Coconut oil is one of the multipurpose oils consumed all over the world. It is obtained from the flesh of mature coconut fruit. It has extensive uses both for cooking and improving health, including skin health.

For a long time, coconut oil has been used to treat and prevent various health conditions, such as reducing the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some researchers have also found that coconut oil can help with skin health. It can also be applied to hair for quality maintenance. This article discusses how coconut oil can help your skin.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a saturated oil produced by squeezing the oil from raw coconut or dried coconut kernels. Since it is highly saturated, coconut oil solidifies at room temperature but can melt or soften when exposed to heat. It is often used in cooking just like any other cooking oil or applied directly on the skin and hair. Coconut oil has high amounts of saturated fats called medium-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids occupy about 65% of total coconut oil by weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, coconut oil contains 49 percent of lauric acid, 18 percent of myristic acid, 8 percent of caprylic acid, 8 percent of palmitic acid, 7 percent of capric acid, 6 percent of oleic acid, 2 percent of linoleic acid, and 2 percent of stearic acid fatty acids. It also contains small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, with just a single tablespoon providing 12 g of saturated fat and 1 g of unsaturated fat.

It Can Prevent Multiplication of Harmful Microorganisms

Coconut oil possesses antimicrobial properties- thanks to its high amounts of medium-chain fatty acids – which can help clear out harmful microorganisms from the bloodstream and the skin. This is true because many types of skin infections, such as athlete’s foot, acne, folliculitis, and cellulitis, are of bacterial origin. Since most of these bacteria multiply and grow on and in the skin, it will be best to apply coconut oil directly to the skin to interfere with their lifecycle.

One particular fatty acid in coconut oil with potent antimicrobial properties is lauric acid, which occupies up to 50 percent of the fruit’s fatty acids. It can block the multiplication of 30 strains of bacteria. Studies suggest that lauric acid can treat and prevent inflammatory acne by killing the causative organism – Propionibacterium acne. Another helpful medium-chain fatty acid in coconut oil is capric acid. Though found in fewer amounts, this fatty acid has also been shown to have powerful antimicrobial properties. What’s more capric acid can interfere with the growth of certain fungi types. A combination of powerful fatty acids in coconut oil with antimicrobial properties can effectively help prevent skin infections.

Coconut Oil Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

A normal and healthy immune system constitutes inflammation as a response to injury or infections. However, long-term inflammation can be harmful and can compromise your immunity. Chronic inflammation has been associated with many types of skin problems, such as contact dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. Interestingly, the anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil can help prevent these conditions. Studies indicate that applying virgin coconut oil to inflamed areas can significantly reduce inflammation and pain as well.

Coconut oil may boost antioxidant levels, which also reduces inflammation. Antioxidants work by reducing cellular damages caused by free radicals and reduce markers of inflammation. It is worth mentioning that these claims are solely based on animal and test-tube studies. Isolating the anti-inflammatory effects of coconut oil on humans is hard, calling for added human-based controlled studies.

It May Help Treat Acne

Many people think of coconut oil as a contributing agent to acne, claiming that it clogs skin pores. Research has, however, shown that it may be effective at treating it. Acne occurs when sebum – a waxy and oily substance produced by sebaceous glands – and dead skin cells are trapped in the sebaceous gland. Since it is an inflammatory condition, most of the medications used to manage acne have anti-inflammatory properties. Given that coconut oil can reduce systemic inflammation, it may also help treat acne. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil may also treat and prevent acne since they have antimicrobial properties. Studies suggest that the causative organism of acne can be killed by lauric acid, which occupies nearly fifty percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil. It is suspected that lauric acid may produce more antimicrobial effects than benzoyl peroxide, which is a conventional drug used to treat acne. Capric acid has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and combining it with lauric acid has been found to be more successful in preventing acne. If you have acne, it will be best to apply coconut oil directly to the affected areas.

It May Help Keep the Skin Moisturized

Skin dryness can attract infections easily. While applying coconut oil on the skin may help treat acne and reduce inflammation, studies have further indicated that it can help moisturize it. Coconut oil can effectively improve skin hydration as much as the conventional mineral oil used to treat dry skin. Studies have also shown that applying coconut oil directly to the skin may help treat eczema, which is characterized by scaly rashes. Keep in mind that maintain skin hydration is as effective as barring bacteria from colonizing the skin, promoting healing, and improving skin integrity.

May Promote Wound Healing

Delayed healing of wounds may lead to further infections and compromised immunity. Studies have indicated that coconut oil may help promote wound healing. Applying virgin coconut oil to wounds may speed up healing, improve the level of antioxidants, and support collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein that binds open wounds and maintains skin structure.


Skin is an important organ of the body, and keeping it healthy may prevent infections. Coconut oil which is applied directly to the skin contains fatty acids like lauric and capric acids. Both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help protect your skin and keep it healthy.

Charlotte Cremers
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MS, University of Tartu
Sleep specialist

Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.

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