Why Coconut Oil Does NOT Belong On Your Face + Which Oils to Use Instead

Is coconut oil good for your face? No! Here's why, plus which face oils to use instead

Is coconut oil good for your face? Contrary to what you may hear from many (misinformed!) health and beauty bloggers, coconut oil for face skincare isn’t a great idea. In fact, for many people it’s a downright terrible idea! Here’s why.


Do the benefits of coconut oil have a place on your face?

If we gave out Golden Globe Awards for natural health and beauty, coconut oil would take one home EVERY YEAR and for good reason.

It’s the duct tape of the natural world!

“I’ve got 99 problems… and coconut oil’s solved like 84 of them.” — Every naturalista ever

Coconut oil works wonders as a natural moisturizing hair treatment and metabolism-boosting superfood, with about a million other uses in between.

I use and recommend coconut oil as a healthy, heat-stable cooking oil.

Not only have the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil been shown to boost metabolism and aid weight loss (source), but the antibacterial lauric acid in coconut oil also helps maintain digestive health and a balanced gut microbiome (source). And who doesn’t want a little metabolism boost and better gut health!?

Coconut oil is also a staple in my natural beauty routine — I regularly use a DIY hair mask made with coconut oil or this DIY Hot Coconut Oil Hair Treatment, and often even use it as a body moisturizer.


But there’s one place coconut oil does NOT belong: on your face.

While incredibly moisturizing, coconut oil’s skin benefits about end right there.

A 2013 study published in in the Journal of International Dermatology found that virgin coconut oil improved skin barrier function in patients with atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition marked by dryness and irritation.

And another study published in the journal Dermatitis found that coconut oil moisturized skin better the olive oil.

So there’s no doubt about the fact that coconut oil helps skin retain moisture and prevents transepidermal water loss.

This is all GREAT.

Except…

Using coconut oil for face skincare? You may want to think again! Why coconut oil is not the best face oil + which oils to choose instead

Coconut oil isn’t able to easily penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.

Instead, it sits on surface layers of the skin more like a wax.

For this reason, it doesn’t provide the long-lasting moisture most of us are looking for.


Coconut oil is extremely comedogenic or pore-clogging.

Because it forms a barrier on your skin, coconut oil blocks and suffocates pores (source).

And we all know what clogged pores can lead to — breakouts!

For this reason, coconut oil has a very high comedogenic rating of 4 (on a scale from 0 to 5), meaning it’s very likely to clog pores.

It’s no wonder why New York-based dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D doesn’t recommend the use of coconut oil for face acne or any application on the face given the high potential to clog pores and cause significant breakouts (source).

And I couldn’t agree more!

Please don’t be fooled by those arguments that the lauric acid in coconut oil helps manage breakouts and as a result reduce acne.

While lauric acid is antibacterial, this doesn’t negate the pore-clogging properties of coconut oil. Plus, managing breakouts is usually so much more complex than simply managing the bacteria on the skin.

So particularly if you struggle with breakouts or acne, you’ll want to steer clear of using coconut oil on your face.

And this isn’t limited to coconut oil for face moisturizer. You also want to avoid coconut oil face masks and coconut oil face wash, too.


Coconut oil doesn’t contain many vitamins or antioxidants, one of the biggest benefits of other face oils.

While coconut oil may be an effective face moisturizer for those who don’t struggle with breakouts or acne, one simple fact remains: coconut oil simply doesn’t hold a candle to most other face oils — nutrient-rich, antioxidant-packed oils like argan, pumpkin seed, and rosehip seed oils (each discussed in more detail below!).

Antioxidants protect the skin from damaging UV rays and aging free radicals, as well as prevent the sebum oxidation that clogs pores and leads to breakouts. They’re necessary for any effective skincare routine, and face oils are a wonderful natural source of topical antioxidants.

And while you’ll often hear that coconut oil is rich in vitamin E, this isn’t even entirely true. According to Livestrong:

“Interestingly, coconut oil does not contain many vitamins… Coconut oil is not a significant source of vitamin E.”

Why simply settle for just a moisturizer when you can have a moisturizer and antioxidant-packed serum in one?

Coconut oil for skin? Think again! Here's why and which oils to choose instead


If not coconut oil, which face oils should you be using?

Oh my friend, the list is endless!

The right face oil really depends on your skin type and skin needs.

But let’s take a look a few that work well for all skin types.

Related: The Best Face Oils By Skin Type

Related: How to Make a Custom Face Oil Blend Perfect for YOUR Unique Skin

PUMPKIN SEED OIL

My favorite of the dozens of face oils I’ve tested over the years, pumpkin seed oil is rich in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, we well as zinc. It’s a wonderful choice for all skin types, which is why it’s included in all three of the Body Unburdened Beauty Blends.

