By Rachael Link
Coconut oil is a type of fat that has been touted for its health-promoting properties.
In fact, several studies have even found it might have benefits for skin health as well.
This article looks at the evidence to examine whether coconut oil is good for skin.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil that is traditionally made by extracting the oil from raw coconuts or dried coconut kernels (3).
At room temperature it's solid, but when heated it can soften or even melt.
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are a form of saturated fat. In fact, these medium-chain fatty acids make up about 65 percent of its total composition (4).
The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil include (4):
- Lauric acid: 49 percent
- Myristic acid: 18 percent
- Caprylic acid: 8 percent
- Palmitic acid: 8 percent
- Capric acid: 7 percent
- Oleic acid: 6 percent
- Linoleic acid: 2 percent
- Stearic acid: 2 percent
Although coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat, it does contain small amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats as well. One tablespoon contains about 12 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of unsaturated fat (5).
Summary: Coconut oil is used in cooking but can also be applied to the skin or hair. It's rich in saturated fat and medium-chain fatty acids, especially lauric acid.
It Can Kill Harmful Microorganisms
The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil contain antimicrobial properties that can help protect against harmful microorganisms.
This is especially important for skin health, as many types of skin infections, including acne, cellulitis, folliculitis and athlete's foot, are caused by bacteria or fungi (6).
Applying coconut oil directly to the skin may prevent the growth of these microorganisms.
This is due to its lauric acid content, which makes up nearly 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil and can fight harmful microorganisms.
One study tested the antibacterial properties of 30 types of fatty acids against 20 different strains of bacteria. Lauric acid was found to be the most effective at blocking the growth of bacteria (7).
Another test-tube study showed that lauric acid can kill off Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that leads to the development of inflammatory acne (8).
Furthermore, capric acid is another medium-chain fatty acid found in coconut oil, although to a lesser extent. Like lauric acid, capric acid has been shown to have potent antimicrobial properties.
A test-tube study showed that both lauric and capric acid effectively killed off strains of bacteria (9).
Another test-tube study demonstrated the anti-fungal effects of capric acid, showing that it was able to inhibit the growth of certain types of fungi (10).
Summary: The fatty acids found in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties that effectively kill bacteria and fungi.
Coconut Oil Could Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a major component of many different types of skin disorders, including psoriasis, contact dermatitis and eczema (11).
Interestingly, coconut oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
In one study, researchers applied virgin coconut oil to the inflamed ears of rats. Not only was coconut oil found to have an anti-inflammatory effect, but it relieved pain as well (12).
What's more, coconut oil may ease inflammation by improving antioxidant status.
A 2013 animal study fed rats different types of oil, including coconut oil, olive oil and sunflower oil. At the end of the 45-day study, virgin coconut oil had improved antioxidant status and prevented oxidative stress to the greatest extent (14).
It's important to keep in mind that most current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies, so it's hard to know how these results may translate to humans.
However, based on these studies, coconut oil shows great potential in its ability to reduce inflammation when consumed or applied to the skin.
Summary: Animal studies have shown that coconut oil may relieve inflammation by improving antioxidant status and decreasing oxidative stress.
Coconut Oil May Help Treat Acne
While some think coconut oil clogs pores, considerable research shows it might actually help treat acne.
Acne is an inflammatory condition and many of the medications used to treat it work by targeting and reducing inflammation (15).
Because coconut oil and its components may help reduce inflammation in the body, it may also aid in the treatment of acne.
Furthermore, the antibacterial properties of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil could also help reduce acne.
In fact, test-tube and animal studies have shown that lauric acid is more effective than benzoyl peroxide at preventing the growth of acne-causing bacteria (16).
Along with lauric acid, capric acid has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
A 2014 animal and test-tube study showed that both lauric and capric acid were successful in reducing inflammation and killing off bacteria to prevent acne (17).
To get the best results, coconut oil should be applied directly to the skin in areas where acne is found.
Summary: The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of coconut oil and its components could help treat acne.
Coconut Oil Can Moisturize Dry Skin
In addition to its effects on acne and inflammation, applying coconut oil to your skin can also help keep it hydrated.
One study compared the effects of coconut oil to mineral oil, a type of oil made from petroleum that's often used to treat dry skin, on patients with mild to moderately dry skin.
