, hexane free etc. anything great can become overly processed crap and end up having negative effects. I use nutiva brand and never had a problem on myself or my baby.

    Reply
  68. Deborah Pfeiffer Cassidy Ziner via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    My son was using coconut oil instead of shaving cream thinking this was the better option. He has very fair Irish skin. The coconut oil was irritating his skin and causing breakouts. I use it all over my entire body daily and have never had a problem.

    Reply
  69. My son ayden has a skin condition where his little body produces too much histamine so he has very sensitive skin. Some of the topical additives that are coconut based in soaps and lotions were one of the things his dermatologist said to keep off of him. Its strange how internally and externally you can have different reactions

    Reply
  70. Alden Appleby Hultgren via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I use coconut oil on my son instead of lotion. We do a coconut oil massage every night. I wonder if that’s a bad idea? I’m not putting it on his face

    Reply
  71. Mark E. Christiansen via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I use a coconut oil based deodorant with essential oils and have no negative reaction.

    Reply
  72. Interesting. I’ve never had better skin since using a gentle microfiber cloth with water and two tiny squirts if organic argan oil on my face. I’ve had acne since my teens and am now in my 30s, but except for vary occasionally, this method has been great for me for the past year. I didn’t even consider that the argan oil replaced coconut oil on my face. Huh. I’ll have to watch to see if breakouts are connected with higher than normal consumption of coconut oil.

    Reply
  73. I struggled for years with what the dermatologist thought was acne. It wasn’t until I did many things to heal my digestion (GAPS diet) and detox generally that I started to see improvement. But when I started using coconut oil topically it really accelerated the detox process which is what my ‘acne’ was. Incomplete dotoxification. In my case i suspect a lifetime of exposure to mercury from amalgam fillings finally gettin the boot. Now my skin is totally clear. But I used fractionated or MCT oil which is a large part of the active detox component and and I would guess less comedogenic.

    Reply
    • It’s very interesting you mentioned your fillings Catherine, did you have them removed? You have got me thinking. I’m 45 this year & my back has been covered in acne since I was 19 , a few years after my last filling.

      Reply
      • Terry, definitely get your mercury fillings replaced! Don’t know if it will help your acne, but mercury is a toxin, so it’s very dangerous for your body.

        FYI: Here’s something that completely eliminated horrible acne on my chin in less than a week, when nothing else worked…Tamanu oil. Should be able to buy at any health food store or online, but buy only cold pressed, organically grown (I like Life-flo brand, as there are no other oils added to it). After showering, use apple cider vinegar on a cotton pad and apply to your back. When dry, rub in the Tamanu oil. It’s now the only thing I use to moisturize my face – it rejuvenates the skin and gets rid of acne! I hope this helps you.

        Reply
  74. Tara Kent via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve talked to a couple women who had a bad reaction to CO on their skin. I convinced them to stick with it and a few weeks later their skin cleared up. For some people it can be a healing crisis and not reaction. Also you should only be using raw organic non refined CO.

    I’ve recently discovered black soap. The one I use is by Nubian heritage, all brands are not created equal. The stuff is amazing. I was experiencing some pretty bad perioral dermatitis after my son was born and nothing would clear it up. I started using this soap and my skin cleared up within a week. I’ve continued to use it and my pores have gotten smaller and less noticeable and my skin feels extremely soft.

    Reply
  75. Tony Nicholson via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve bought my coconut oil from tropicaltraditions.com and for me is the best and trustworthy.

    Reply
  76. This is why everyone needs to listen to their own bodies. It doesn’t matter if the whole world says it is good for you. If it isn’t helping you then it is not! I cannot use coconut oil on my face as much as I love it. I seem to have no issue eating it or using on my body but no way on my face. I can’t tell you how many times people on the net have told me it just isn’t possible because coconut oil is antibacterial. Yeah OK. I listen to my body and no thanks.

