When it comes to tackling skin conditions, coconut oil takes the au-natural cake.
While its versatility makes it a shining star among many other applications, too, there's no faulting its powers for skincare in particular.
These strengths may come as especially good news for those that suffer with eczema - a common skin condition that can be incredibly unpleasant, unpredictable, and difficult to reign in at the best of times.
Due to the rampant rumours circulating coconut oil's uses for skin, it's no wonder that scientists and dermatologists alike have started to turn to it as a possible mid-weight remedy for sufferers of the condition.
We'll be looking into what makes coconut oil such a great choice, how to use it in your day to day, and what not to do with coconut oil at your disposal.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a very common, non-contagious skin condition that affects approximately 15 million people across the globe.
Its symptoms can include bumpy, scaly, dry and discoloured skin as well as frequent itchiness and possible infections if tears or weeps are left untreated.
There are many different types of eczema out there, with the most common being atopic dermatitis. Because of this, it is generally the most researched form of the condition as well.
Scientists suggest that symptoms occur as a result of damage to the skin barrier, which makes the skin more susceptible to common irritants and allergens that don't tend to be an issue for non-sufferers. This is because the body is unable to protect itself from these natural aggravations as it usually would.
Common causes for flare-ups include contact with certain fabrics, dry air, pollen, pollution, exposure to specific allergens, and stress - among a number of other factors.
While research is always ongoing, most medical professionals pin the root cause of eczema to genetics (i.e. a familial history of the condition), issues surrounding the immune system, and environmental factors.
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is a plant-based carrier oil extracted from the inner rinds of the coconut fruit, native to Malaysia.
It is commonly used to help dilute essential oils for use on the skin, as well as in its own right for applications in haircare, skincare, massages, and even cooking.
Coconut oil is filled with healthy fats and acids, including medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can help to facilitate wellness by encouraging hydration and cleanliness.
Is coconut oil good for eczema?
Coconut oil has a great many benefits that lend themselves well to the skin, but how does coconut oil help eczemas in particular?
Firstly, it is important to note that the use of coconut oil cannot and should not ever replace any treatments prescribed by your doctor.
The use of coconut oil should only be ever adopted in conjunction with existing medical solutions, as stand-alone application will not be able to ultimately resolve more severe symptoms.
That being said, adding coconut oil into your routine can certainly do more good than going without it, and using it as a natural replacement to some commercial moisturisers may be a safe and well-advised choice.
Coconut oil is naturally rich in lauric acid; a healthy fat that is known to help reduce inflammation and combat bacteria on the body.
One 2009 review, one 2008 study and one 2019 study all analysed the effects of lauric acid on the bacteria strain Staphylococcus aureus, with the latter two focusing on its presence in coconut oil specifically.
All three cases found that lauric acid could successfully clear the bacteria from the surface of the skin.
Coconut oil is also known to be deeply hydrating and incredibly effective for sealing and boosting moisture on the skin barrier.
A 2014 clinical trial testing the effects of coconut oil on infants confirmed that their eczema was reduced as a result of better skin hydration over the course of eight weeks.
Some researchers also believe that the cause of eczema is derived from a lack of essential protein known as filaggrin.
Filaggrin's primary function is to keep the skin hydrated as well as to balance the pH levels present on its surface, which can be affected by external factors.
A 2019 study monitoring the skin-protective properties of coconut oil found that it was successful in increasing the amount of filaggrin present on the skin barrier, meaning it may be able to combat the causes of eczema right at their source.
Alongside all these wonderful properties, coconut oil can further be used as an anti-inflammatory to help ward off redness and unpleasant itching.
How to use coconut oil for eczema
The use of coconut oil is fairly self-explanatory overall, however it is important for eczema sufferers to always patch test the oil before deciding to use it on the skin.
This is because, despite being very gentle, coconut oil can cause allergic reactions in some. This is the case for virtually all natural products, so those with eczema should exercise additional caution to ensure it does not trigger any symptoms.
There are several varieties of coconut oil available on the market, with many types becoming solid at cooler temperatures.
Those with solid forms of coconut oil should remember to always heat it up between the fingers before use. You can also choose to opt for coconut oils that don't solidify in the cold.
Apply the oil to your skin at least twice a day, or as often as is needed. If you find yourself going through a particularly unpleasant flare-up, it may be worth your while to add more uses throughout the day.
You can also add the oil to your skin before bedtime if you're someone who experiences the most amount of dryness and discomfort in the mornings.
Some eczema sufferers may come across flare-ups on the surface of the scalp, which may lead to symptoms not too dissimilar from dandruff.
You can use coconut oil to help reduce these issues by gently massaging it into the hair and scalp before rinsing. Learn more about the benefits of coconut oil for the scalp and hair.
Are there any risks to using coconut oil for eczema?
Coconut oil is generally safe to use for eczema sufferers once all the appropriate precautions are carried out.
Always remember to patch test the oil before first use, and make sure to consult with your doctor on how to best incorporate its use into your existing routine.
Keep in mind that coconut oil cannot and will not ever replace medically prescribed creams, tablets, or serums, so don't ditch anything your doctor ordered in its favour.
You should also steer clear of coconut oil if you find you have an aversion or reaction to it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for coconut oil to work on eczema?
Coconut oil should help soothe irritation and dryness with immediate effect, however it may take up to eight weeks (as confirmed by the aforementioned 2014 review) to feel a full reduction of symptoms.
Can you use coconut oil on the face and around the eyes?
As with all areas of the skin, coconut oil is generally safe for use on the face and around the eyes. Be sure to always perform a patch test to ensure no further irritation.
Is coconut oil better for eczema than petroleum jelly?
Petroleum jelly, also known commercially as Vaseline, may help to seal moisture on the skin but, unlike coconut oil, it cannot add any moisture to it.
Coconut oil is generally preferred both for its ability to absorb effectively into the skin and for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Using coconut oil as an additional treatment for your eczema can work wonders over time, as well as help add a little bit more natural power to your routine.
It is a great alternative to the standard commercial moisturiser, and packs a punch for several other wellness applications too.
Do remember to always take caution when working with a new potential allergen, however, and remember to talk to your doctor if you feel uncertain about how this oil can best work for you.