Coconut oil needs no introduction. All of us are very well aware of its many uses and benefits. From being the most-loved skin moisturiser to the most popular natural source of hair care, coconut oil is a must-have product on every single person’s beauty shelf.
But do you know what it is that makes coconut oil such a versatile beauty staple? It is an active ingredient or fatty acid called lauric acid. To give you a better understanding of what this component actually is and what its benefits are, we spoke to a Mumbai-based dermatologist and skin expert, Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi. In this article, Dr. Modi takes us through what exactly lauric acid is, how it benefits your skin as well as all the natural sources of this essential fatty acid.
Read on for a complete guide on everything you need to know about the lauric acid, so that you can go one step closer to achieving the skin of your dreams.
- 1. What exactly is lauric acid?
- 2. Natural sources of lauric acid
- 3. Benefits of lauric acid
- - Treats psoriasis
- - Anti-ageing properties
- - Antimicrobial benefits
- - Heals acne
- - Calm xerosis cutis
- 4. Frequently asked questions about lauric acid
1. What exactly is lauric acid?
“Lauric acid or systematically dodecanoic acid is a saturated medium-chain fatty acid. The salts and esters of lauric acid are known as laurates. It is found in various plant and animal fats. It is also a major component of coconut oil and palm kernel oil”, explains Dr. Modi.
This naturally derived fatty acid is a major component in a lot of skincare products, especially those that are formulated using natural ingredients. Regularly using products enriched with lauric acid helps reduce conditions such as psoriasis. Additionally, lauric acid is well-known for its antimicrobial properties and is a natural way to fight against infection-causing bacteria.
2. Natural sources of lauric acid
1. Coconut –
One of the richest natural sources of lauric acid is coconuts. Lauric acid, coupled with caprylic acid (another fatty acid found in coconuts), is the main ingredient that gives coconut its antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Including coconut oil or coconut milk in your food is the best way to reap the benefits of lauric acid. Consuming food cooked in coconut oil helps repair and moisturise your skin from the inside, to keep it soft, supple and healthy from the outside.
2. Palm kernel oil –
Another great source of lauric acid is palm kernel oil. Very similar to the composition of coconut oil, palm kernel oil is also excellent for its moisturising and conditioning properties. But when buying palm oil, remember to look for palm kernel oil, instead of regular palm oil as the latter contains a comparatively lesser quantity of lauric acid.
3. Milk –
If you are looking for a universal and easily available source of lauric acid, look no further than milk. Cow and goat milk have considerable amounts of these essential fatty acids, and it is highly advisable to consume these if you are not lactose intolerant. If you are a new mother, then it is important to feed your child breast milk, as it contains the highest amount of lauric acid at this stage.
3. Benefits of lauric acid
Dr. Modi says, “Lauric acid helps the skin by reducing inflammation and the bacteria present in the skin. It also helps in skin repairing and is commonly used for acne treatment.” To give you a better idea, let’s take a look at the many benefits that this wonder ingredient has on your skin.
- Treats psoriasis
Psoriasis is a very common skin disease that leads to really red, dry and scaly skin. It also causes a lot of itchiness and discomfort in general. The inflammation that is commonly accompanied by this skin condition can be really painful, and therefore it is important to treat psoriasis as soon as possible. The best way to do so is to use a natural ingredient that is high in lauric acid such as coconut oil. The intensely moisturising and conditioning properties of lauric acid work to hydrate and repair skin, while the anti-inflammatory properties work to reduce redness and inflammation. Simply mixing a few drops of organic coconut oil to your usual body lotion and applying it all over helps hydrate dry skin and reduces the chances of psoriasis.
- Anti-ageing properties
One of the main reasons your skin looks dull, aged and develops premature wrinkles is because it lacks hydration and is not conditioned from the inside. This is why using a moisturiser and having a diet that is rich in essential fatty acids and water is really important. This is where lauric acid comes in really handy and is used in a lot of anti-aging skincare products in the form of coconut oil or and palm kernel oil. Rich in saturated fatty acids, these oils help hydrate and condition your skin to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles for plump and youthful-looking skin.
- Antimicrobial benefits
Lauric acid is considered to be the number one source of antimicrobial properties, especially when it comes to skincare. Using a little bit of coconut oil or cow’s milk in your skincare helps to soothe and calm inflamed skin, as well as inhibit acne-causing bacteria. This leaves your skin looking clear, blemish-free and glowing.
- Heals acne
If you have oily, sensitive skin, then you’d be all too familiar with the struggle of healing the acne and preventing breakouts. But an easy and sure-shot way to deal with this, according to Dr. Modi is using lauric acid. “Lauric acid has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which makes it an amazing anti-acne treatment. In most cases, there is a proliferation of propionibacterium and lauric acid helps against this bacterial growth”, explains Dr. Modi. Additionally, the powerful antibacterial properties found in lauric acid not only help reduce inflammation of existing acne but also help in eliminating acne-causing bacterial growth. Therefore, it works really well to reduce the occurrence of future acne as well.
- Calm xerosis cutis
Xerosis cutis is a fairly common condition, especially seen in elderly people, where their skin appears to be abnormally dry and flaky. Even though this condition is temporary and is caused due to changes in weather conditions or medications, it can be very comfortable while it lasts. This is where the moisturising properties of lauric acid come in handy. Applying coconut oil to the affected area twice a day helps moisturise and repair severely dry skin, improves lipid barrier function and leaves the skin feeling super soft and supple.
4. Frequently asked questions about lauric acid
Q. How do I use lauric acid?
A. Lauric acid found in coconut oil or palm kernel oil is really easy to use. You can apply either of these two oils directly onto your skin to treat dryness, acne or any other skin problems mentioned earlier. Alternatively, you could even use the two oils in your meals. It all depends on your age, lifestyle and the severity of the problems you are dealing with.
Q. Are there any side effects of using lauric acid?
A. Dr. Modi says, “There isn't much data available on the side effects of lauric acid.” If you are unsure about using coconut oil or palm kernel oil in your skincare routine, then it is best to do a patch test before using it. If you do not notice any adverse reaction, then it is safe to be used in small proportions.
Q. Is there any skin type which should refrain from using lauric acid?
A. “People with sensitive skin must use lauric acid with caution and if you have a known allergy to lauric acid or any product that contains this ingredient, then it is best to avoid using it”, warns Dr. Modi. It is always better to consult your dermatologist before including a new ingredient in your skincare routine. This goes a long way in preventing further damage and keeps your skin looking healthy.