Coconut Oil and Acne: Does Coconut Oil Help Acne?

Can coconut oil help acne? And if so, how should you use it?

Can coconut oil help acne? And if so, how should you use it?

Coconut oil.

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably realized that coconut oil is a huge fad right now.

They say it’s a “healthy” fat (Gasp! Is such a thing possible?), and that it can even help you burn fat.

Some people even blend it into their coffee (I’m talkin’ about you, Dave Asprey).

…And, most importantly for you, dear reader – some say it’s great for your skin.

Is coconut oil good for your skin, especially acne-prone skin? And if so, does that mean you should add it to your diet, or rub it on your face?

Let’s dive into the research to answer that question once and for all! But first, like any rigorous discussion, let’s make sure we’ve got a solid foundation for understanding.

What is coconut oil?

Okay, duh, we all know what coconut oil is.

But what makes coconut oil different from other fats?

Simple: saturation. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and that’s because it’s made up of about 90% saturated fatty acids (SFAs). (For contrast, canola oil is only 7% SFAs.)

This is why we don’t recommend refrigerating coconut oil – it turns into a rock-in-a-jar, breaking spoons and wrists left and right.

Anyway, you may have heard that saturated fats are bad for you, but again, unless you’ve been living under a rock expecting zombie apocalypse, you’ve probably seen big-name doctors (and the media) come to their senses and realize that, oops! Saturated fat actually doesn’t cause heart disease! Our bad! Glad we got that out of the way.

Okay, there is one more big special thing about coconut oil: it’s not your standard saturated fat. It is mostly (65%) made of a unique type of saturated fat known as a “medium-chain triglyceride” (MCT), which is shorter than your typical long-chain fat (or long-chain triglyceride, LCT).

And this is huge! MCTs have lots of wonderful effects in the body, making up the bulk of coconut oil’s mythic status.

Coconut oil serves up a potent mix of different MCTs. Lauric acid is the most abundant (about 50%). Other fatty acids include capric, caprylic, and palmitic acids. Some of these fatty acids have pretty remarkable health benefits – and benefits for your skin, too!

Let’s get into what those skin-clearing benefits are.

Coconut oil is anti-microbial

You’ve probably heard that bacteria cause acne. While bacteria are only one part of pimple production, an abundance of P. acnes bacteria noshing on your skin oils does indeed pour gasoline on the fire, worsening the redness, swelling, and pain of breakouts.

And several studies have shown that lauric acid, the main MCT in coconut oil, is really good at killing P. acnes bacteria, as well as other bacteria, viruses, and fungi.[1] [2] [3] [4] The same goes for another of coconut oil’s MCTs, capric acid.[5] .

Coconut oil for the win!

Even better, the anti-microbial benefits for your skin go way beyond P. acnes. If you’ve read our gut-wrenchingly good article on probiotics, gut health, and acne, you know that folks with acne tend to have a bunch of nasty bad bacteria and other harmful microbes in their guts.

And that’s where coconut oil’s next big benefit comes in.

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Coconut oil: Gut defender extraordinaire

Not only does coconut oil help kill off the baddies in your gut, it also helps heal the damage they cause. And they cause a lot, by releasing lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and other inflammatory bummers, making your gut leak like a sieve if you’re unlucky.

In fact, the MCTs in coconut oil have been shown to protect against gut permeability and other gut damage caused by bacterial toxins.[6] [7] MCTs may also protect the gut in people with IBD, colitis, or gut infections, helping to regrow damaged intestinal cells faster.[8] [9]

Even if your gut flora is the picture of health (however unlikely, if you’ve got stubborn acne), certain stuff you consume (ahem, gluten) can weaken the tight junctions between the cells of your gut lining. When these tight junctions relax on the job, undigested proteins and other large food particles can seep from the gut into your body (“leaky gut syndrome”) and contribute to all sorts of inflammatory conditions – including acne. Alcohol, gluten, antibiotics and other drugs, and even stress can loosen those tight junction proteins.

