Those who attended Eczema Expo ’18 probably saw dozens of Eczema Warriors sporting one of our stylish “Yes, I’ve tried coconut oil” T-shirts, created in collaboration with Alexis Smith, AKA @eczemalove. After all, if we had a dollar for every time a well-meaning stranger suggested coconut oil as a cure-all for eczema, we’d all be rich, right?
So, what’s the deal with coconut oil? Does it really cure eczema? The short answer is: No. To be frank, coconut oil is not a cure for eczema because there is no cure for eczema at this time.
Eczema is a chronic, or lifelong, health condition connected to your immune system and its inflammatory response.
Ordinary substances we encounter in our everyday lives, such as dust, mold, animal dander or certain chemicals, seem to trigger an allergic response in people with eczema causing their skin to flare up in an itchy, dry or painful rash.
You may be able to treat the symptoms of eczema and reduce its appearance on your skin, but the disease itself never goes away completely. The correct question should be, “Does coconut oil help eczema?” and the answer to that is: It depends.
How does coconut oil help eczema?
Many health websites tout coconut oil as a miracle product that can do anything from soothing dry, cracked skin and hair to whitening our teeth and freshening our breath. And there’s some truth behind the hype.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a nutritious fatty acid, or lipid, also found in breast milk. Lauric acid is used to develop monolaurin, which is an antimicrobial agent that can fight bacteria, fungi, yeast, viruses and other pathogens.
In other words, when you hear people talk about coconut oil having antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties beneficial to eczema, they are correct.
Coconut oil has the natural ability to penetrate the skin quickly and efficiently, which can boost hydration, improve skin elasticity, fight itch and reduce the chances of infection.
The science behind coconut oil and eczema
Out of all the natural ingredients used to treat eczema, coconut oil has the most scientific research to back up its legitimacy.
An article published in January 2018 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that coconut oil is effective at reducing the presence of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other pathogens.
Another 2018 study found that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the skin.
Although multiple disease types have been addressed in the research behind coconut oil, there was one study in particularly that focused specifically on children with eczema.
Results of that study, published in the December 2013 issue of International Journal of Dermatology, revealed that virgin coconut oil applied topically to the skin for eight weeks improved skin hydration for children with eczema.
OK, but will coconut oil help my eczema?
That’s where the “It depends” answer comes into play. Scientists are making tremendous strides in their search for a cure, but they’re only just beginning to decode the mysteries behind eczema and our immune system.
The good news is that you can play an active role in improving your eczema symptoms by making healthy lifestyle choices and sticking to your skincare routine, which of course means keeping the skin clean and moisturized!
It’s important to remember that eczema is unique to every individual. Not everyone has the same triggers that provoke their flare-ups. And certain eczema treatments that seem like miracles to some patients may not work for all patients—coconut oil included.
In fact, some people with eczema might have an allergy to coconut oil, which could then exacerbate their symptoms instead of helping them. Always consult with your health care provider before trying a new product on your skin.
Will coconut oil cure your eczema? Unfortunately, no. Will it help? We’re not sure, but we hope so. Please check with your doctor first. And stay tuned for future editions of “Get the Facts.”
Get the gear: Shop NEA’s @EczemaLove collab collection.