Using Coconut Oil For Scar Healing – Science Backed Answers
Those who suffer from acne and other skin conditions constantly look for the best ways to accelerate the body’s natural healing process to heal and reduce the appearance of scars. Unfortunately for all of us, the skincare industry preys on this desire and consistently releases new fixes, many of which have no real benefit.
The recent popularity in using coconut oil for its “healing properties” is one perfect example. While coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer it has no real effect in healing scars.
For more science backed information and what you should use instead, read below.
Research Based Facts on Coconut Oil Effects on Scarring
It is important to be proactive in treating scars during the healing phase. Scars should be massaged early on with a moisturizer, as this will beneficially affect the wound environment and expedite the healing process.
Surgical scars or scars generated by some other trauma to the skin should be treated proactively and decisively. While it is beyond the scope of this article, options include active massage, use of silicone gels, topical steroids, or cortisone injections.
Type of Scars
Before we dive into scar treatment, it is helpful to understand the different types of scars that exist. Before we can think about treating an old scar, we need to understand the kind of damage that has been done to the dermis.
Coconut oil is high in many fatty acids, particularly lauric acid, which has been proven to kill the main bacteria responsible for causing acne.
Despite coconut oil being high in antimicrobial lauric acid, it is not a great treatment for acne on its own. There are two main problems: 1) Coconut oil is not potent enough on its own to kill all of the acne causing bacteria and 2) a secondary cause of acne is clogged pores, which coconut oil does nothing to fix.
While Coconut oil has outstanding moisturizing properties, it will not repair the skin and will do nothing to fade acne scars.
The dark spots left after pimples heal are called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. PIH occurrence is darker skinned patients is particularly high, with an occurrence rate as high as 95%. The good news is that PIH typically fades over time on its own.
Caused by the stretching of skin during any period of rapid weight gain, stretch marks are often experienced during or following pregnancy.
Caused by damage to the skin’s underlying structure, resulting in inflammation. Typical in chickenpox and cystic acne, these result in a depression in the skin’s surface that is usually darker than the surrounding skin.
Keloids are raised and puffy scars that often appear darker than the surrounding skin. They are common in those with dark skin, and result from aggressive healing. The body haphazardly sends collagen fibers surrounding the affected area, and result in a scar that grows beyond the injured area.
Similar to keloid scars, with the key difference being that hypertrophic scars do not grow beyond the injured area. They are the result of of an overproduction of tissue at the site of the wound.
Typically the result of a burn, contracture scars are the result of loss or damage to a large area of skin. Characterized by tight, skinny skin that restricts movement.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is excellent for keeping your skin moisturized, and is a product that we use regularly. While it is not particularly useful for healing scars, it has a number of benefits that we can highlight:
- High in Vitamin E, making it useful for hydrating and nourishing the skin
- High in Lauric Acid, an essential fatty acid with anti inflammatory properties
- Can be massaged into the skin to boost collagen production. Collagen fibers in the skin contribute to the elasticity of the skin and are responsible for regenerating the skin. Increased collagen production equates to quicker healing and reduced hyperpigmentation
- Medium-chain fatty acids help the skin stay supple and moisturized
Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is recommended form to use to take advantage of all of coconut oil’s beneficial properties.
What you Should Use to Fade Scars
While not particularly effective at enhancing the scar healing process, using coconut oil still has a place in your beauty routine.
However, if you are really looking to remove scars caused by acne, we recommend the use of over-the-counter acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide.
We strongly recommend this leave on acne treatment from Neutrogena.
Side Effects and Risks
Because coconut oil is mildly comedogenic, it has the ability to clog your pores. If you are prone to acne breakouts to your face will likely backfire. We recommend the use of natural products like shea butter or facial moisturizers if you fall into the acne prone group.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you have pitted or raised acne scar, you should consider consulting with a dermatologist. While you can use topical treatments like retinoids, you may need to use more aggressive treatments like laser treatments, dermal fillers, or steroid treatments.
Your dermatologist will have the best context for what will work for you. Do not rely on your friends, the girl at Sephora, or your esthetician for information on more aggressive treatments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does coconut oil fade old scars, dark spots, and acne scars?
There is no scientific evidence that supports that claim that using coconut oil will help heal scars. Although it is helpful in keeping the skin moisturized and boosting collagen production, all evidence suggests that there is no direct benefit to using coconut oil for scars.
My doctor recommended I use coconut oil for a recent wound. Is she wrong?
No, coconut oil has been proven to be helpful in wound treatment. It just does not have a meaningful effect in healing scars.
A scientific study found that wounds treated with virgin coconut oil healed faster and experienced a significant increase in collagen.
How to tell if a pimple will become a scar?
Whether your pimple will scar depends on what kind of acne you have. Those with nodular or cystic acne will likely scar, because the blemishes form deep underneath your skin.
Popping, squeezing, and picking at pimples also increases the likelihood of scarring. Avoid popping them to increase the opportunity that they will heal properly.
Can aloe vera help heal acne scars?
No, but one of the components that makes up aloe vera has been found to be effective in reducing hyperpigmentation, including the dark spots left by acne.
One thing that we would like to acknowledge is that many scars cannot be completely erased. Despite everything we know about skin care and spending enough to put our dermatologists kids through college, we still have scars that are visible. What we can do is recommend the right ingredients to help heal scars and minimize their appearance where possible.