Coconut oil to the rescue!

In one study, researchers fed alcohol to rats, inducing leaky gut. Then they gave the rats MCT oil, and BANG! It normalized their tight junctions again, reversing leaky gut.[10] (I hope they later gave them something for their wee rodent hangovers…)

Powerful stuff, no?

Wait, ok, no… put down the bottle. That doesn’t mean “Oh great, I can eat or drink whatever I want, and coconut oil will protect me from acne and everything else bad!” It’s not magic, sorry. Instead, let’s symbolically toast coconut oil’s gut-healing abilities, but don’t see this as a free pass to consume gut-damaging substances with wild abandon – we still recommend restricting stuff like alcohol and gluten. But adding coconut oil to your diet is one powerful piece of an overall gut-healing strategy!

Coconut oil protects the liver from toxins

Next stop on the Magic School Bus: your liver!

After your gut digests all that food you ate and absorbs it into your bloodstream through your (hopefully healthy) gut lining, these food nutrients get shuttled to another organ vital to your skin health – your liver.

And as it turns out, coconut oil is downright medicinal for your liver.

Fun fact: Most food nutrients get sent to the liver first, so it can filter out and eliminate toxins from whatever you put down your pie hole. But it also gets first dibs on all the good nutrients, too – your liver’s health is one of your body’s top priorities! (That’s also why vitamin A-rich liver is the most nutrient-packed organ you can eat.)

How is your liver’s wellbeing related to acne?

Well, a toxic bodily environment can provoke acne in a big way, so if your liver is too overloaded or damaged to do a good job of filtering alcohol, caffeine, medications, PAHs, HCAs, AGEs, chlorine by-products, and other toxins out of your blood, that can show up on your skin as ugly breakouts.

The liver also produces glutathione, which is the body’s master antioxidant. We’ll talk more about antioxidants in the next sections, but I can tell you now, more glutathione = more better for your skin!

Finally, your liver is essential for balancing hormones – and you probably know that hormone imbalances are a common thorn in the side of acne-sufferers. Your liver does the job of clearing old hormones from circulation. It also helps maintain sufficient estrogen levels by producing ceruloplasmin, an enzyme that binds copper and makes it available to the body.

So we’ve established that keeping your liver healthy is important for getting clear skin. How does coconut oil factor into all this?

Coconut oil very effectively protects against liver toxicity[11] [12] , allowing it to keep on chuggin’ away at its 500+ functions in the body.

Coconut oil does this in a number of ways:

  • It boosts the liver’s glutathione (antioxidant) levels[13] [14]
  • It reduces lipid peroxidation, a marker of inflammation, in the liver[14] [14]
  • It helps protect your liver from alcohol damage, and reduces alcohol’s toxic and inflammatory effects on the rest of your body, too[14]
  • It prevents non-alcoholic liver disease [15]

So for the sake of your liver – and by extension your skin – eat some coconut oil!

And since I’ve just mentioned inflammation and antioxidants, let’s talk more about coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits.

Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory

Fats in general – and especially saturated fats – have long gotten a bad rap for being inflammatory.

While some fats are inflammatory (e.g. polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs – see our post on fish oil for more on that), coconut oil is not.

In fact, several animal studies show that coconut oil actually reduces inflammation[16] [17] – so you can expect it to help reduce the redness and swelling of breakouts when you eat it (we’re not talking about topical use, here).

One major cause of inflammation in the body is lipid peroxidation.

Lipid peroxidation happens when free radicals in the body steal electrons from fats in your cells’ membranes. These newly “radicalized” (read: damaged) fats then steal electrons from other fats, zombifying them into free radicals, starting a chain reaction ad infinitum until something – an antioxidant – neutralizes the radicals and stops the process. (This is the real zombie apocalypse you should be worried about!)

