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Coconut Oil Causing Breakouts – My Story

July 7, 2016

Pure, undiluted coconut oil gives me breakouts and tiny raised bumps all over my face, but skin care products and makeup containing small amounts of coconut oil don't. Click through to read my story. |

Coconut Oil Causing Breakouts

Let’s talk coconut oil causing breakouts.

Recently, I’ve been posting a lot of blog articles and videos about oils, including:

My oil cleansing method for acne prone skin

Double cleansing for smooth skin

My skincare routine for breakouts

A review of my favourite oil cleanser – Living Libations Best Skin Ever

One question I’ve been asked a lot about is coconut oil.

I don’t recommend using pure coconut oil for oil cleansing or as a facial moisturizer (especially for acne prone skin). The reason why is because it’s rated fairly high on the list of comedogenic ingredients (ingredients that can potentially clog pores and cause breakouts). I also had a terrible experience using coconut oil (more on that later), so seeing with my own eyes (and skin) how it can adversely affect your skin, I don’t recommend it.

But… I do use, review, and recommend some natural products and makeup that contain small amounts of coconut oil in their formula, and I know a lot of you are confused – is it just 100% pure coconut oil you’ve got to stay away from, or everything that contains it?

There’s a big difference between the two, and I would like to share my personal experience of experimenting with both, and hopefully you’ll feel more clear when selecting skin care products and makeup.

My bad experience of coconut oil causing breakouts

A few years ago, just around the time I gave birth to my daughter Luna Ray, I switched from using honey to wash my face to the oil cleansing method. I made the switch because after giving birth to my daughter, my hormones were all over the place, my skin was breaking out like crazy and I needed a cleanser that was much more moisturizing.

Oil cleansing seemed to be the right fit. Within days my skin was a lot softer and moisturized, but I was still getting breakouts. Over time, I started getting tiny raised bumps all over my face. Because I started oil cleansing around the same time I gave birth to my daughter, I didn’t connect the breakouts and tiny bumps to the coconut oil, I thought it was from postpartum hormones and breastfeeding. Over time I was able to manage the breakouts by drinking water infused with fresh mint (join my FREE Acne Solution Email Course to get the instructions for this acne remedy), but the tiny bumps remained on my face for months (maybe even a year or so!).

It was only until one day I ran out of coconut oil and I was too lazy to get more, that I started using the olive oil from my kitchen to wash my face. Within 3 days all the bumps disappeared and my skin was soft and smooth. I couldn’t believe it! It was pretty obvious to me it was the coconut oil that was causing the issues all along and not my postpartum hormones.

A few weeks after I started using the olive oil, I received my first bottle of Living Libations Vanilla Best Skin Ever. I had been eagerly awaiting it to arrive, but when I looked at the ingredients and saw the coconut oil listed, I thought “Oh no!!” The last thing I wanted to do was put anything with coconut oil on my face.

But on the other hand, the olive oil wasn’t working so great for me either. The tiny bumps vanished, and my skin was extremely soft, smooth and clear from the olive oil; but within hours of washing my face with it, my skin would get REALLY oily and I was afraid I was having some sort of allergic reaction to it.

So I decided to give the Living Libations Vanilla Best Skin Ever a try. I had already used many of their oil-based serums before and never had any issues. I figured if it gives me those bumps on my face like the pure coconut oil did, I could always go back to olive oil until I found something else.

And I’m happy I gave it a try because it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in an oil cleanser – it thoroughly washed and moisturized my skin, didn’t give me those terrible bumps or make my skin oilier (in fact it balances out my oily skin and I find double cleansing with it in the evenings makes my skin super smooth and bright).

Pure Coconut Oil vs. Products That Contain Coconut Oil

Since realizing pure coconut oil was giving me raised bumps all over my face but not Living Libations Best Skin Ever that contains small amounts of coconut oil, I’ve done other experiments with other natural skin care products and makeup containing coconut oil. And to my relief, nothing gives me those raised bumps or breakouts like using pure, undiluted coconut oil.

So why does pure coconut oil give me breakouts, but not products containing it?

I believe it’s because even though coconut oil is listed as an ingredient, there’s probably not enough of it in the products and makeup I’m regularly using to adversely affect my skin (unless it’s predominately made of coconut oil). It’s kind of like essential oils – many of them need to be diluted by carrier oils to be safely applied to your skin (if not, they can burn or damage your skin). Same with coconut oil. Putting it straight on your face could very well give you breakouts, but having tiny amounts mixed with other carrier oils and ingredients might not be detrimental to your skin at all.

Also, when ingredients are tested to see if they’re comedogenic, they’re tested on their own, in their pure undiluted form. So something like coconut oil on it’s own is rated pretty high on the comedogenic list, and causes breakouts and issues for a lot of people (especially those prone to acne and breakouts). But, if it’s mixed and diluted down by other ingredients, it might not be such an issue.

