Is coconut oil good for your skin? Types and uses

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — 

Written by Danielle Dresden on April 15, 2020

Researchers are looking at coconut oil as a possible topical treatment for chronic skin inflammation. However, studies into the benefits of coconut oil in the diet are ongoing.

In this article, we look at the possible dermatological benefits of coconut oil, the different types, and how to use it.

Benefits of coconut oil for the skin

The benefits of using coconut oil for the skin are varied and may include:

  • moisturizing dry skin, including in people with conditions such as eczema
  • reducing inflammation, which may result from UVB rays
  • promoting wound healing
  • antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties

Some preliminary research supports these benefits. However, more investigation is necessary to confirm them.

One study Trusted Source found that coconut oil might help prevent and treat rashes, such as atopic dermatitis. Another study Trusted Source showed that coconut oil extract could improve the barrier function of the skin and reduce inflammation due to UVB rays.

Research Trusted Source on coconut oil has also suggested that the oil may have antibacterial properties, even when people use it on the skin. Cellular studies indicate possible antifungal and antiviral capabilities, too.

Scientists believe that coconut oil also helps strengthen the skin barriers for infants with a low birth weight, which could help protect them from health complications.

It is even possible that virgin coconut oil may have a beneficial effect on genes Trusted Source that play a role in causing inflammation, but more research is necessary to confirm this

Scientists have not determined exactly why coconut oil benefits the skin, but the polyphenols and fatty acids that it contains may contribute to its helpful effects. It also contains antioxidants, the topical application Trusted Source of which can protect the skin and improve its appearance.

Research into the benefits of using coconut oil on the skin is still ongoing, but there are currently few known risks.

Types of coconut oil

Different types of coconut oil are available, and people classify them by their production process.

The two main types are virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts, and it may be richer in antioxidants and polyphenols Trusted Source. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat.

Refined coconut oil may go through more processing steps, including machine pressing to obtain the oil. Some producers may use chemical solvents, deodorizing, and bleaching.

The type of coconut oil also depends on the extraction technique. When producers obtain the oil without using heat, they refer to it as cold-pressed coconut oil. This type may be richer in nutrients.

If the extraction process uses steam or heat to press the oil out of fresh coconut meat, this results in expeller-pressed coconut oil.

Generally, the least processed types of coconut oil, such as cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, are the more healthful options.

To help coconut oil stay solid in warm temperature, manufacturers may hydrogenate it, which means treating it with hydrogen. The resulting product is rich in artificial trans fats. The American Heart Association (AHA) say that eating them increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, this warning does not seem to apply to putting coconut oil on the skin.

A person can use any type of coconut oil on the skin.

How to use

One of the best-established uses for coconut oil is as a skin moisturizer.

The common practice is to rub a small amount of coconut oil directly onto the skin or hair. The skin generally absorbs coconut oil quickly.

If someone is using coconut oil for the first time, they should test it on a small area of the body before applying it to more extensive areas. Doing this is especially important for people with sensitive or oily skin, as it can help prevent any potential adverse reactions.

After applying coconut oil to the hair, the person can leave it in for the desired time and then wash it out using shampoo. Learn more about using coconut oil in the hair.

People can also include coconut oil in their diet, but research into the skin-related benefits of consuming coconut oil is limited.


Coconut oil may have many potential benefits for the skin. Research suggests that it has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Coconut oil is also very moisturizing for dry skin.

A person can apply coconut oil directly to the skin. However, it is important to note that coconut oil cannot treat medical conditions. A person should speak to their doctor before considering the use of coconut oil as a home remedy.