But the thing is, only super-delicate fats tend to have this problem in the body. PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), I’m looking at you! Yes, now you have official permission to toss out the Crisco.

Saturated fats, such as the MCTs in coconut oil, are billions of times less reactive than polyunsaturated fats (with 2 or more double bonds).[18] So it makes sense that MCTs and other saturated fats would be less inflammatory than other, more reactive fats – they don’t get peroxidized and then zombify other fats like PUFAs do!

Numerous studies bear this out, and even show that coconut oil helps reduce inflammation in the body.[19]

In one study, virgin coconut oil (VCO) -fed rats had lower oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, and protein oxidation than those fed sunflower oil, olive oil, or non-virgin coconut oil (more on virgin vs. non-virgin coconut oil coming up). In addition, the VCO-fed rats had boosted antioxidant status. Glutathione, the body’s #1 antioxidant, was higher in these rats’ livers, hearts, and kidneys.[20]


Another study subjected rats to a challenging swim test. The critters that were fed virgin coconut oil showed less oxidative stress, higher levels of brain antioxidants, and less adrenal stress afterward than control group rats. [21]

That’s right – coconut oil may just lower your stress levels. This heart-healthy fat has even been shown to lower high blood pressure.[22]

So to reduce the inflammation of your acne, and to reduce the incidence of future breakouts by lowering systemic inflammation, consider subbing in coconut oil for the inflammatory PUFAs in your diet – e.g. canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, and other vegetable oils.

Coconut oil can help you absorb more nutrients from your food

I’ll keep this section short – what you need to know is that fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, K, and E – which are critical for healthy, acne-free skin – aren’t well absorbed by your body unless they’re consumed with some fat.

Does that fat need to be coconut oil? Nope! Studies have shown that even inflammatory PUFAs increase fat-soluble nutrient absorption. But there is some evidence that coconut oil might help you absorb more nutrients than veg oils.[23]

So yeah, don’t fear the fat! Always eat your veggies with some fat to help you get all the skin-supporting nutrition out of them… and coconut oil is a great choice. So next time you have a hankering to eat a bunch of raw, plain kale (I know I get this craving ALL the time, don’t you?), maybe cook it up with some coconut oil instead!

Coconut oil is better than other fats for maintaining healthy blood sugar

As we discuss in our book, acne can be considered a “diabetes of the skin.” With diabetes, your body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin’s instructions to lower blood sugar levels. Insulin comes a-knockin’, but the cells just stop answering the door.

Loads of studies have shown that long-chain fats (or long-chain triglycerides, LCTs, usually tested in the form of lard) generally have negative effects on blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity – and that, eaten in large amounts, make you fat.

On the other hand, gobs of studies have shown that unlike long-chain fats, medium-chain fats (MCTs, like those in coconut oil) do not make you fat, even when more calories are consumed.[24] [25] Rather than getting absorbed slowly and stored, MCTs get absorbed quickly and easily (bile salts aren’t even needed), and they’re burned rapidly by your muscles and other tissues, giving you more energy![26] [27]

And a fair amount of research suggests that MCTs are better for healthy insulin function than other fats (meaning, LCTs or omega-6 PUFAs).[28] [28]

However, other research suggests that diets high in MCTs decrease insulin sensitivity (though not nearly as much as LCTs) [29] [29] [29] . I read a number of studies making this argument, and they were riddled with confounding variables or results that should not be generalized. It does seem that getting nearly half of your daily calories from coconut oil might not be healthy for blood sugar regulation[30] , but really, do you know anyone who’s eating ⅔ cup of coconut oil daily?

As it turns out, all these studies that focus on isolated MCTs or refined coconut oil might be missing the point of eating virgin coconut oil. In one study, rats on high-sugar diets were fed either virgin coconut oil (VCO) or a more processed coconut oil (copra oil). The rats fed the processed oil experienced a blood sugar spike almost 3x higher than those fed the VCO! The researchers theorized that the antioxidants in the VCO were responsible for the difference.[30]

So, what do we know?

