Despite what you've read, coconut oil is bad for your skin. And coconut oil for rashes is certainly not a great idea. In fact, I'd argue that coconut oil is too alkaline for your skin, and its high concentration of saturated fats makes it a poor choice, especially when it comes to skin rashes.

Yes, your skin needs an emollient moisturizer to help prevent water loss. This is especially important for dry skin, atopic dermatitis, and many other skin conditions.

And yes, coconut oil is one (of many) natural oils that is often used as a moisturizer.

Health blogs claim that coconut oil is some sort of health panacea — “It’s a miracle for everything!” they say.

But the truth is, when applied to your skin, coconut oil can make your skin worse.

Coconut oil skin irritation is real and it can be especially problematic when you've got some sort of skin condition plagued with chronic rashes. Since I started talking about this, increasingly more of my readers admit to me that coconut oil has irritated their skin conditions. So if coconut oil has irritated your skin, or made your rash worse, you're not alone.

And I'd rather not see you continue to suffer from coconut oil skin problems. So let's take a look at how coconut oil irritates skin and other options I'd recommend when it comes to coconut oil for rashes.

Do you need some help untangling the reason your rash keeps cropping up? Click here to download my Skin Rash Root Cause Finder – a simple way to figure out what's triggering your rash so you can finally find relief!

Is Coconut Oil Bad For Skin?

Is coconut oil bad for skin? Let's just say it's not ideal. It's pH is all wrong, it's too anti-microbial, and it's too high in saturated fat – and that's why coconut oil irritates skin. But before we go any further, let me tell you that this article isn't meant to knock coconut oil. I’m by no means anti-coconut oil. But what I will share is an important reminder that you may need to re-evaluate how committed you are to using coconut oil for skin.

And I’m not at all alone in my concern about the overuse of coconut oil in skincare.

This topic initially came to my attention in 2018 after speaking with several of experts who have been featured on the Health Skin Show podcast.

My friend and skincare expert Rachael Pontillo, shared with me that… “while coconut oil has become a popular DIY remedy for just about every skin, health, and hair issue, for many people, it makes matters worse.”

I know that you’re ready to ask, “Can you share the reasons why coconut oil is bad for skin?”

So here are four reasons why I don’t recommend that you put coconut oil on your skin (and what you should use INSTEAD).


This coconut oil is too alkaline

1 – Coconut Oil Is Too Alkaline For Your Skin

Your skin has a natural pH level of 4.5 to 5.5. It’s not a good idea to disrupt this delicate environment – not even with a natural product like coconut oil.

pH is a measure of acid-base strength on a scale from 0-14. Pure natural water is right in the middle with a neutral pH of 7.

On one end are acidic substances (pH from 0-6), and the other end are basic (or alkaline) substances (pH of 8-14).

While the numbers 1-14 seem small, they’re actually powers of 10. Each unit of pH is 10 times stronger than the one next to it. That means that your skin with a pH of 5 is at least 100 times, more acidic than neutral pure water.(1)

We know that washing with soap and detergents can worsen atopic dermatitis because of their high pH values.

In fact, using soap and detergents is one of the most common causes of dermatitis of the hands and can trigger flares of eczema. Some are close to a 9 on the pH scale. (2)

Studies show that washing with soap increases the skin’s pH by up to 3 pH units (it can become up to 1,000 times more alkaline) and that effect lasts for 90 minutes!(2)

And the more alkaline your skin becomes, the greater your risk of skin infections from organisms like Staph aureus.

Coconut Oil Skin Irritation

The increased pH of coconut oil irritates the skin, thinning its protective outer layer known as the stratum corneum. This plays a role in creating a state of “Leaky Skin” that also helps perpetuate an imbalance in your skin’s microbiome.

That all said, coconut oil has a pH of 7-8. If healthy skin’s natural pH is around 5, it means that coconut oil is 100-1,000 times more alkaline than your skin.

And unfortunately, applying something that can alter the pH to such a degree like coconut oil can perpetuate a state of dysbiosis of your skin’s microbiome and Leaky Skin.