Pumpkin seed oil is also high in linoleic acid, making it a particularly great choice for blemish-prone skin, which has been shown to often be deficient in linoleic acid. Applying linoleic acid topically helps to bring skin back to a state of balance (source) — one study found a 25% reduction in breakouts after just 1 month of applying linoleic acid to the skin!

ROSEHIP SEED OIL

This golden-colored oil is extremely rich in the antioxidant vitamin C and has been linked to increased collagen production. Rosehip seed oil is also high in retinoic acid, which studies show reduces the appearance of wrinkles and scars, and generally brightens skin.

Because of its high vitamin C content, rosehip seed oil is also used in all three of the Body Unburdened Beauty Blends.

ARGAN OIL

Referred to as “liquid gold”, argan oil is fast-absorbing and known for increasing cell regeneration, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Argan oil is also rich in phenols and carotenes, antioxidants that protect the skin from aging free-radical damage.


Do you have experience using coconut oil for face skincare?

Or other face oils?

Please share your experience with us below!

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  1. I use coconut oil on my body for moisturizing and I think during the winter months it is very helpful. I do not find it sitting on the skin, my skin absorbs it and makes it silky smooth and gives a nice scent as well. I use it on my face occasionally when I am in the sun and I feel that the skin on my face got burned or dry or tight. I wash my face first and use a tonic then I massage in the melted coconut oil around my cheek and neck. I do not use it around my eyes and my head. I never heard that it is bad for your face and skin and I do not agree with that. Other oils might be better but coconut oil can be helpful. I will try the others and find out if they are better but I never get breakouts from coconut oil and it does not clog my pores. Maybe for certain skin type can have that problem but in my experience it is not totally true.

  2. Thank you so much for explaining! I tried using coconut oil years ago on my face and completely broke out. No wonder! I wrote off oils for awhile after but then discovered jojoba through one of your other blog posts and became a convert. Interestingly, jojoba oil is technically a wax though right?

  3. I’ve tried coconut oil on my face several times over the years. Every time I have breakouts. I thought it was just me. Thank you for the validation.

  4. What are your thoughts on organic, cold pressed castor oil? It says that it is rich in antioxidants. I put it on my face at night. It’s a bit thick and sticky but if I warm it in my hands first it goes on well, and I feel like it gets my skin through the dry winter months. And it’s comparatively inexpensive. Also, I’ve used it twice successfully to get rid of warts on the soles of my feet. If I shouldn’t be using it though, please tell me!

  5. Hello everyone!
    I don’t totally agree. I highlight the word totally because I use pure coconut oil as a make up remover, so I rinse it off. It’s the best make up remover I have ever used. It bits all the oil make up remover on the market. Seriously, it removes even waterproof mascara and it doesn’t any residue. I have to be clear on this, I rinse it and I am not prone to acne. May be this is why I don’t break out. I don’t use any other make up remover since I discover the magic of coconut oil.
    Of course this is my experience may be it wouldn’t be the same thing with other people. But we are a bunch of friends to do so and it suits everyone of us.
    Obviously I also use it as a hair mask and it does a wonderful job.
    Have a nice day !

  6. What about the coconut oil skincare and cosmetics craze? So many companies are putting coconut oil in moisturizer, makeup primer, foundation, setting spray and etc…. any thoughts on these products. Also on a side note…. can you talk about seed oil allergies and how to manage that in skin care products. I’m having a hard time finding good products without sunflower seed in them. Thanks!

  7. If you have a history of acne and clogged pores, or know coconut oil doesn’t sit well with your skin, I would say best to avoid these products with coconut oil in them as they’re likely to clog pores as well!

  8. I had to read this blog entry when it appeared in my inbox as I’ve ben using coconut oil as a face (and body) moisturizer for years. Probably close to 10. In that time I’ve tried others, argan oil for a long stretch, but always went back to coconut. I think what works for me is when I’m fresh out of a shower and I put it on it locks in the moisture? Is that a thing? I’m not sure, but it’s helped keep my skin bright and clear for so long now I’m almost afraid to switch (I had really problematic skin pre-coconut oil and apart from a monthly hormonal flux I’m now in the clear with a clean diet.) I’m not averse to trying something new (I like the idea of the rosehip) but I’m definitely nervous to experiment and throw of this good thing I’ve got going. (extra note: I exfoliate regularly with a homemade oatmeal/honey/lemon/tea tree scrub and maybe that helps keep my pores unclogged even with the use of coconut oil?)