  • Coconut oil is a great source of fast energy
  • Cocont oil is very unlikely to get stored as fat (which is good for your metabolic wellbeing)
  • Coconut oil is probably healthier for your insulin / blood sugar regulation than either long-chain saturated fats or omega-6s (PUFAs).

Based on the research, it’s safe to say that replacing harmful fats, especially vegetable oils, with coconut oil, is likely to have a net positive effect on your blood sugar regulation.

And, as we discuss in greater detail in our book, anything that improves blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity can help you clear up your skin.

So next time you need an energy boost, reach for a spoon and the jar of coconut oil (or coconut butter)! Just… let’s not go overboard, shall we?

Can I use coconut oil on my face?

One word: don’t.

Now, it’s true that coconut oil, especially its lauric and capric acid, is good at killing P. acnes bacteria, which get into your pores and make breakouts more inflamed.

Coconut oil is also a good moisturizer.[31] [32]


Coconut oil has also been shown to be moderately comedogenic[32] , so we do not recommend using it topically if you’re acne-prone.

Some people have no problem with using coconut oil on their skin, and if that’s you, then go for it!

But if you’re still struggling to cure your acne, I wouldn’t throw this wrench in the gears. Eat it, by all means, but don’t put it on your skin! Use 100% argan oil for that – it’s totally non-pore-clogging and the best moisturizer we’ve found for acne-prone skin. Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you make purchases using this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

OK, I’m convinced! I want to eat more coconut oil. What kind do I get?

Many of the studies cited above refer to virgin coconut oil (VCO). Some studies even compared virgin to refined coconut oil, and found virgin coconut oil to be more effective every time. So that’s what you want.

What’s the difference?

Virgin coconut oil is extracted from raw, washed coconut flesh by pressing the oil out at low temperatures. VCO smells and tastes “coconutty.”

On the other hand, refined coconut oils are extracted by exposing ground up coconut meat to a solvent like hexane. Because hexane is toxic, the oil/hexane mixture then gets refined to remove traces of the hexane and other impurities. The refined oil then gets bleached and deodorized.

This makes refined coconut oil pretty flavorless and odorless, which is nice when you don’t want your food to taste like coconut, but it doesn’t deliver all the skin-clearing benefits of the virgin stuff. These may be labeled as refined, RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized), or copra oil.

(And of course, as with all hydrogenated fats, if you find hydrogenated coconut oil, don’t eat it!)

Still not sure what to get?

This is the coconut oil we keep in our pantry at home. Devin in particular finds that a lot of brands of coconut oil taste “soapy” or “flowery” to him, but this one doesn’t (to us). Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you make purchases using this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

How do I add coconut oil to my diet?

Yes, some people do take coconut oil in capsules. If you want to do that, be our guest – it’s probably the most expensive way to take it, though. (And if you take coconut oil capsules, but continue using high-PUFA, inflammatory veg oil in your food, you’re not going to see nearly as much improvement in your skin.)

We suggest using VCO as a cooking fat. As with all fats, it’s best if used at temperatures below its smoke point, which for VCO is 350ºF. That means low to medium heat stovetop cooking, as well as most baking or roasting.

We also love to melt lots of coconut oil (and cinnamon) into mashed sweet potatoes. Yum!

Of course, you can also consume coconut oil in the form of coconut butter (whole, blended coconut meat) or coconut milk. If you’re buying canned coconut milk, look for BPA-free cans, and avoid sweeteners, thickeners, and other chemicals.

In short, replacing inflammatory fats (vegetable & seed oils) in your diet with coconut oil is a powerful dietary step you can take right now to get clearer skin!


Now, will you get totally clear with this change alone?

Maybe, if your acne is fairly mild, and you are otherwise pretty healthy.

But for many of us, solving acne isn’t quite that simple.