    Reply
  77. Another thing to consider, related to racial heritage, is body type. My acupuncturist says that according to Chinese medicine, coconut water is the “coldest” of the foods. It actually makes sense, since coconuts are only found in tropical climates, that that is where you would find foods that would “cool” your body. The problem, he says, is when you have a cold body type to begin with (many women and children do) and especially if you don’t live in a very warm climate (i live in the ever-chilly bay area), that eating cold foods can damage your body. It’s all about balance. So while I love coconut oil and flour, I use them sparingly and almost never drink coconut water.

    Reply
    • Leah,
      That is an interesting and helpful bit of information. In Ayurveda, you want to cool or warm the body depending on your dosha to gain balance. I can’t drink coconut water. I didn’t know why. But I tend to need to keep my body warm and the coco water would do just the opposite. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Yes, that IS interesting when you consider that coconut oil is believed to nourish the thyroid as well as help speed metabolism and be good for weight loss, as discussed in Eat Fat, Lose Fat.

      Reply
  78. How interesting! I was mixing coconut oil and aloe vera for a lotion and even putting it on my face. I was breaking out terribly. I never looked into it, I just stopped and my skin cleared up. Also I’ve used coconut oil as a lip moisturizer and it dries them out to where they burn if I don’t reapply every so often. I agree that it’s not for everyone. My blood type is AB+ and I don’t think coconut is tolerated well being ingested.

    Reply
  79. Kathryn Bernstein via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Coconut oil totally gave me some of the worst acne ever. I still have a big jar of it but at least I can use it on my hair, as well as oil pulling. But putting it on my face is a definite no no.

    Reply
  80. interesting article although i didn’t finish it. the music is irritating and there is no button to shut it off. nice music yes BUT i like to have a choice whether i want to hear it or not while reading and absorbing information… it produces cognitive dissonance for me..

    Reply
  81. Laila LisaMarie Prescott via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I started incorporating more coconut oil into my diet as per the nutritional guide recommended in The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. I thought at first it might have just been “hormones” b/c I’m still nursing, but after stopping for some time & reintroducing it into my diet, I noticed a HUGE difference in my face. We’re talking crazy breakout vs. relatively clear skin. Thank you for posting this The Healthy Home Economist!

    Reply
  82. Trebor Sutler via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    This makes more sense now why my homemade rosacea salve with lavender e.o. actually inflamed husband’s skin. But worked well on my skin as a moisturizer.

    Reply
  83. Zee Brax via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    The term comodogenic refers only to topically-applied products. Eating oil or fat does not directly cause breakouts; your food is broken down into acids as you digest, and then reassembled for use within the body. Your pores do not extrude the things that you eat. Pimples (but not blackheads) are caused by naturally-occurring bacteria that consume our excess skin oils, inflammation or dead cells that need to be exfoliated.

    If you have blackheads, stop applying oils that are solid at room temperature. This means coconut, shea, cocoa, palm, even beeswax. Resume use only if you live in a harsh winter climate. If you have pimples, first try a chemical exfoliant (your washcloth is not sufficient). Especially as your skin ages, you need to exfoliate even within the pores. The exfoliating masque that I use and recommend is whole milk yogurt, a mashed strawberry (frozen is cheapest and easiest), and maybe a little honey if your skin is acne-prone. Sensitive skin or those with allergies can leave out the strawberry, but should definitely add honey. A small amount will cover your face, neck and decollete. It’s gentle enough to use a few times a week, but be wary if using for the first time (or first time in a while): it can pull a lot of stuff out of your skin, causing a 1-2 day breakout. All of that filth and bacteria has got to go somewhere.

    Reply
  84. LOL ~ Finally glad to see this somewhere. Feared saying it might bring down the wrath of coconut lovers everywhere! Also to consider ~ if you look at the connection to foods and blood types, coconut isn’t tolerated as well by some types. And … one industry rep told me that coconut oil can actually be drying to the skin for some people. Coconut is great for many things, but like anything else, it’s another bandwagon to research before jumping on.