Also it is important to mention that the comedogenic list is general guidelines. At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different and you need to do your own experiments and observe how your skin responds to what you’re using. For example, recently I was talking to someone on Instagram that was telling me that rosehip seed oil gives her terrible breakouts, and she can’t even go near products that contain it. On the list of comedogenic ingredients, rosehip seed oil actually rates really low, and many people rave about the skin clearing properties of the oil – but obviously it’s not good for everyone.

How To Know If Skin Care Products & Makeup Containing Coconut Oil Will Be Safe For Acne Prone Skin?

If there’s an oil blend, skincare product, or makeup you want to use, but it contains coconut oil and you’re unsure if it’s safe for acne prone skin, I recommend contacting the company to find out what percentage of the product is made of coconut oil. If it’s more than 5-10% coconut oil, I would probably avoid the product.

Reading the product’s ingredients is very important, but it isn’t always telling of the quantities being used. For example, an oil blend could be composed of 10 ingredients, but 98% of it could just be one ingredient, and the remaining 9 ingredients could make up only 2% of the product. Same with makeup, coconut oil could be listed as an ingredient, but only trace amounts can be found in it.

Also looking up reviews on the internet can be quite telling of a product too, so if you’re unsure, do the research too!

And lastly, like any skin care product and ingredient, everyone’s skin reacts differently, so the only way to really know for sure, is by trying.

For Acne Prone Skin, What Oils Should You Use Instead Of Coconut Oil?

For acne prone skin that is either normal, combination, or oily, I recommend:

Jojoba Oil

Tamanu Oil

Argan Oil

Grape Seed Oil

Rosehip Seed Oil

Safflower Oil

An Oil Blend (I love Living Libations Best Skin Ever)

For acne prone skin that may needs a richer oil than the ones list above (like acne prone skin that is dry or maturing), I recommend:

Olive Oil

Sweet Almond Oil

Avocado Oil

Never use:

Mineral Oil (or baby oil)

Soy Bean Oil

Coconut Oil (pure, undiluted)

Have you ever used coconut oil on your face as a cleanser or moisturizer? What was your experience using it, and do you use products containing small amounts of it? I would love to hear your experience with coconut oil, please post your comments below!

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  • Reply Angela Hunt July 7, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    My skin is dry and flakey.I have tried alot of oils on my skin. The only oil that works for me is fraconiated coconut oil. This is a liquid not a pure hard coconut oil. It takes away the flakiness. I suffer from adult acne around my chin and mouth I still haven’t found anything that works 100% I believe it’s something missing inside my body if anyone has a suggestion please let me know what it could be.

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael July 8, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Hi Angela, I recommend increasing the healthy fats in your diet and decreasing sugar. Also if you are getting dry patches and don’t have active breakouts, I recommend gently exfoliating once a week (to remove the build up of dead skin cells), and you can try using castor oil as a spot treatment just on areas where it’s really dry. Castor oil is non-comedogenic, but very rich, so best to just use it on areas that really need it (and not on your entire face). Let me know how it goes 🙂

      • Reply Adrienne November 1, 2017 at 4:22 am

        Hi, I tried coconut oil for a night time moisturizer two nights in a row. I now have raised bumps on my face. I am not acne prone. I stopped the coconut oil, should I try olive oil to rid the bumps? Or is there another suggestion?
        I have ingested coconut oil in the past and that has no effect on me.
        Thank you

        • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm

          Hi Arienne,
          I had a similar reaction to coconut oil, and I switched to olive oil and the bumps went away, but I found my skin got really oily from olive oil (no breakouts, but very oily). Each oil we can react differently to, so you can try the olive oil out and if it works good, continue, but if you notice any adverse reaction to it, you can try other oils like grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, jojoba, argan oil, etc.

  • Reply Victoria bagchechyan September 16, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Hi Natosha!i just want to first say I have been watching you on YouTube for the last 6 years, you have truly inspired me and taught me so much about natural remedies, thank you 🙂 as for the coconut oil, I use it on a daily bases as a moisturizer before bed after washing my face, I also use it as a makeup remover, so far I love it and no break outs yet anyway.