Think of your skin as a freshly painted wall in your home. Then imagine there are 5 kids in the room. They’ve just gone on a sugar binge, and each one has a big old marker – and nothing suitable to draw on. These kids are going to town on your wall! Those marks are your acne. Now, say you call one kid’s dad and he comes and picks her up. Whew! Fewer marks. Progress! But you’ve still got four other kids in there, marking away.

Acne’s like that. You’ve got to call all the kids’ moms and dads if you want to stop the marks.

Eating healthier fats like coconut oil is a way to boot one pesky mark-causing kid.

Milk and dairy products are another kid that you should un-invite from your home – read more about that on this blog post.

And then you’ve got to get some paint and brushes and fix that wall. That means feeding your body all the nutrients it needs to get clear, radiant skin.

Finally, for the complete guide to how to kid-proof your home forever – ok, I’m ditching the horrible analogy. What I mean is, for the complete guide to getting rid of your acne for good using diet and lifestyle changes, check out our e-book, Clear Skin Forever.

Key Takeaways

  • Coconut oil’s MCTs make your gut healthier by killing bad microbes and repairing leaky gut. (Learn more about the strong connection between your gut and skin here!)
  • A healthy liver is also critical for healthy skin. Coconut oil protects your liver from inflammation and toxins so it can keep you toxin-free.
  • Replacing veg oils (PUFAs) in your diet with virgin coconut oil is a powerful way to improve your blood sugar regulation (remember, acne is “diabetes of the skin”!) and reduce inflammation throughout your body – and on your skin.
  • Don’t use coconut oil on your face! For a 100% natural and noncomedogenic moisturizer, try pure argan oil instead.
  • Cleaning up the fats in your diet is a big step toward getting acne-free, naturally – no more hopping from one medication to another or continually tweaking your skin care regimen. If you’re feeling inspired, don’t stop here! For the whole story on how to get clear and stay clear with diet and lifestyle changes, check out our book, Clear Skin Forever!
Sources (click to expand)

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  1. Idara says

    Awesome post! I love adding coconut oil to my steamed vegetables and my smoothies. I tried it on my face and found out the hard way that it breaks me out. But I haven’t had that issue with hemp and grapeseed oil.

  2. Idara Hampton says

    Thank you for explaining epigenetics so clearly. It’s very easy to follow. Congrats on clearing your skin. Your story is inspiring.

  3. Idara says

    This is such a well researched and well written article. B5 is great for the skin. I also love B6 and B12 for boosting energy, promoting a healthy luteal phase, and stopping PMS.

  4. Idara says

    Great post! Understanding hormonal imbalances isn’t always easy, so thank you for writing an informative and easy to follow article with helpful tips.

  5. wendy says

    There is no official link between iron and acne in science research but antidotally I believe there is. My daughter used prescription acne creams for a couple of years with only modest improvements to her skin. She recently was prescribed an iron supplement, her iron levels were on the low side of normal, because of her low energy state and, voila, Not only does she feel more energetic, her face is very noticeably improved and much smoother in, just days. She is a big meat eater. Who knew iron can be hard to absorb?

  6. Srey says

    I love this post! I recommend this book “inheritance” by Sharon D Moalem. It talks a lot about genetics, and could be helpful to understand more about epi genetics, and our human genome.

  7. Mike says

    Why do you say that coffee negatively affects muscle since there is like a bunch of evidence that shows the caffeine from the coffee actually helps build muscle and burn fat. Of course this is when you take black coffee without any sweeteners. I have read so many articles that talk about consuming coffee in a fasted state leading to positive muscle gains you can find them easily too

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mike! Interesting point here. I found this study:

      …Which says that you habituate to the caffeine in a few days’ time, meaning your morning coffee no longer stimulates over-production of cortisol once you adapt to drinking coffee daily. However, the study still found that a 1:00 PM cup of coffee boosted cortisol levels higher than normal (though the study only ran for 5 days of caffeine habituation). My personal experience is that coffee just makes me more stressed out in response to stressful events, which includes cortisol release. But I haven’t read the articles you have about fasted-state coffee drinking leading to muscle gains – I wonder if this is just due to metabolic rate increase from the caffeine? In any case, if coffee floats your boat and treats you well, go for it!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Julie! I’m not totally sure on this. That still sounds like a good range. I was going based on a Dr. Mercola article, which I can no longer find (the link is broken). I am far from an expert on what ideal ferritin levels should be!