    Reply
  85. My dry skin breakouts a lot when I eat coconut fat and even more if I apply it on my skin, inflammation and irritation. Everyone told me it’s impossible, because coconut is so healthy and a superfood, and I wish it was. But I guess it’s not a superfood for me..:-(

    Reply
    • You are not alone Martina! There are many people who are affected by it, which is why I wrote this article. Just because a food is “healthy” on paper doesn’t mean it will be good for everyone.

      Reply
  86. Nancy Gardner via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

    yeah I can’t eat coconut oil.. for some reason it makes my throat itch… but I can still oil pull…coconut milk itches too

    Reply
  87. I recently started taking MCT oil as per recommended by my holistic doctor. I started slowly and now am up to 1/4 c. daily. Recently, I noticed my back has broken out all along the spine. I have NEVER had problems with break-outs except for the occasional few pimples on the face or the top of my back (usually where my hair touches my body because I have oily hair). I scoured the internet to see if acne could be a side-effect of MCT oil. Miraculously, this article was posted today! I’m thinking I should cut back at this point…

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, I think it is worth a try. Stop it for a week or so and see if you have any improvements in symptoms. 1/4 cup seems to be a very concentrated dose, especially if taken daily, although you might want to consult your doctor before making changes.

      Reply
      • Carla,
        This is a real eye-opener for me. The oil never seemed to work on my skin and sort of distressed my stomach. But what about coco milk or coco nut flakes? Would it have a different impact?

        Reply
        • It shouldn’t have the same impact because it’s not as concentrated. You leave these in and if it still persists, than take them out and monitor your reactions.

          Reply
  88. Julie Saubion via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I always feel disgusting when I eat coconut oil. I just can’t eat it at all, it causes me quite embarassing digestive distress and makes me feel sluggish and lethargic. All symptoms go when I stop taking it.

    Reply
  89. Angie Gavin Statz via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:43 am

    So if coconut oil causes my acne then what oil do I switch with for cooking? I use coconut oil for everything.

    Reply
    • My son is allergic to coconut oil. It causes eczema if applied topically or taken internally for him. We use a lot of ghee instead and it works the same in recipes.

      Reply
  90. That’s the thing about food and some of these fad items they work for many but not for all. What we need to remember is find what our bodies need and what works for us and stick with that. Instead of trying the one size fits all for everyone. We don’t like it when doctors do that with our health, our food should be the same we are all different with different needs learn this and understand.

    Reply
  91. At first I loved it and the fact that I knew what I was putting on my skin. But after a while my face broke out worse than it had in years. It took several weeks if not a month or two for it to get back to “normal”. I have not tried giving it up internally though. Thanks for sharing and thank you for recognizing what may have amazing benefits for one person may not for the next. We are all so different.

    Reply
  92. well coconut oil is not a cure for acne, acne being the bodys expression of pushing toxins out from inside the body….so making sure your body is functioning properly its own innate detox system will then kick in .no need to purchase a detox system to rid toxins from your body. Foods may have many tremendous properties but truth is they are to be used as fuel for the cells, and then HOW your body was created allows it the opportunity to do all the functions it was created to do.

    Reply
  93. The Weston Price Foundation now sells a new skin care product: Gobs’oLard ….unprocessed, pure pig fat in a handy lump, ready to be smeared all over your body……and you can eat it, with bacon, ham, pork, black pudding, canadian bacon, etc……

    Reply
  94. Ryanne Santos via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:28 am

    My mom can’t use coconut oil at all because she is allergic. She’s also highly allergic to anything seafood related. Kinda sucks for us because we want to eat healthy, but so much stuff has coconut or seafood.

    Reply
  95. Great article! This actually comes as a surprise to me. My husband who suffers from cystic acne uses coconut oil mixed with essential oils on his skin. His skin has never looked better. He’s been using it faithfully for a little over a year. Do you think that this applies more to people with different types of breakouts?

