coconut oil causes spots

Coconut Oil causes spots?


One of the drawbacks I have found with setting myself up as an internet guru is that the more questions I get the more I realise how little I know.  Take this one from Rebecca.

Hello. First off, I am not entirely sure if this is a type of scientific problem that is addressable, or even common, but I thought it was startling and strange. I have always had good skin, no acne problems as a teenager. I would get the occasional pimple but it was never anything severe. I think that is pretty lucky. However, when I met my boyfriend (now fiance) he introduced me to coconut oil, to cook with. I had never heard of it, much less tried it. Fast forward a few weeks. I began breaking out like crazy, but after several months I noticed it was only on my cheeks. I was devastated, and since I have quite a healthy diet I tried everything from making sure I had a clean pillow case, washing my face am and pm, everything. I would get at least one new blemish a day. I did some online research, which I am not sure how trustworthy that can be, but I found that coconut oil could have been the culprit. I have since stopped cooking with it (note: I never used it directly on my skin, only ingested it) and my skin has improved dramatically. I no longer get any blemishes. I read that coconut oil can release liposaccharides and these can let gut bacteria into the bloodstream. This in turn was causing my body to try to fight this off, and I think it manifested as acne, but only on my cheeks. Do you know if this is really the case? Could I just be allergic to coconut oil? I can hardly believe this substance did so much damage. Do you think others have this problem? Is it common? My fiance can eat the coconut oil on food with no trouble at all. I am glad I found a solution for myself but I am just wondering at the science behind it! Thanks!

Well that one has me baffled, other than to say we are all different.  I have never heard of this happening with coconut oil before, and given that it is staple food ingredient across wide stretches of the globe I can’t imagine it is very common.

Coconut oil is not very different to other oils that you eat.  It does have an unusually high level of what chemists call highly saturated fatty acids, and it has some quite small fats relatively speaking, so is probably absorbed a bit more than the average oil.  But I can’t think of any reason that that should affect your skin.  All the oils that you eat are broken down by the body into their component parts so the particular type you eat doesn’t make a huge amount of difference.  Or at least, I can’t think of any reason that it should.

There is one possible explanation.  There is a suggestion in some quarters that high blood sugar levels can lead to spots.  What happens is that the body secretes the excess glucose in the blood into the pores, and once there bacteria take advantage of it to grow.  Your body reacts to the bacteria and that creates a spot.  This is an hypothesis that I have been considering for a while to explain the widely held notion that eating a Mars bar can give you spots shortly afterwards.  (I have to confess that there is no real scientific data to back up this idea – it just seems to fit with a lot of anecdotes I have heard over the years.)

This is a good story for a glucose-rich Mars bar, but it isn’t quite so obvious that coconut oil would have the same effect.  But it is conceivable that because you are unfamiliar with coconut oil you are using a lot more than you would of oils you are used to.  In which case, maybe your blood glucose gets elevated because you have unwittingly increased the number of calories you are eating?

But basically, I don’t know.  I will have to throw it open and see if any readers have any information to shed light on this one.


30 thoughts on “Coconut Oil causes spots?”

  1. A couple of my Twitter chums have suggested it might be an allergy. I don’t think the symptoms really fit, but allergies do come in many forms so I suppose it is not impossible.

  2. I don’t know if this helps you or not, but…. back in the 1980’s the Journal of Investigative Dermatology did a study and measured the chemical content of the sebum of acne patients before and after being on a special diet of foods that contained more branch chained fatty acids than straight chained fatty acids. They didn’t find any difference in sebum content or the amount of acne. It is known that topically the straight chained fatty acids are more comedogenic.

    That being said, I don’t know if there have been any studies on coconut oil and if it has an impact on hormones – and we know hormones play a big role in acne. Doctors used to say that dairy consumption did not effect acne, but they are changing their minds now because of the amount of hormones used in dairy production.

    1. Hi Phaedra – I think I know what you are talking about. I remember doing a big literature search on the effects of diet on skin problems back in the days when that involved acquiring huge piles of photocopies. So yes, a hormonal effect could well be what is going on here.

  3. I’ve read on quite a few skincare blogs that coconut oil is comedogenic … but I’m struggling to find any scientific sources for this.

    1. You are quite Rebecca, there have been investigations into the comedogenic substances. But they were all concerned with applying the products to the skin, not eating them.