    • Rhonda says

      I will interject with a personal anecdote about Ferritin levels. I have a genetic disorder called Hemachromatosis. It causes iron from the food I eat to get into my organs and my body can only release it through phlebotomy (donating blood). My Dr noticed a high ferritin level and high liver enzymes on a blood panel and on a hunch she ordered a DNA test for this. If you are suspicious that your ferritin levels are out of whack, ask for this test. This condition is very common especially if you are of Irish or Scottish descent. It’s a lifelong condition but the remedy is easy because you just have to have your levels checked regularly and donate a pint of blood to balance your levels. I am so grateful my doc was smart enough to call for this test. Having this disorder and not taking care of it can lead to liver damage and heart attack. It’s hereditary and if you do have it, all of your nearest relatives should test for it too. Hoping it’s not the case for you, and wishing you all the best!

      • Devin Mooers says

        Kudos to your doc for finding this!! I’m so glad you know now. I had a genetic test done a few years ago, and ruled out hemachromatosis (at least current knowledge of it). So I guess it was just from my diet. And I do have a fair amount of Irish + Scottish in me. Go figure! Great thing to check for, though, as you just found out!

  8. Katy says

    I’m 25 and I have very irregular periods (which have never been regular) and acne since puberty. I got literally all my hormones checked and everything came out normal. Does anyone have an explanation for this?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Katy! I don’t put much stock in hormonal tests, blood tests, saliva tests, or related “snapshot” health tests. I don’t think they’re a very accurate reflection of long-term reality, and don’t often give very useful information for clearing acne (in my experience). The fact that you have irregular periods right away shows that something’s up with your hormone levels, and/or some basic nutrient levels like vitamin A, utilizable iron (don’t go taking iron pills though!), and/or maybe some toxin overload issues. There are lots of things that feed into having a normal cycle, and a hormone test isn’t going to tell you what needs to be fixed.

      Are you drinking fluoridated water, do you know?

      Also, do you want to give an overview of what your current diet is – the more detail the better! – and any pills/supplements you’re taking? I can see if anything jumps out!

  9. Johnny Cox says

    Hi. Im going to say that Im afraid to eat coconut because of acne. Chocolate of any kind gives me acne too. Even fish oil. All these oils do it to me. I used to suspect leaky gut causing me breakouts. All these oils ruin my skin. Whey concentrate and isolate too! Someone said “keep eating the Extra Virgin Coconut oil, It’s just die-off!! It will stop soon” But it does not stop. I get brutal acne from it. Tempted to try again after reading this, but it scares me. My acne is so painful..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Johnny! Really sorry to hear about your experience with so many oils/fats giving you acne. Huge bummer! Frustrating not to know whether it’s from die-off or detox, or just an adverse reaction. (I will say that whey isolate/concentrate both give me acne as well!)

      Couple questions… are you using organic coconut oil, or non-organic?

      Also, do you want to post a mini diet overview right here? I can see if any major red flags come up.

      Finally, are you drinking fluoridated tap water? (And/or using fluoride toothpaste?) Wondering if these fats/oils might be causing a detoxification of fluoride, causing transient acne.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Ashley! I think it’s okay in really small amounts as a garnish or flavoring, but it’s very high in PUFA so I wouldn’t make it a main cooking or salad oil. Toasted sesame seed oil is even a bit more risky because of the toasting process damaging more of the PUFA (and the protective vitamin E found in raw sesame oil).

      What are you wanting to use sesame oil for? Maybe I can suggest a skin-friendly alternative!