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael November 15, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks Victoria for your comment. If the coconut oil is working for you, continue! Not everyone is going to get breakouts or reactions to it, so I’m happy you’re sharing your experience 🙂

  • Reply Laura December 20, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Hello 🙂 thanks for this post. Sorry I’m late to the game (this was posted in July) but I am scouring the internet because I am desperate for answers! I have dry/sensitive skin, but have never had any problems with acne or major breakouts… I’m 25, active, eat ‘clean,’ no medications, and out of nowhere recently my face has these tiny raised bumps everywhere that you said coconut oil was causing for you. I use only natural skin cares, I was my face with raw honey and throughout the week do the oil cleanse with olive oil… sometimes I put on ten drops of olive oil before bed post-cleanse. But during the day my moisturizer is jojoba oil for after the cleanse. So a couple months ago I started getting what looked like a break out on my chin, raised red bumps… but it turned in to a rash that is staying only on my chin but now moving up under my eye too. Some days my eyelid hurts it is a little swollen. I feel like I am having an allergic reaction but could this be happening so long after using the oils? Not much else has changed. I moved to a new apartment a few months ago in a historic building and am now thinking maybe it is the water … if you could give me any thoughts or suggestions I would be so happy! It makes me so self conscious and I want to clear it up, I used to not have to wear face make up because I had clear skin and now I feel like I can’t leave the house without makeup…. thank you

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Hi Laura,
      It sounds to me you’re having some sort of allergic reaction. It could even be a food allergy (painful rash or raw skin around the mouth and under eyes sometimes comes from allergy to strawberries, pineapple, and/or citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, etc).
      It could also be from your water. You could do an experiment of washing your face only with bottled or distilled water for a month to see if that helps – if it does, then you’ll need to install a home water filtration system and/or shower filter.
      You might want to consult with an allergist and/or dermatologist to do allergy tests.
      Hope this helps!

  • Reply rika December 28, 2016 at 12:49 am

    hello! I lovee reading your blog! 🙂
    I’ve used coconut oil before as a moisturiser/for treating pimples and it actually worked really well for a period of time but after that once I applied it onto my face again, it started giving me burning sensation and I never ever used it again. :/

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 28, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Rika,
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear the coconut oil didn’t work out so well, but I’m glad you caught it before it could caused further issues.

  • Reply Katie February 28, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Hey thanks for sharing! What did your bumps look like (color, size)? I used cocnut oil to heal a part of my face and broke out in tiny seemingly raised white bumps and I am not sure if it was the coconut oil or some other product I am using. Thanks!

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael February 28, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Hi Katie,
      The bumps I get from pure coconut oil are tiny raised bumps that are the color of my skin (so they aren’t red or pink, or irritated), just little raised bumps everywhere (especially on my forehead). If a products gives me a reaction, I usually start getting the bumps within a few days, and once I stop using the product it mostly goes away in a few days, but can sometimes take a few weeks for it to be completely gone (depending on how bad the bumps were to start with). Nowadays I know what to look out for, so I can catch it quickly before it does any serious damage!

      • Reply Katie March 6, 2017 at 7:49 am

        How long did the longest take to dissapear? I have one pretty white one that isnt going away. Not sure if it is what youre talking about or if it is some hypopigmentation. I was also using diluted apple cider vinegar at the time.

        • Reply Natasha St. Michael March 7, 2017 at 2:49 pm

          I saw a noticeable difference within a few days, but for the bumps to completely disappear, it took a few months.

  • Reply Angel-Lee March 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Hi! I’m 18 with acne prone skin but I am on birth control so it definitely keeps any constant acne away but I do get break outs. After I tried coconut oil to remove my makeup because it’s so good at that, I realized I wasn’t having hardly any breakouts on my chin anymore (which is usually where I broke out). But after maybe 2 weeks of using it, the skin around my left eye broke out until little tiny pimples with tiny white heads. I never pick my pimples so I’ve left them there and after reading this article, I’m wondering if it’s the coconut oil. But why would it only affect one eye? My eye lids are very sensitive as well as my skin is very sensitive, I liked that the coconut oil didn’t aggravate my face and I’m scared to stop using it because maybe my chin will break out again if I stop. What do you think? 🙂

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael March 27, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Hi Angel-Lee,
      Sorry to hear about the reaction you’re having near your eyes. It could be the coconut oil causing it. The pores in our eye area can get clogged quite easily, many people get clogged pores in that area from any oil. What you can do is wash your face with the coconut oil avoiding the eye area, and try an oil-free eye makeup remover, this will probably solve the issue where you’re still getting the benefits from using the coconut oil on the rest of your face, but using something without oil in the eye area that can tolerate it.

  • Reply anzala fatima December 15, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Hey.I have been using coconut oil for like 3 weeks at night and then I I have pimples on the right side of my face and it left scars,bumps on nose and forehead but there os no reaction on the otherside it is sooo clear.please tell what to do now plus any remedi for scars.thanks

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      The breakouts are probably coming from the coconut oil, or from the detergent you are using on your linens and pillow case, or a mixture of the two. Best to stop using coconut oil and change your detergent to an unscented eco detergent. Once you discontinue the coconut oil, your skin should clear up after a few weeks.

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