  4. @Colin–that was just what I was thinking!! The studies I have all heard about regarded if they were safe to ingest–not to absorb into your skin.

  5. I really believe that coconut oil is safe as long as you take it as prescribed. Taking it excessively can really cause something bad. I will try to look for some proof that it’s not causing some problems like that.

  6. There are some papers showing link between dietary fat and carbohydrate consumption. E.g. eating omega-3 rich food increases omega-3 content of sebum and decreases rates of acne. So, maybe eating coconut oil increase medium-chain fatty acids in your sebum and cause inflammation of your follicles by itself or just by lowering essential fatty acids content (through diluting them)?

  7. I am currently experiencing a lot of facial breakouts. More than I ever have in my life. The only thing I can attribute it to is that I’ve switched to using coconut oil for cooking and baking. At the advice of my doctor, a few years ago, I went gluten free. As a result, I no longer consume breads, cookies, cakes, etc. But since I miss having them once in awhile I’ve been searching for substitutions. I’m afraid I’ve gone a little crazy with new recipes from a paleo cookbook the past several weeks. 🙂 I use coconut oil in place of my usual EVOO for sautéing and both coconut oil and coconut milk for baking and in many of my breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. After reading a few of these posts, I think I’ll stop for a week or so to see if my complexion clears up. I hear CO is such a healthy option, so I’m going to feel bad if I find I’m sensitive to it. 🙁

  8. I am 60 and have never even during adolescence suffered from spots or acne but about 18 months ago I began to get deep spots which took a long time to clear(6 weeks or more) I tried eliminating various foods as I have a history of food sensitivities and I stopped using all face creams and make up(I also washed my face with water twice a day and used essential oils which seemed to help) and after some time they began to occur less and less frequently and then disappeared completely. I was delighted and about a month ago I began eating coconut oil again. I love it and do not eat dairy. A week ago spots began appearing again! It is of course very difficult to be sure of cause and effect but I am going to stop eating the coconut oil and see what happens…….

  9. I have had the same reaction to coconut butter on my chin, I believe after eating Artisanas coconut butter. I started eating this and broke out stopped for a while and my skin calmed down but couldn’t believe that it was the coconut so I started eating it again and same thing happened. Now it doesn’t seem to happen when I cook with coconut milk in say curries, but it does when I eat the butter as a spread or something like that. I wonder could it be the way it is made by that brand?

  10. same thing happened to me, although less sever acne, but consistent. each time i stop with the coconut oil for a few days, i quit getting new spots on my skin, which usually occur on my face and scalp. i love coconut oil, but i am 99% sure that the spots (which are very similar to zits, but stay around longer) are my body’s way of saying enough. not that coco oil is bad, but too much of anything is bad, and that is our bodies’ way of saying, “enough, for now”

  11. my skin is usually fine but the minute i have one teaspoon of coconut oil i start having massive teenage style breakouts (which were never even that bad as a teenager) – sometimes even later the same night like my body can’t process it or digest it properly. i had stopped using it but then read about drinking coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it as an energy boost, and it did give me great energy all day without sugar cravings, but by the next morning my face had broken out terribly and i had not done anything differently except the oil. it was black coffee – no sugar/sweetener or dairy – just the coconut oil. not everyone’s body is the same so my guess is that it could be a myriad of reasons (allergy, hormones, enzymes, sebum/inflammation, glucose, liver, gallbladder, digestive health or other things as yet unknown). my mom went through a similar phase when she started taking flax oil, but she said her body assimilated it in a week and the break outs stopped. i haven’t had that luck. a friend of mine takes bentonite magma supplements which i guess soak up the excess oil in her system so she said that helps? i’ve been wondering if i shouldn’t just eat actual whole pieces of coconut instead of isolating the oil? maybe all i need is the rest of the coconut to balance things out – will try it and find out 🙂 good luck to all!

  12. Nwabisa Mfingwana

    Very interesting I found this site, I have been suffering from a bad breakout, pimple after pimple and very sore pimples. I never had pimples even in my teens, so you can imagine how frustrating it has been. I have recently been away on holiday and interestingly enough, not even one pimple appeared. I am back at home, hardly 3 days the pimples are popping out again. The only difference is that at home I strictly use coconut oil! Am going to stop using it till the end of January and see!