  9. Lauren, you’re very lucky!! And one of the few I’ve heard from with a history of acne AND their skin tolerating coconut oil well. I think if it’s working for you and you don’t want to switch, you don’t by any means “need” to!

  10. Been using coconut oil on my face every morning after shower, for years..never had any problems at all…does not sit on skin but absorbs immediately. I researched extensively before using it as a moisturizer and never heard your take on it…I also use a mix of organic extra virgin olive oil and castor oil mix (50/50) for my night time cleaning . No skin issues at all…been told skin looks great and do not look my age at all…

  11. Hi! I have recently started using coconut oil on my face . I use it immediately after bath and am sort of liking the glow it gives . I have made a mixture of coconut oil with aloe Vera gel which I use regularly. Also I sometimes mix this oil with my foundation to have an extra shine. It’s been more than 2months and So far no breakouts! However, would like to try rosehip oil!

  12. Nadia, Help! My experience corroborates with your post–my face does NOT like coconut oil. Here’s my problem: I cannot find a non-toxic facial cleanser that does not have coconut oil in it–I feel like it’s in everything! I bought one of your oil blends for moisturizing and I love it, but I’m still stuck on what to CLEAN my face with. I am currently giving oil cleansing a 2nd chance with a mixture of jojoba, hemp & castor oil that I bought in large quantities and mix myself, but I feel like my skin is worse than ever: more acne, huge pores… angry, angry skin. Because of the quantity of oil required for oil cleansing (more than the few drops suggested for moisturizing), I feel like it would cost too much money to use your oil blends for cleansing. I tried your recipe for homemade cleanser using castile soap & honey, but my skin didn’t like that either. I tried African black soap with witch hazel toner too (as suggested on one of your blog posts) and while it makes my skin feel nice and my pores are not as huge as with oil cleansing, my forehead acne seems worse after trying it. I am so discouraged and don’t know where else to turn. I would be so grateful for any guidance you could offer. You are so wise and helpful, Nadia and I love your website and book!

  13. I am very happy to learn that I am not crazy. Many people in my life told me to use coconut oil for my acne-prone skin. And guess what, I broke out every time. It left my skin with a greasy feeling and to be honest , it never helped hydrate it. Now I know why! Will stick to eating it from now on lol

  14. I ended up with terrible cystic acne from using coconut oil on my face. It took me longer than it should have to realize what was causing the breakouts. Now, I apply a few drops of safflower oil before bed. I still struggle with breakouts but not like before. My main skin problem is scarring from the cystic acne.

  15. Hi Nadia, my skin doesn’t like anything except coconut oil, its really really sensitive, every other thing breaks it out, but cold pressed evco, I do hear your point,of it not penetrating within the deeper layers of the skin,and not worth using alone coz it does not hydrate but softens the skin. But it has never ever broken out my sensitive skin,it also helped my friend’s combination skin’s uneven skin tone.It works wonders as a last step in the ctm routine to seal in all the serums, I never use it more than 2 drops on my face, I also use it as a makeup remover, it does it wonderfully. I love the way it works. Rosehip oil dries my face, same goes with pumpkin seed oil. You may find it queer but redness on my cheeks is reduced by the very coco. I’m using it over 6 years now, I never use any other products but geranium oil+coconut oil as a serum during winters, I need it as a last step inspite of living in a summer that heats upto 50°. It may not work for some, but I swear by it. Thank you.

  16. Actually, coconut oil helped clear my acne up…I think different oils work better or worse for different people. We all have different skin combinations and I’ve noticed on my kids especially that certain lotions and oils will work for one but not the other two.

  17. I use it as a face wash to remove my makeup and as a body moisturizer or to remove eye makeup

  18. I make my own serum with essential oils…I have mature skin.I use Jojoba oil as a carrier oil,Rosehip oil,then a few drops each of carrot seed oil,frankincense oil,lavender oil,pomegranate oil and last but not least vit E oil…at times I swop our rosehip or for evening primrose oil….it’s been my nightly serum for the past 7years and I’m pleased with the outcome…

  19. I’ve used coconut oil as a moisturizer as well as makeup remover for a couple of years now and have never experienced any issues. It may be a skin type issue, don’t know. But I appreciate the tip on the other oils to use.

  20. My problem is after having a stroke last year my skin is wrinkled and there are deep lines on my face having an extremely aging effect. I do use coconut oil which is of no benefit to my face but good for haircrtc. I also use argan oil which after reading your site I will return to using , especially facial. My skin looks awful and feels dry. I use frankincense and rose essential oils mixed with argan oil. I shall try geranium also. I have a large collection of essential oils. My friend uses geranium oil on her face for rosacea On my advice funnily enough and it works. thankyou.