So if coconut oil irritated your skin, this could be why.


Vegetables sealed in a plastic bag unable to breathe

2 – Coconut Oil Is Too Saturated

I know how this will sound as we shift our beliefs about saturated fat in the diet, but…

Saturated fat applied to your skin can worsen some skin conditions.

Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat (and it's also highly comedogenic).(3) This may worsen some of the more sensitive skin issues like eczema and perioral dermatitis.

Coconut oil has large molecules and is absorbed slowly. This means it stays on top of the skin and can cause an occlusive barrier.

While it still… “provides protection, it ends up acting more like a plastic bag on the skin,” says Pontillo. This is one of the big reasons for coconut oil skin irritation.

It's a problem because coconut oil doesn’t allow for your skin cells to breathe or detoxify.

It also “interferes with normal lipid production, and can feel physically and emotionally suffocating (remember, the skin is a key part of the nervous system because it contains thousands of nerve endings per square inch),” says Pontillo.

Another reason why you don’t want an occlusive barrier of saturated fat on your skin is because it can also increase heat in the body. One of the skin’s main functions is body temperature regulation.

Many people with chronic rashes and sensitive skin already have trouble releasing heat, so this could exacerbate your situation further,” says Pontillo. If you've ever experienced coconut oil skin problems, this could be why.


Washing with anti-bacterial soap

3 – Coconut Oil Messes Up Your Skin’s Microbiome

Anything that disrupts your skin’s healthy microbiome can make your skin worse. And this is certainly one of the ways coconut oil skin irritation happens.

You’ve heard to ditch your anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers because they increase your risk of skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis, right?

Well, if your skin has a rash, one of the major problems is dysbiosis of the skin’s healthy microbiome. Your skin’s microbiome helps your skin stay healthy and maintain a tight barrier from the outside world.

Coconut oil can kill microbes including bacteria, viruses and fungus. A solution with as little as 5% coconut oil is bactericidal to several types of bacteria.(4)

One of the antimicrobial components found in coconut oil is the fatty acid called monolaurin. Monolaurin makes up about half of the fat in coconut oil and it kills bacteria by disintegrating their outer membranes.(4)

Coconut Oil Skin Problems

Theoretically, it makes sense to use an anti-microbial like coconut oil on your skin if you have dysbiosis, but it doesn’t always work that way.

While certain fungal rashes might benefit from using a natural antimicrobial as a spot treatment, regular use is not a good idea. “Even natural antimicrobials can disrupt the balance of the skin's microbiome which can affect your immune system and barrier function, increase inflammation, and lead to dysbiosis,” says Pontillo.

Bottom line? Just because coconut oil has anti-microbial properties doesn’t mean you should put it on your skin, despite what you’ve read. Coconut oil skin problems often stem from the way it manipulates the balance of your microbiome with its intense anti-microbial effects.

If you want to rebalance your skin’s microbiota, there are other ways like using probiotics on your skin.


Various skin oils

4 – There Are Better Options Than Coconut Oil For Rashes

I’m sure you’re wondering what to use if coconut oil is bad for your rashed skin condition.

Don’t worry! There are a lot of other natural oils to use on your skin that are probably a better fit.

The natural plant oils that I recommend include jojoba oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and hemp oil (one of my go-to options I recommend to clients). These each have different components in them and help your skin from the outside-inward in different ways.

Jojoba Oil For Skin

Jojoba oil is excellent for your skin mainly because of how similar it is to human sebum. If you’re not familiar with the term sebum, it’s an oily substance naturally produced by your skin that lubricates and waterproofs your skin.(5)

There are a number of proven anti-inflammatory effects associated with jojoba oil. It can help with skin repair for acne and many types of dermatitis (e.g. atopic, seborrheic, and eczematous). Jojoba oil is also recommended for many skin conditions like infections and aging.(4)

Avocado Oil For Skin

Avocado oil is another healthy oil to try on your skin. It contains many vitamins, minerals, and skin-supporting oils like linoleic acid. It’s excellent for dry, damaged, or chapped skin.(4) And I’ve had a number of readers share with me how helpful avocado oil has been for supporting softer, calmer skin.