  10. Kris says

    Hi Devin,
    Great research, thank you for linking the sources. I’ve suffered with back acne for years. I eat a mostly plant based diet, so I’d call myself a flexitarian (95% plants, 5% grass fed-organic animal). Before that I did mostly Paleo, therefore lots of fresh plants, but still a lot of organic meat/poultry.
    From recent testing, I have low iron stores (ferritin), normal iron (since I suppliment), and low iodine (I now supplement—-boyfriend has shellfish allergy…). I take vitamine A and Magnesium as well.
    I’m game to try anything thats humane and organic even if its not a plant based suppliment, but I would be interested in the Frankin-rice you mentioned since I try to avoid dairy due to an intolerance (causes me inflammation and IgG testing shows markers). If the colostrum is derived from cows or colostrum is from humans, wouldn’t in theory the human one be closer to what we need? Albeit odd to consider!!
    I’ve also looked for a non-bovine ferritin supplement, but it seems I may need to take the bovine one as the plant ones are just more iron (leading to excess). I just want to be humane in my choices, with no added hormones from the cows, etc. With all that said—I’m open to anything—as my skin and other health issues are the number one priority! Any product tips would be greatly appreciated. I use Pure Encapsulations too. 😊 Thank you!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kris! Sorry for the epic delay on this, I haven’t checked blog comments in a long time. My fault!

      How low is your ferritin? Did you get liver enzymes checked? It’s quite possible to have low ferritin, but also have an overload of unusable iron stored up in your liver. Taking additional iron supplements on top of that, if that’s the case, isn’t a very good idea. Liver enzymes (and/or GGT) can help point to iron overload in the liver. (See my iron article for more info on tests.)

      What kind of iron are you supplementing with?

      Doubt you’ll find human-sourced colostrum, though it’s an interesting idea! 🙂

      Are you interested in lactoferrin for reducing your iron levels, or for boosting your ferritin? There are definitely other, more effective ways of modulating ferritin, I think (see the iron article linked above for way more info on all the iron stuff, including why I think many people may have an iron overload problem even if ferritin levels don’t show it). I’d target the iron-utilization-boosting nutrients listed in the iron article, personally.

      Also, how much iodine are you taking? What form?

      Finally, have you thought about A2 milk as a skin-safe dairy option, that would give you some lactoferrin in a whole food form?

  11. Donna says

    I actually test low for iron. My Tibc, Total Iron, Iron Saturation, and Ferritin are all low.
    It was recommended for me to take Lactoferrin with an iron supplement to properly increase my iron.
    I’m confused about your article because it makes me second guess my situation. You don’t believe ANYONE is actually low in iron?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Donna! How low are we talking on these numbers?

      I definitely think there are a small number of people who are actually low in iron, but I think it’s probably a lot fewer people than most doctors think. Often, if you have iron dysregulation, excess iron gets stored up in your liver, which doesn’t show up one these blood tests. If you’re lacking in one of the co-factors necessary to use iron properly (vitamin A, molybdenum, vitamin C, copper, ceruloplasmin, vitamin B12, etc.), you can get excess iron deposits in the liver combined with low circulating iron. When you add a plain iron supplement on top of that, without addressing the deficient co-factors, you can worsen the problem. Did you happen to get your liver enzymes and/or GGT tested? That can sometimes indicate excess iron storage in the liver. But keep in mind I have zero clinical experience in all this and just going based on the all the research I’ve read (and my own iron overload problem).

  12. jay,s says

    hi, suffering from acne for 20 years and a rediculolus amount of money spent on “solutions”i tried a newer supplement that’s called acne block that contains lactoferrin,found it on amazon.. it actually was/is one of the only supplements I have tried that actually helped..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Great to hear you got good results from lactoferrin! The science is sound behind why it works, helping to reduce iron overload. Good stuff.

