Coconut oil gets a lot of hype. Traditionally a cooking oil, over the past few years many have touted it as a “super food” for treating everything from high cholesterol to promoting luscious hair and glowing skin. Coconut oil is made by extracting a mixture of of lauric acid, saturated fats (specifically medium-chain fatty acids) from raw coconuts. It’s these medium-chain fatty acids that have been linked to an array of skin benefits—including healthy hydration, reduced redness and inflammation, banishing acne breakouts, and even encouraging cell regeneration and wound healing.
Here are a few of the many scientifically-backed benefits of coconut oil for skin health:
1. Coconut oil reduces frequency of breakouts
Another embarrassing breakout before a big event? Apply a bit of coconut oil directly to whiteheads and let the natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits banish zits for good. Dermatologists recommend coconut oil over harsh benzoyl peroxide for a good reason—this oil is loaded with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a bacteria blasting secret weapon known as lauric acid. In fact, more than 50% of the healthy fatty acids in coconut oil is lauric acid, which eradicates a specific strain of bacteria, known as Propionibacterium acnes (or P. acnes) that triggers acne breakouts.
2. Coconut oil boosts collagen and healing
According to a 2010 lab rat study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, applying a bit of virgin coconut oil directly to the skin abrasions, burns, and wounds in young rats, significantly reduced healing time. Researchers claim that wounds treated with virgin coconut oil also benefited from heightened collagen, a vital skin protein that increases skin cell rejuvenation and wound healing, and better prevented skin infections, due to the antimicrobial properties within coconut oil.
3. Coconut lowers inflammatory response
Frequent breakouts, eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis are all triggered by the same thing—inflammation. So it makes sense that the above mentioned skin conditions will improved if inflammation is reduced. Antioxidant rich foods and oils, like coconut oil, is loaded with antioxidants, and thus works as a natural anti-inflammatory. Scientists explain that antioxidants neutralize free radicals within the body, which contribute to oxidative stress and lead to chronic inflammatory response. Based on this large body of research, coconut oil can be directly applied to skin to banish redness, inflammation, and lower symptoms of several inflammatory skin conditions.
4. Coconut oil protects against skin nasties
If your skin is prone to bacteria and fungi that lead to excess oils and frequent breakouts, the natural microbial-fighting effects of coconut oil may be your skin saviour. According to a study on microbial infections of the skin and nails from a group of researchers at University of Texas, Galveston, the microbial properties in coconut oil (from fatty acids), were effective in fighting the most common skin and nail viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites (i.e., dermatophytic fungi, which causes the nail infection Trichophyton rubrum; and staphylococcus aureus, group A β-hemolytic streptococci, which causes Herpes simplex).