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. Such a reaction can be especially distressing for those using coconut oil for weight loss efforts.
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. Why? We have already developed the antibodies for our immune system to recognize these foods as safe.
Healthy for One May Not Be Healthy for Another
However, we can overexpose ourselves to a particular food our bodies are familiar with. When this occurs, it can start to negatively impact digestion or the immune system. This is a common occurrence for foods that seem to be in everything like dairy and gluten.
My point here is that most people did not consume coconut products in their diet growing up. Unless of course they were born in the tropics or are of African or Polynesian descent. Because coconut is a staple of these traditional diets, these people are adapted and can usually 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. Some were almost exclusively meat-based, others fairly low in animal foods. Still others were a balance between the two. Despite the variations, all these cultures were considered healthy.
This is why it’s nearly impossible for everyone to thrive off the same “healthy” diet. It is also important to keep in mind when we discover new “super foods”. Some look great on paper, but how each individual reacts will vary greatly. One’s ethnicity can frequently dictate how well they are tolerated.
Internal vs External Triggers
Within the last year, I have been exclusively focusing on the root cause of acne internally with clients. Truthfully, I have not given external triggers much thought until recently.
Fortunately, I 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 tend to cause pimples for acne prone skin. The gender or nationality of the person does not matter.
Like many terms that are used freely for marketing purposes, products that claim to be “non-comedogenic”, “oil-free”, “dermatologist tested/ approved” are not necessarily free of clogging ingredients. Just like the supplement industry, beauty and personal hygiene products are not regulated. There is no standard or truth to what a company has to comply with 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 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 is Highly Comedogenic
Kimberly Tan has had great success in addressing acne of all types by educating people and of course treating it topically. The right products make a big difference in skin recovery. I am definitely reaping the benefits of this knowledge. For example, I eat what I consider a very high quality, clean and anti-inflammatory diet. Due to my line of work, I am also very aware of other causative factors. Despite this, I still suffer from regular breakouts.
The reason remained a mystery until I began to take a closer look at what I was applying to my skin. Even within my “natural” and practically edible products, many contained coconut oil. To my surprise, coconut oil is one of the highest scoring comedogenic ingredients on the comedogenicity scale. This is the case even when consumed in small amounts as coconut oil capsules.
Removing Coconut Oil from Skincare and Diet
I was worried and hesitant at first to give up my precious coconut oil but wanted to give my skin a fair chance. So, I tossed my makeup, shampoo, toothpaste and any hair care 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. This is because internally the pure oil 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. With all the health benefits we know it contains, including the antibacterial properties, this was the last thing I 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. I have already seen an immediate reduction in my breakouts.
Inflammatory Effect on Skin
I was curious about the inflammatory effect that coconut oil has internally on the skin. There are many different types of acne that may appear and be different for every person. According to Kimberly Tan:
Eating it [coconut oil] 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.
Coconut Oil and 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. Check for comedogenic ingredients in every product you use. This includes 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 the label. This includes both active and inactive ingredients. Check all of them against the comedogenic list before buying.
Eliminate then Reintroduce
Bottom line: Everyone is different. Like changing your diet and cleaning your pantry of junk food, you’ve got to purge any suspect products to get a clean slate to work with. This includes an acne-safe lifestyle and proven non-comedogenic products. Stay with this routine for at least 6 months. After that, you can reintroduce each questionable and untested product (like those with coconut oil) to see if you notice a reaction in your skin. The process is very similar to introducing food sensitivities back into your diet. Make sure the manufacturer 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 and body. Hair products too, 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.
is a whole body approach!
Eczema Treatment: Avoiding the Drug-Based Domino Effect
MCT Oil: The Coconut Oil Dregs
Costco Coconut Oil is Risky Business
Histamine Intolerance, Fermented Foods and Acne
Red Palm Oil: Great Alternative to Coconut Oil
Waleed Bin Ashiq Mughal
IF anyone is suffering from any reaction after using coconut then he or she should stop using it immediately
This is weird but I used to enjoy some “treats” with coconut oil included like Purely Elizabeth granola or Larabars that had extra virgin olive oil, but about a year ago I couldn’t stand the taste of extra virgin coconut oil anymore. Refined seemed to be fine but coconut cream or some coconut oils just taste completely nasty to me now. Is that a way of my body telling me I shouldn’t eat it because I’m sensitive to it? At first I thought it was a supplier switch but it’s so many items/products now I suspect it’s all unrefined coconut oil. Did anyone else experience that?
I recently became aware that water from our Berkey filter using the charcoal filters are made from coconut husks is the culprit to a lot of post nasal drip and this scratchy throat ache. I found Propur ProOne G2 filters can be used in our Berkey unit instead. Most bottled water and water filtered in restaurants and to make the pop and coffee there are filtered with filters made from coconut husks. That water can also be used in the food. I can deal with all that, as we don’t eat out but now I am mystified as to how to avoid coconut and it’s derivatives in cleaning and body products. The chemical names don’t even have to resemble the word coconut. I just need easily accessible products I can buy locally at the grocery store, dish soap, hand soap, a bath bar and of course it has to be gluten free, as well. All my issues with coconut in its many many forms over the years all adds up. My body doesn’t like it. But it’s EVERYWHERE!
Also, Dr. Amy Yasko wrote that some people have certain Gene “mutations” glitches which impair their ability to break down & properly metabolize MCT oils (like Coconut has). I have one of these genes, myself. She mentioned this in her online book, chapter 6. Just Google her chapter 6 book. It’s free online.
Blood typing goes further and also matters if you have Rh negative or Rh positive factor blood type. There is more to it. I have blood type O, Rh neg. and I’m breaking out from eating coconut & making homemade coconut truffles. It’s making me tired & i feel I’m gaining some weight on it. Also, coconut is HIGH in arginine (higher in arginine than Lysine. This combo feeds viruses, especially Cold sore herpes simplex 1&2.
You are preaching to the choir! I have really sensitive skin and even the smallest amounts of Coconut Oil seem to disturb it. Even a thin layer of it causes breakouts. This is why I have reverted to non-comedogenic-oils. The non comedogenic substitutes for Coconut Oil really help my skin. I mean, I have all the beneficial nutrients without the acne.
if coconut oil is the culprit of my dehydrated skin, how long after I stop using it, should my skin start to create its own moisture. I started using grapeseed oil instead. Is this a better oil or worse?
I am lactose intolerant and also very acne prone, I thought I was crazy when I decided I was allergic to coconut oil face and hair products, but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one….please share what you use for your acne????? mousturizer?