Sesame Oil For Skin

Sesame oil is an anti-inflammatory oil that promotes healthy skin barrier function. Because it has significant antioxidant activity, sesame oil has been used to relieve pain and inflammation in joints by massaging it into the skin in traditional Taiwanese medicine.(4) It also is a staple of ancient Ayurvedic skin care practices.

Sunflower Oil For The Skin

Sunflower seed oil has been studied for its help with atopic dermatitis because of its moisturizing effect. It has a high concentration of a fatty acid called linoleic acid which helps the skin barrier by enhancing the outer layer of skin cells.(4)

Tested in both adults and children with atopic dermatitis, sunflower seed oil works as a great moisturizer. Even a 2% solution of sunflower oil improves skin conditions similar to using a steroid cream.(6,7)

Olive Oil For Skin

Olive oil is another natural oil that your skin might love! It’s often studied side-by-side with sunflower seed oil, and several studies show them to be equally beneficial for skin health. When applied to babies’ skin, they rank similarly on hydration, reduction of water loss from the skin, as well as pH and redness.(4)

That said, it's not a great option if you're struggling with Malasezzia overgrowth which is commonly the case with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. This type of commensal yeast normally living on your skin loves olive oil so it can make things worse for these two issues.

Hemp Oil For Skin

Hemp oil is a fantastic oil with lots of antioxidant properties to help soothe chronic dry, flaky, angry skin. It helps to maintain softer, calmer skin thanks to its omerga-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content which is far superior to using coconut oil for skin.(8)

There is also research showing benefits for skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, rosacea and lichen planus.(8)

One of my favorite products – Nourish Butter – is a hemp oil soothing salve with other herb and oil ingredients that make it a great option for angry, dry skin patches that need more than just a thin moisturizer.


Coconut oil as a skincare product

Do You Need To Entirely Stop Using Coconut Oil  For Skin?

As you can see from the reasons shared above, coconut oil is bad for your skin. I certainly do not recommend coconut oil for rashes, rash-prone skin or acne-prone skin. And it’s not going to help you get the results you’re looking for no matter the promises of magic you’ve read about on natural health blogs.

I too was quite surprised by this information when I initially heard it. But after speaking to so many experts and hearing from clients about their own personal experiences, I felt compelled to share.

Frankly, I feel that coconut oil for skin rashes presents more challenges than solutions (even if your skin is pretty clear and you’re not experiencing a flare).

Its pH can disrupt the skin’s pH and thin its outer layer. It’s too saturated which can form an occlusive layer on top of the skin preventing it from breathing and releasing excess heat. It is also a strong antimicrobial which can disrupt the skin’s natural microbial balance.

Coconut Oil For Rashes

So do you have to cut out coconut oil completely from your skincare routine?

No, but you may want to minimize your skin’s coconut oil exposure – especially if you're prone to rashes. And most especially if you're not sure what's triggering your rash. After all, coconut oil hiding in your skincare could be the cause of your skin irritation (especially if you have a hidden coconut allergy).

>> Need help figuring out what's causing your skin rash and how to finally get relief? Be sure to download my Skin Rash Root Cause Finder here – so I can walk you through how to figure out why you're breaking out in a rash and put a stop to it. 

So – if you're currently using straight coconut oil on your skin, it's time to stop.

And it's best to cut out or minimize products where coconut oil is one of the main ingredients (which can be hard if you're buying more “natural” products).

Most of all, why use coconut oil when there are other, far better options available that I’ve shared above?

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW – I’d love to hear your experience using coconut oil on your skin and your thoughts on what is definitely a controversial topic!



1 – https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/references/acids-bases-the-ph-scale

2 – https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)34442-0/fulltext#s006

3 – https://examine.com/supplements/coconut-oil/

4 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/

5 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebaceous_gland

6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20199440

7 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20964572

8 – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hemp-oil-for-skin

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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