    Reply
    • I think it must. My skin has never been better since I started the oil cleansing method with coconut oil.

      Everyone is different :)

      Reply
    • Yes, everyone is different, but for the majority of people that are acne prone, it clogs pores on a surface level. The oils you are using could be helping though!

      Reply
  96. Cristobel Adams via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I think it sounds like if the acne is caused by dry skin it will really help, but if it’s hormonal it might not?

    Reply
  97. Jo Endersbee via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Coconut oil has helped my problem skin immensely, about the only thing that has ever worked on my acne prone skin!

    Reply
  98. Cristobel Adams via Facebook April 3, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I am one of those people who gets breakouts from CO, and no matter how little I put on it doesn’t hardly absorb and stains my clothes. It’s so disappointing as I really wanted to use it for everything as some people do, would have saved me money on lotions too :-/ I still use on my hair (and oil pulling) as it’s the best thing ever for that, and funnily enough I don’t get breakouts around the hairline with it at all :)

    Reply
  99. This is exactly what happened to me, but I couldn’t believe the “miraculous” coconut oil could be the culprit. I have been using straight coconut oil as a moisturizer. Now I’m looking for a replacement.

    Reply
    • Esther, I also can’t use coconut oil. My skin is VERY clog-prone, but I do really well with several oils: marula oil, virgin avocado oil, and perilla seed oil (the last one is great for calming inflamed acne). Garden of Wisdom is a great place to try small bottles of all kinds of oils.

      I also find it very helpful to mix a few sprays of my toner (or even water) with just two drops of the oil in the palm of my hand before massing into skin. It really helps the oil to penetrate the skin more efficiently.

      Reply
      • I’m from Malaysia, we use coconut milk nearly daily, but not coconut oil. So when the hype of virgin coconut oil began years ago i was naturally curious, especially when they said it was good for heart health and for skin.

        I’ve seen so many of my great-aunts who have youthful skin by cleaning it with coconut milk, so i though the oil could do the same. I did not suffer any breakout, but the number of blackhead increased the few days i was using the oil. So, I just use coconut oil sparingly for my body and hair, not face, which prefer hibiscus more :)

        Reply
    • Yes, but it depends too, as to how the animal is cared for, what diet it receives, and how the facility is run. I personally buy local raw milk and have never felt better.

      In regards to coconut oil, I have seen aggravated skin from using coconut oil, but only in times of detoxification. It is my opinion that people are confusing a healing reaction with a true allergic reaction. The intensity with which coconut oil detoxifies the body can cause initially what looks like a negative reaction, and since coconut oil alone won’t detoxify someone completely, it can continue indefinitely, showing signs of what people deem “aggravation” caused by the coconut oil.

      Depending on whether or not the coconut tree is in contact with any toxins itself, like pesticides for instance, may determine whether or not it causes a reaction as per the toxins on the plant. Likewise, bleaching of coconut oil and hydrogenated oils lose the essential fatty acids that are the most important in regards to achieving health benefits, whether applied topically or ingested.

      People with acne need to balance their hormones, which starts by eating a lot of healthy saturated fats, including animal fats. Reducing carbohydrate and sugar consumption prevents inflammation and growth of microorganisms. Balancing fatty acid profiles is key – so take foods with a high amount of omega 3 fats compared to omega 6 fats. Nuts, seeds, and grains especially can aggravate acne when over-consumed due to their poor fatty acid profile, as well as enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients when not properly prepared.

      Topically, coconut oil can be used on dry skin areas. Places that show inflammation can be treated with raw apple cider vinegar – either leave on for a while with a bandage or treat the area as often as possible, with a 50/50 diluted solution of raw ACV + Distilled water.

      Consider dietary amendments in conjunction with a protocol that includes dietary amounts of coconut oil as well as topical applications to reap the most benefits.

      Reply

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