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Can coconut oil work as a lip balm?

It hydrates, but it can also clog your pores.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
coconut divided in two
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

When it comes to skincare, coconut oil has a lot of fans—and understandably so. It’s a natural emollient, meaning it hydrates, which is why it’s often touted as a powerful moisturizer for hair and skin. But what often falls through the cracks in all the hype surrounding coconut oil is the fact that it’s comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores. And, unfortunately, clogged pores can lead to acne breakouts. 

Here’s what you need to know about coconut oil as a lip balm and why you may want to go with a non-comedogenic alternative instead. 

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernels of mature coconuts, which are harvested from coconut palm trees. An edible oil, it contains medium-chain fatty acids as well as vitamin E and polyphenols, making coconut oil a popular choice in the health and fitness world.¹ Traditionally, coconut oil is used as a source of dietary fat² and also to treat many different conditions, including psoriasis and dry skin.³ These days, it’s often used as a natural ingredient in many hair and skincare products.⁴ 

Is coconut oil good for your skin?

Research shows that coconut oil can lead to significant improvement in skin hydration and an increase in skin surface lipid levels.⁵ One particular study found it to have anti-inflammatory properties while enhancing the skin barrier function.⁶

That said, if you have acne and are considering using coconut oil on your face, our advice is to find an alternative ingredient. Here at Curology, coconut oil is the one oil we discourage our patients from using on their skin and hair because it has been found to be comedogenic (pore-clogging).⁷ That said, it’s important to remember everyone’s skin is different, and what may clog one person’s pores may not clog another’s. Though, keep in mind, that clogged pores may happen slowly and subtly! 

Is coconut oil good for your lips?

Coconut oil’s moisturizing, emollient properties make it potentially useful for soothing dry, chapped lips. It’s often used in lip balms, other lip products, and many other beauty and self-care products. Many people use coconut oil for dry lips, but, as noted above, it can be comedogenic. That said, lips are one of the few areas of the body without pores. But the skin around the lips does have pores. So, coconut oil that spreads outside of the lips may contribute to breakouts around the mouth. 

Potential benefits of coconut oil for your lips and skin 

Aside from being accessible and inexpensive, here are a few potential benefits of coconut oil for your lips and skin: 

  • It may moisturize: In tropical regions, virgin coconut oil has been used as a moisturizer for many years.⁸ It has occlusive properties that can help create a barrier to retain moisture within the skin and lips and help protect against potentially harmful external elements. 

  • It may help soften the skin: Coconut oil’s emollient properties may help soften the skin of your lips and body. 

  • It may be used to remove makeup: Coconut oil can be an effective, all-natural makeup remover (if your skin tolerates it, that is). Our dermatology providers recommend using a non-comedogenic makeup remover (like our Micellar Makeup Remover) instead of coconut oil. 

How often should you use coconut oil?

If you have acne-prone skin, the answer is never!⁹ Coconut oil may clog your pores and contribute to blackheads and whiteheads. If you experience breakouts or clogged pores, we suggest reaching for another natural moisturizer like jojoba oil or shea butter or trying out a product containing a moisturizing ingredient like hyaluronic acid.

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Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin better. If Curology is suitable for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers. The best part? In addition to receiving your custom treatment, you can round out your routine with our recommended skincare products, like our cleanser, moisturizer, Acne Body Wash, or sunscreen

FAQs

Can you use coconut oil as a lip balm?

Yes, but do so at your own risk! Coconut oil may effectively moisturize your lips, but because it can travel outside of the lips, it may clog the pores and lead to breakouts around the mouth. If your pores don’t become clogged, you can use it as a lip balm during the day or overnight as a lip mask. Again, we recommend other non-comedogenic ingredients like shea butter and beeswax or vegan-friendly wax.

Can we apply coconut oil on the lips daily?

If you find that coconut oil doesn’t clog your pores and cause breakouts, there’s no reason why you can’t use it as a daily lip balm. It can be highly moisturizing and nourishing and, in some cases, a great substitute for other lip balms. If you’re looking for something natural, affordable, and accessible, coconut oil is an excellent choice—as long as it doesn’t cause pimples! If you’re concerned about an allergy to coconut oil, try doing a patch test to see if you have an adverse reaction before applying it elsewhere.

Can coconut oil dry your lips out?

If you’re using coconut oil as lip balm, it should do just the opposite. Due to its hydrating and emollient properties, coconut oil will likely add moisture to your lips instead of drying them out. If you’re experiencing dry, chapped lips regularly, be sure you’re drinking enough water and try adding a lip balm with SPF before heading outdoors.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Wallace, T.C. Health Effects of Coconut Oil-A Narrative Review of Current Evidence. J Am Coll Nutr. (2019).

  2. Boateng, L., et al. Coconut oil and palm oil's role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana Med J. (2016).

  3. Elmore, L. Treatment of Dermal Infections With Topical Coconut Oil. Natural Medicine Journal. (2014).

  4. Francis, A., Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (2019).

  5. Agero, A.L., Verallo-Rowell, V.M. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis. (2004).

  6. Varma, S.R., et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. (2018).

  7. Francis, A., Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. Ibid.

  8. Varma, S.R., et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. Ibid.

  9. Francis, A., Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. Ibid.

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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