The two-week study found that coconut oil significantly improved skin hydration and was just as effective as mineral oil (18).
It has also been shown to help treat eczema, a skin condition characterized by scaly, itchy rashes.
A study comparing the effects of olive oil and coconut oil in 52 adults with eczema found that applying coconut oil helped reduce dryness, in addition to helping treat eczema (19).
Another study found similar results, showing that coconut oil led to a 68 percent decrease in eczema severity, making it significantly more effective than mineral oil in the treatment of eczema (20).
Summary: Coconut oil can be an effective moisturizer and aid in the treatment of dry skin and eczema.
Coconut Oil May Help With Wound Healing
Several studies have demonstrated that coconut oil may also aid wound healing.
One animal study looked at how coconut oil applied to the skin affected wound healing in rats.
Another animal study showed that coconut oil combined with an antibiotic applied to the skin was effective at healing burn wounds (25).
In addition to improving wound healing, its antimicrobial properties may also prevent infection, one of the major risk factors that can complicate the healing process (26).
Summary: Animal studies have shown that coconut oil may help accelerate wound healing.
Who Shouldn't Use Coconut Oil?
While research shows coconut oil can benefit skin health, applying it to the skin may not be ideal for everyone.
For example, those who have oily skin may want to avoid doing so, as it may block pores and cause blackheads.
As with most things, trial and error may be the best approach to determine if coconut oil works for you.
Additionally, if you have sensitive skin, use a small amount or try applying it only to a small section of skin to make sure it doesn't cause irritation or blocked pores.
Yet, eating and cooking with coconut oil is generally not a problem for most people.
That said, if you have oily or highly sensitive skin, consider adding coconut oil to your diet instead to take advantage of its benefits.
Summary: Coconut oil could potentially clog pores. Using a small amount and slowing testing your tolerance to it is recommended for those with oily or sensitive skin.
Which Type of Coconut Oil is Best?
Coconut oil can be produced through dry or wet processing.
Dry processing involves drying coconut meat to create kernels, pressing them to extract the oil, then bleaching and deodorizing them.
This process forms refined coconut oil, which has a more neutral scent and higher smoke point (27).
In wet processing, coconut oil is obtained from raw coconut meat — instead of dried — to create virgin coconut oil. This helps retain the coconut scent and results in a lower smoke point (27).
While refined coconut oil may be better suited for cooking at high temperatures, virgin coconut oil is a better choice in terms of skin health.
Not only does most of the existing research focus specifically on the effects of virgin coconut oil, but there's also evidence that it may have added health benefits.
A 2009 animal study found that virgin coconut oil improved antioxidant status and increased ability to neutralize disease-causing free radicals, compared to refined coconut oil (28).
Another test-tube study showed that virgin coconut oil had a greater amount of inflammation-reducing antioxidants and phenols, as well as an improved ability to fight free radicals, compared to refined coconut oil (27).
The results of these two studies indicate that virgin coconut oil may be more effective than refined coconut oil at preventing oxidation and neutralizing free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to inflammation and disease.
Summary: Virgin coconut oil may be a better choice than refined coconut oil, given that it provides added health benefits like improved antioxidant status.
The Bottom Line
Although the health benefits of eating coconut oil are well-studied, research on its effects on the skin is mostly limited to animal or test-tube studies.
However, coconut oil may be linked to some potential benefits for skin, including reducing inflammation, keeping skin moisturized and helping heal wounds.
The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil also possess antimicrobial properties that can help treat acne and protect the skin from harmful bacteria.
If you have oily or highly sensitive skin, make sure to start slowly to assess your tolerance and consult with a dermatologist if you have any concerns.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
- Planting Projects, Backyard Habitats Can Re-Create Livable Natural ... ›
- Humans Are Destroying Wildlife at an Unprecedented Rate, New ... ›
- UN Biodiversity Chief: Humans Risk Living in an 'Empty World' With ... ›
- Scientists Warn Worse Pandemics Are on the Way if We Don't ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
- The Vicious Climate-Wildfire Cycle - EcoWatch ›
- How Climate Change Ignites Wildfires From California to South Africa ›
- 31 Dead, 250,000 Evacuated in California Fires as Governor ... ›
World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.