Coconut Oil Strengthens Skin Barrier

You may recall I wrote a piece called Thinny Skinnies a while ago now, discussing the skin barrier and what affects it. I followed it up with Skin Creams: A Barrier to Health? You can read both of them here. I noticed in the SkinsMatter newsletter this morning a study showing what I was trying to say: that mineral oils are just not going to strengthen a hyper-permeable barrier in the same way as a non-mineral oil would.

In this study, dermatitis sufferers were tested to see how their skin, and specifically their TEWL rating, a way of measuring the skin permeability, performed with mineral oil or virgin coconut oil (VCO) applied over 8 weeks. I immediately perked up at this because I have been doing an experiment myself using VCO straight onto my skin and dropping it into my bath water to get a good coating. And, yes, I have ruined the bath! A year or so ago I started reacting to the grains and sunflower topically (after a skincare product was labelled incorrectly and I had been inadvertently using sunflower, which I know I am sensitive to, for months, sigh) so I was trying to strengthen my skin. We are pretty convinced that, internally, coconut oil is very healing so why not on our outer skin too? Anyway, that was my thinking. And then here we are with a nice study showing me the wisdom of my ways..

The researchers concluded that:

In the VCO group, 47% (28/59) of patients achieved moderate improvement and 46% (27/59) showed an excellent response. [Ed; That’s 55 out of 59, 93% improved].

In the mineral oil group, 34% (20/58) of patients showed moderate improvement and 19% (11/58) achieved excellent improvement. [Ed: that’s 31 out of 59, 53% improved but far fewer scored excellent – 19% as opposed to 46% VCOs].

The VCO group achieved a post-treatment mean TEWL of 7.09 from a baseline mean of 26.68, whereas the mineral oil group demonstrated baseline and post-treatment TEWL values of 24.12 and 13.55, respectively….[Ed: just look at the difference in barrier integrity there – just 7.09 for VCOs which is almost 50% lower than MOs].

Thus, among pediatric patients with mild to moderate AD, topical application of VCO for eight weeks was superior to that of mineral oil based on clinical (SCORAD) and instrumental (TEWL, skin capacitance) assessments.

Clearly benefits from both treatments but more from the VCO. I wonder too how sustainable the mineral oil treatments would be? My guess would be that you would need to continue applying mineral oils to get the same moisturisation etc whereas I would expect more healing with the VCO over time, meaning less need for it. Mineral oils are great for preventing moisture loss from the skin but are ultimately drying, which is why you get addicted to your lip balms!

So, get slapping the coconut oil on! For interest, I have been using the TGF safe Higher Nature one. Read more about coconut oil here.

The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on S… [Int J Dermatol. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI.

6 Replies to “Coconut Oil Strengthens Skin Barrier”

  1. I have been using VCO for skin moisturiser for several years now. It’s excellent. It’s a brilliant after-sun too. I don’t put it in the bath because I don’t want to slip over! Be careful Micki. But I slather it on my arms, neck, face and legs.

  2. WOW my skin has thinned quite badly from using steroids over the years, not much I can do about it according to my doctor. Could it also help heal thinned skin? Doctor used the work atrophy. What does that mean? Got me a jar downstairs so my hands are in for a treat.

    1. Hi Ruth, atrophy means where the tissue has weakened or been lost in some way, like a muscle atrophies (loses mass) in illness. Do read the Skinny Thinnies and Barrier articles I referred to.

      Yes, I have seen steroid-thinned skin repair over time but, of course, only when the steroids stopped as they are what is causing the thinning. I would certainly be using the coconut oil and other recommendations in those articles to support you whilst on steroids if you have to and hopefully you won’t need as much as the skin is fed properly and the barrier integrity improves. Interestingly, just this morning I have been chatting to a person with life-long skin issues whose problems resolved on a strict AIP diet (autoimmune protocol). I am on it myself and my skin is much improved after 2 months… the eczema only rears up with a reaction to something. Perhaps you haven’t yet found your key allergen? There is hope 🙂

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