  13. Sara says

    Would eating liver or taking a dessicated liver supplement cause iron overload? I would like to get more vitamin A, but am concerned about the extra iron I would be getting.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sara! Wise to be cautious about this. Do you have reason to suspect you have existing iron overload? Curious about that, I’ve suspected that in myself for a while now, and have been avoiding liver for that reason. I’m taking Pure Encapsulations vitamin A instead.

    • Sarah says

      Suggesting vegans/Vegetarians have a greater risk of iron deficiency is incorrect. There are at least as many meat-eaters as vege people deficient in Iron. Meat is not an efficient source of iron for human beings. Cutting out animal products goes along way in clearing up acne.

      • Devin Mooers says

        Hey Sarah! I actually agree with your first point now, but differ in the second. I think many people, vegeterians and meat-eaters, have an iron overload problem. This is pretty new to me, but the research seems sound. Turns out you can have anemia AND iron overload, due to iron getting deposited in your liver, but a lack of nutrients that are required to put iron into hemoglobin, like vitamin C, vitamin A, molybdenum, and copper. I also think the research strongly points to heme iron from meat being an excellent source of iron – much more absorbable than plant iron – but I now think eating too much meat leads to iron overload, because your body can’t shut off absorption from heme iron like it can from plant iron. If you’re curious to learn more, I just posted a huge article on iron and acne two days ago:

        Iron and Acne

        I think this is really an unusual perspective, and the opposite of what most people will tell you! Curious to hear your thoughts! 🙂 (I’m actually eating mostly vegetarian these days, due to trying to reverse my iron overload problem, and, yes, the environmental impact.)

  14. Taylor says

    So if I maintain a Paleo/Whole 30 diet that includes high quality meats and seafoods and I do not eat any of the iron-fortified foods or foods that inhibit lactoferrin – my body should be creating lactoferrin on it’s own in a healthy manner and I likely do not need to supplement it, correct?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Yep, exactly! Historical iron overload can be an issue, less so for menstruating women due to the continual iron dumping outlet. Bloodletting was effective back in the day for many diseases due to iron removal! Men don’t have such a built-in iron removal system (perhaps explaining why men tend to live shorter lives than women – iron buildup!). I’m not 100% sure how effective lactoferrin supplementation is for addressing built-up iron overload. Morley Robbins ( is the guy to read about on all the iron issues.

  15. Christina says

    I’m confused. I was just about to purchase some FCLO for my teen daughter to help her with her acne and now I stumbled across your reply where you state you no longer recommend FCLO! Why the change?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Christina! Sorry about the confusion here – I wish we could keep the same recommendations forever, but our knowledge (and the science, and reader experience, etc.) forces us to change our recommendations now and then, and it’s hard to change everywhere all at once! We changed this recommendation because FCLO is basically pure PUFA (polyunsaturated fat), which is more susceptible to lipid peroxidation than other fats, and this is a major contributor to acne, we now believe (lipid peroxidation). The vitamin A in FCLO tends to be very beneficial, but you can get that vitamin A from eating liver, taking desiccated liver capsules, or taking a vitamin A supplement such as this one by Pure Encapsulations. We now think it’s best to reduce the total body load of PUFA as much as possible, rather than trying to boost omega-3s, for instance. Does this make sense?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! That’s actually a really good idea. We currently do not recommend taking FCLO or cod liver oil – we’ve updated our book but haven’t found the time yet to update our cod liver oil blog post – we’ll do that soon! We recommend taking desiccated liver capsules or eating grass-fed liver regularly, or taking a vitamin A supplement like this one:

      Pure Encapsulations Vitamin A 10,000 IU

      Taking vitamin E is a great PUFA defense strategy when you’re eating out at restaurants or for some reason consume a large amount of PUFA. We’re working on a “PUFA Shield” supplement that incorporates full-spectrum E along with some other lipid peroxidation blockers to make it easier for travelers, folks who eat out a lot, etc. to avoid the worst PUFA effects on acne.

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