  13. Hi, i have exactly the same problem. I am eating very consciously at the moment. decided to stop eating dairy and swiched to coconut milk. i started breaking out in very deep pimples on my face. never had it before as a teenager. it must be the milk. I am very disappointed as i don’t want to have dairly full of antibiotics. i want to find a healthy subsitutue. do you think organic rice milk woul solve the problem? what is it in coconut milk that causes this skin reaction?

  14. So I came upon this site after googling coconut oil causing spot and lo and behold, i’m sure it’s the coconut oil. I actually use it to moisturize my skin – my whole body actually. I noticed dark black spots before but I’ve been using it since Monday (3 days ago) and surely I got a dark spot (almost scab-like) on my chin. When I try to scrub it away, it leave a fleshly pink mark as if I peeled the scab off! Good to know others are having a reaction to it…although most of you all are having reactions due to ingestion.

    1. It is a comfort to know that one isn’t the only one with a problem, but I am sure Monique doesn’t mean she takes any actual pleasure in someone else’s discomfort.

  15. I have experienced the same – taking coconut oil internally, daily for an almost resolved candida issues. Around day 3, I began to get deep break outs on cheeks, just infront of my ears. There is slight redness between my eye on bridge of nose too. According to facemapping, these areas indicate stress on the liver as a result of an imbalance in fat intake. The following link was very useful to me and made me hesitantily agree that the coconut oil was indeed the stressor and I must temporarily eliminate intake and reduce consumption when I do reintroduce. Aside from the coconut oil I eat a very clean diet – gluten and grain free, no red meats, no sugar aside from those in berries or grapefuuit, no starchy veggies or added starch. This regime has done wonders for me, however the coconut oil is just a poor fit at this time. Hope this is helpful to others.

  16. I have been using coconut oil to moisture my body and scalp. I stumbled upon this blog as I am trying to understand the breakout of spots on my forehead, one on my neck and back…. But mainly forehead. I am distressed because I have never had acne in my life and is blessed with smooth soft skin until this past month. Reading this I am convinced to stop using this oil and resort to lotions. My scalp is sore and occasionally has tiny sore bumps. Washing my hair seems to relieve things. I use organic Holland and Barrett products but don’t know whether there is something irritating my skin. My facial skin is scarred from spots and I don’t think the benefits of coconut oil is worth it for me. I am putting a stop to it and will resort to garnier lotion or vaseline…. They may have chemicals but at least I had clear skin.

  17. I know it is coconut oil.. i don’t eat much processed oil at all, because it is not good and because i break out in pimples if i do it on a daily basis.. i know it is oil so i avoid all processed oils.. and all processed foods with oil added.. i don’t do any dairy at all.. or animal products of any kind, so it is definitely the coconut oil because that is the only one i was doing.. I started brushing my teeth with coconut oil.. some natural toothpaste with bicarb, turmeric and coconut oil, it works really well as a teeth whitener.. i couldn’t figure out why i was getting pimples at all, then i went away for two days, took conventional toothpaste with me and the pimples subsided after just a day, so i carried on with the conventional toothpaste when i got back, and the pimples all went 🙂 There is no need for oil. Fat is a different story. Fat is essential. But oil is highly processed. And you can get all your fat needs from whole foods. Oil is just not a whole food. There are better ways to get oils into your diet.. the wholefood way..Leafy greens: kale, spinach, collard greens
    Seeds: hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds (1-2 tablespoons per day)
    Nuts: walnuts, sunflower seeds (a handful or about 1/4 cup is all you need)
    Soy Products: tofu, tempeh, edamame
    Algae Products like E3Live

  18. In the past I made lotions with coconut oil and would get weird pimples on my legs. I couldn’t understand where they were coming from, but I stopped getting them as soon as I stopped using the lotion. A few months later, I heard how good it is to add coconut oil to your diet, so I would put a little in my coffee in the morning. I’ve had bad acne in the past, but am currently using a topical treatment for it that keeps my skin clear. After ingesting the oil, I began to get deep painful acne on my jaw line and cheeks. I was so frustrated because I was using my medicine and didn’t know why it wasn’t working. Over the weekend I went out of town and didn’t get a single new pimple, so I’m sure it was caused by coconut oil. Unfortunately coconut oil isn’t for me, whether I’m applying it or ingesting it.

