Nature provides: coconut oil October 05, 2015 16:40

I love vegetable, natural oils, but because I am a scientist, I like to check first if there is scientific evidence that they actually work. Coconut oil has been a subject of quite a few studies.

You have probably heard about atopic dermatitis -a long term disease of the skin. The protective skin barrier does not work properly and ‘leaks’ water, leaving the skin dry and inflamed. In one study researchers compared virgin coconut oil and mineral oil applied on the skin in children with mild and moderate atopic dermatitis (Evangelista et al., 2014). After 8 weeks of treatment in children who used coconut oil the dermatitis healed by 68% and their measure of water loss went down from 26 to 7. The skin of children who used mineral oil (something like petrolatum) healed by 38% and their water loss was at 13 compared with 24 before treatment. The coconut oil might achieve this beneficial effect by coating the skin, which prevents the loss of water. However, the scientists also thought that it might get absorbed deeper into the skin than the mineral oil and soothe inflammation.

 

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In another study researchers in Pakistan wanted to see if coconut oil could prevent sepsis in premature babies (Salam et al., 2015). Nurses and then, after discharge, mothers, rubbed babies with coconut oil twice a day. After about a month the rate of infections of the blood was 5.5 times lower in babies in the coconut group compared with those who did not receive such treatment. Newborns in the coconut group also put on more weight. This anti-infection effect of coconut oil could be because it is antibacterial (Verallo-Rowell et al., 2008) On the other hand, in another study mineral oil was just as good as coconut oil when people with dry, rough skin applied it on their legs for a couple of weeks (Agero and Verallo-Rowell, 2004). It is possible that the coconut oil needs a few weeks to 'get to work' properly, especially when the skin is inflamed.

Coconut oil is also an excellent conditioner for hair because its main ingredient, lauric acid, can penetrate deep into the hair (Rele and Mohile, 2003). You can use it before or after wash to reduce loss of protein and prevent damage.

So it seems that coconut oil has quite a few strengths not only as a beauty helper, but also in protecting the skin and health of the little ones. I personally think it’s a great lip balm – even though I usually end up eating it! Have you used coconut oil for skin or hair and what was the effect?

 

 References:

Agero, A. L., and V. M. Verallo-Rowell, 2004, A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis: Dermatitis, v. 15, p. 109-16.

Evangelista, M. T., F. Abad-Casintahan, and L. Lopez-Villafuerte, 2014, The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial: Int J Dermatol, v. 53, p. 100-8.

Rele, A. S., and R. B. Mohile, 2003, Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage: J Cosmet Sci, v. 54, p. 175-92.

Salam, R. A., G. L. Darmstadt, and Z. A. Bhutta, 2015, Effect of emollient therapy on clinical outcomes in preterm neonates in Pakistan: a randomised controlled trial: Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, v. 100, p. F210-5.

Verallo-Rowell, V. M., K. M. Dillague, and B. S. Syah-Tjundawan, 2008, Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis: Dermatitis, v. 19, p. 308-15.