We Ask a Derm: Does Coconut Oil Clog Pores?

Coconut oil is undoubtedly one of the most popular skincare ingredients of the last few years. Check any DIY beauty board on Pinterest and you’ll find no shortage of recipes for making your own coconut oil hair mask or makeup remover. Scan your shampoo or moisturizer labels and you’ll likely see coconut oil (or “cocos nucifera” as it goes by in the plant world) listed.

And while we already know about the ingredient’s moisturizing powers, we’ve also heard rumblings about it being problematic for people with acne-prone skin (aka this editor), so we asked Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama to clear things up for us.

Give it to us straight, doc. Does coconut oil clog pores?

“Coconut oil is highly comedogenic, which means it clogs pores and has a high chance of causing breakouts, whiteheads or blackheads,” says Hartman. “As such, I do not recommend using coconut oil if you are prone to breakouts or have sensitive skin.”

Does it matter what type of coconut oil you use?

“Raw coconut oil is the most comedogenic. Other versions—like coconut oil emulsions—may be less comedogenic, but since there are so many other oil alternatives that can benefit the skin without clogging pores, I’d recommend avoiding coconut oil (in all of its various forms) if you tend to breakout easily,” he advises. “Try non-comedogenic oils like shea butter, sunflower seed oil, argan oil or hemp oil instead.”

What if coconut oil is used on your body but not on your face—do you still run the risk of breaking out?

“You have pores all over your body, not just your face, so if you use coconut oil on your body, you run the risk of clogging the pores on your body and causing acne all over,” says Hartman.

Is coconut oil safe to use on other skin types?

“If your skin is not sensitive and acne is not a concern for you, you may tolerate coconut oil just fine, but as with any new product, make sure to do a patch test before putting it everywhere,” says Hartman.

To do this, “apply a small amount of coconut oil on your arm—either along the underside of your wrist, on your neck or just underneath your ear and wait 24 hours. If you don’t have a reaction, you can proceed with using it on larger areas of your body,” he adds.

What are the potential benefits of coconut oil for people who can tolerate it?

“If you have dry skin, using coconut oil after a moisturizer can help lock it into your skin. Coconut oil has also been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties for some people,” shares Hartman.

Bottom line: If you break out easily, it’s probably best you skip the coco.

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Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
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