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Skin Health and Coconut Oil

There are a myriad of skin care products on the market and the choices can be overwhelming. Traditional skin treatments have often fallen out of use, simply because they lack the glamor and excitement of new products. Research, however, is beginning to discover that the traditionally used oils, like virgin coconut oil, have health benefits that are far the chemical skin care products that are marketed today. Virgin, simply means that when harvesting the oil from the coconut heat and chemicals are not used and the oil hasn't been modified in any way. Essentially this means virgin coconut oil now is the same as the oil that would have been harvested 1000 years ago. The benefits of eating coconut oil have been demonstrated time and again, but many people are unaware of the value of coconut oil applied topically to their skin.

Beauty and Youthfulness

Naturopathic medicine can helCoconut oil is what is known as an emollient. This means that it softens and smoothes the and corrects dryness and scaling. A study published in the journal Dermatitis compared the effects of coconut oil and mineral oil topically for xerosis. Xerosis is a condition that causes dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin that leads to poor barrier function. Essentially, xerosis is the medical name for severely dry skin. In this study, participants used the skin oil twice a day. The results of testing showed both oils to be highly effective to provide hydration, effective function and maintain skin pH. The group who used coconut oil reported better looking skin results than the mineral oil group.

Managing anyA research study on coconut oil used topically for wound healing showed that coconut oil actually increases the turnover of collagen, which is the main structural protein in your skin. Increased collagen turnover means that skin repair can happen more quickly. This study was specifically on wound healing, but if collagen turnover is increased coconut oil may also have a wrinkle-reducing effect on your skin.


A fascinating study published in the journal Indian Pediatrics studied the effects of different oils massaged topically onto the skin of newborns. The study found that massage, even without oil, increased the fatty acids in the blood, but massage with oil increased the fatty acids far more and that those fatty acids are actually derived from the oil. This that babies are able to absorb this oil directly into their bloodstream through their skin. A related study in the same journal found that pre-term babies massaged with virgin coconut oil gained weight more quickly than pre-term babies massaged with mineral oil, which means that the oil applied topically actually contributed to the nutritional intake of those babies in a meaningful way. Because mineral oil is not nutritious, the babies who were exposed to coconut oil had greater success. Whether or not this ability remains as an adult is not overtly researched, but it stands to reason that you are still able to gain nutrition from the oils you use on your skin.

The unspoken consequence of this research is that it is important to be as careful about the products you apply topically to your skin as you are about the foods you eat, simply because they will enter your bloodstream just as surely. Although petroleum derived skin care lotions and oils are generally thought of as safe, the consequences must be looked at more closely when you consider that they are probably entering your blood. Pharmaceutical companies are also turning more and more to transdermal patches and creams as a method of drug delivery, so it seems safe to assume that everything applied topically is having as great an impact on your body as if you were taking it internally.

Wound Healing

The journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology recently examined the impact of topical coconut oil on wound healing. This study, conducted on rats, found that virgin coconut oil dramatically increases the rate at which wounds heal. This seems to be due to several helpful properties of coconut oil. The group treated with coconut oil showed increased collagen production and turn-over. New blood vessels formed more quickly in skin treated with virgin coconut oil and antioxidant levels were higher. In short, coconut oil increased the speed at which skin was able to repair itself. Although the effects of coconut oil weren’t studied on aging skin, it is possible that this increase in collagen formation and turn-over would help aging skin regain tone and elasticity as well.

Head lice

Although this is somewhat unrelated to skin, it is such a fascinating and useful result that it seems necessary to include. In a European clinical trial of children with head lice, coconut oil based spray combined with anise proved to be more effective than the pharmaceutical option, which is permethrin 0.43% topical treatment. The coconut oil spray is not only more effective, but it does not have neurotoxic activity, like permethrin does. The coconut oil mixture is far for pediatric use and is 40% more effective than permethrin.

Atopic Dermatitis and Skin Infections

Atopic dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes dry, cracked and flaky more vulnerable to bacterial infections. The infections are most commonly caused by Staph aureus, simply because it lives naturally on your skin and so it can colonize easily if the skin becomes damaged. According to a study published in the journal Dermatitis, coconut oil has emollient properties that help to heal and protect the skin's surface, making it less vulnerable to any sort of infection. Coconut oil also has broad-spectrum antimicrobial components that help protect against bacteria like S. aureus, as well as viruses and fungi. Coconut oil in this case helps because it both strengthens skin and also because it kills any organisms that might cause infection.

In short, virgin coconut oil has demonstrated benefits to wound healing, antioxidant status and nutrition of both the skin and possibly the person as a whole. Coconut oil increases collagen production and renewal and so may be an effective topical wrinkle treatment. It can help strengthen skin's barrier function, which is a vital part of immunity and also acts as a topical anti-microbial - killing bacteria, fungi and viruses. Virgin coconut oil should be considered as a natural alternative to modern skin treatments.


Nevin, KG., Rajamohan, T. “Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2010;23(6):290-7. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Burgess, IF., Brunton, ER., Burgess, NA. “Clinical trial showing superiority of a coconut and anise spray over permethrin 0.43% lotion for head louse infestation, ISRCTN96469780. of Pediatrics. 2010 Jan;169(1):55-62. Epub 2009 Apr 3.

Verallo-Rowell, VM, Dillague, KM., Syah-Tjundawan, BS. “Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.” Dermatitis. 2008 Nov- Dec;19(6):308-15.

Solanki, K., Matnani, M., Kale, M., Joshi, K. Bavadekar, A., Bhave, S., Pandit, A. “Transcutaneous absorption of topically massaged oil in neonates.” Indian Pediatrics. 2005 Oct;42(10):998-1005.

Sankaranarayanan, K., Mondkar, JA., Chauhan, MM., Mascarenhas, BM., Mainkar, AR., Salvi, RY. “Oil massage in neonates: an open randomized controlled study of coconut versus mineral oil.” Indian Pediatrics. 2005 Sep;42(9):877-84.

Agero, AL., Verallo-Rowell, VM., “A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.” Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16.

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