  19. Coconut oil is the #1 most acne causing thing I can consume.

    Some of my favourite dishes call for it and I have to limit my consumption of coconut containing dishes to just one every 10 days or so.

    I kept a food diary for almost a year, noting what foods affected me how and this was surprising to learn but absolutely 100% certain too.

    It seems there are a few of us where coconut = acne, no question.

  20. I am so glad I found this! I have been trying to figure out my acne forever. It went away when I went low fat high carb vegan, but I also gained weight. When I started introducing fat again I started with coconut butter. After eating (ok maybe a lot) over the course of three days I started to get deep cystic spots on chin and body (sexy!).

    I am sure it is the coconut oil / butter now, since I was eating a lot of that before I went low fat high carb (bulletproof coffee, etc).

    Its sad, my skin likes low fat high carb but my body likes high fat low carb, what’s a girl to do.

  21. 80 yrs old and one cheek is growing acne at an alarming rate. The long-lasting, red variety.
    I have excellent drying lotions and cleanse with salyiciiicate cleansing pads so this was a surprise.
    At the start of this year, my husband was diagnosed with AZH with attendant plaque building in his brain.
    My immediate internet research from a lady doctor who in her own internet research had learned about using 2 tbsp. of coconut oil daily on her husbands food. She said that the difference in his memory was immediate so I started my husband on it immediately and so far so good.
    Then I decided that if it was the marvelous product I was reading about, I SHOULD try some too. Immediately I started having gastrointestinal problems and the internet suggested that was common and to cut the amount down and persevere because it was good for me.
    I have ALWAYS stayed away from oils and fried food in my life and so I felt “guilty” consuming this stuff by the tablespoon, but of course, it is tasty. I have never cooked with it as I do not use oil when cooking. My system was probably in shock from the sudden oil deluge!!!
    I will stop immediately–not a loss to me, but a gain. Acne on an 80 yr (w/o gray hair) is not a fun occurrence.
    Thanks for your discussion forum; I had no doubt that this was the culprit when starting my search and fortunately I opened your pages first.
    Just got to heal this acne, and avoid that massive jar of coconut oil.

  22. I recently made a batch of coconut cookies as I am gluten and dairy free. I have suffered with severe acne and break out with dairy. So the recipe called for nearly 3/4 cup of coconut oil. Ive been eating these cookies for the past week and have hugeee cysts on my face. That is the acne without a head, just huge bumps under my skin that have pus in it. Its horrible. I get a new one nearly every day I have been eating these cookies. It is so good to know that I am not the only one and I am not crazy. Because everywhere I look on the internet, there is no link between coconut oil and acne, and some people think it improves their skin, when my skin is being the complete opposite. The thing is that nearly all oils break my skin out.. doesn’t matter if its canola, rice bran oil, if its oil and I eat fried foods, I get acne. Maybe nature didn’t intend for us to eat oils the way we are today.

  23. I too seem to not be able to ingest coconut oil, I have been trying to stay away from it and unknowingly had something with it the other night. My whole body feels bumpy and broken out.

  24. I have been noticing this for a long time now, I remember trying MCT oil and breaking out like crazy.
    I usually avoid most oil when I cook by myself as it doesn’t sit well with me, especially flax and coconut.
    I generally try to eat a clean gluten-free and plant based diet, but I give myself occasional treats that still fit those dietary restrictions. I had some vegan cheese at my friend’s house and a few days later there was a huge cyst I haven’t seen before. I asked her which brand it was, googled it and it turn out it’s mostly coconut oil….
    But everyone on the internet is praising coconut oil and it drives me insane. Although I don’t wish acne or bad luck upon anyone I am slightly happy to have people who actually relate to me.

  25. I can eat large amounts of fats – chips/pizza/cheese/deep fried stuff with no breakouts- I have always had clear skin. However one tiny bit of coconut oil always brings out new spots. I have two new spots today and knew I must have accidentally eaten coconut. On checking packaging I realised I ate one piece of chocolate containing coconut oil yesterday. Usually I am totally fine with eating lots of (non-coconut containing) chocolate. This coconut thing is not about eating too much fat/balance of nutrients- there is something about coconut oil specifically which is causing this problem for me, and maybe for others. I would like to know what it is!

  26. Hi All, I rub small amounts of coconut oil onto my face for sun spots. It works very well. It is fabulous for dry winter skin too. I’ve never ingested coconut oil.

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