Eczema is a skin condition where red, itchy and scaly rashes appear on the skin. People with asthma and other allergies are more prone to it. Seen more often in infants and young children, it usually affects the tender skin on the cheek, wrist, elbow, knees, hands and feet.
If you suffer from eczema you know all too well how uncomfortable it can be. This condition is marked by red, swollen, itchy and very sore skin that can sometimes bubble, crack and bleed. Many people suffer from this condition on their elbows, wrists, ankles, neck or behind the knees and the condition is common in young children, usually, but not always, improving with age.
Eczema is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause untold discomfort. Severe itching can cause irritability and sleeplessness. The skin in the area is usually dry and rough, but the rashes may open up, oozing and forming ugly crusts that often results in social ostracism. Opportunistic infections by bacteria and fungi can exacerbate the condition further.
While you may have been prescribed a topical cream for your eczema, these often mask the problem and only take away the pain and itching temporarily. There is, however, one natural remedy that is loaded with healing properties that not only soothes acute redness and irritation but also keeps infection at bay.
8 Reasons To Use Coconut Oil For Eczema
Coconut oil is moisturizing
Eczema sufferers have to almost always deal with patches of dry skin, even when there is no perceptible rash. They are usually advised to use mineral oil or petroleum jelly based moisturizers since water-based products are of no help. Petroleum products do nothing but prevent water loss from the skin by forming an inert barrier on the skin surface.
Coconut oil is an excellent skin moisturizer that does a lot more than just provide a barrier. It gets
absorbed into the skin tissue, where it works as an emollient. It softens the dry, brittle skin characteristic of eczema, preventing skin breakups that invite opportunistic bacteria. It improves the feel of rough, scaly skin and reduces irritation.
This tropical oil’s superiority over mineral oil has been tried and tested clinically, wherein children treated with coconut oil showed a significant reduction in eczema symptoms, compared to those treated with mineral oil. Another study proved that coconut oil is superior to olive oil when it comes to eczema management.
Coconut oil is nourishing
Coconut oil is absorbed into the skin layers easily because of the fatty acids that make up the oil. All vegetable oils and animal fats are made up of smaller components called fatty acids, but what makes coconut oil special is that it mainly contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Being much smaller than the long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in other oils, MCTs can permeate the cell membranes. They get metabolized easily without the involvement of digestive enzymes. When coconut oil is applied on the skin, its fatty acids are immediately employed to strengthen the connective tissue, making the skin elastic and supple.
Coconut oil relieves itching
Itching associated with eczema is one of the most troubling aspects of this condition. It also makes way for skin breaks that invite infections. Besides removing the dryness and roughness of skin which makes itching worse, coconut oil has a soothing action on itching itself. In fact, coconut oil is often used to relieve itching due to insect bites and nettle stings.
Applying warmed coconut oil just before bedtime is the best way to get children with eczema to sleep peacefully. Also, it helps to apply a thin layer of oil on exposed eczema patches before venturing out of the house. This protective layer prevents dust and other environmental pollutants from coming into direct contact with the sensitive area and trigger itching.
Coconut oil battles bacteria
Research has proven the potent antimicrobial effect of coconut oil, which has been experimentally documented time and again. Lauric acid, the fatty acid that forms the major bulk of coconut oil is responsible for this effect. Coconut oil is among the very few natural sources of lauric acid, another one being human breast milk. That itself is proof enough for coconut oil’s beneficial effect on human health.
Lauric acid is converted to monolaurin in the body, and this molecule has wide-ranging action against not only bacteria, but viruses, protozoa, and fungi. Coconut oil application is particularly effective against Staphylococcus aureus infection that very frequently complicates eczema.
Coconut oil has an immunomodulating effect
Corticosteroid and antihistamine creams are often prescribed to control severe itching and inflammation associated with eczema. When steroid treatments don’t seem to work, physicians may give calcineurin inhibitors for immune suppression. All these drugs act against the natural immunity of the body because allergic reactions are usually the result of an overactive immune system.
Many of these topical immune modulating drugs are known to have severe side effects. Some of them, like the Elidel used to treat eczema when other treatments fail, even carry ‘black box’ warning by FDA due to possible cancer risk. Coconut oil has been shown to have a similar immune modulating action. It comes without any risk too, since the oil has been in use for thousands of years without any known ill effects.
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory
Coconut oil has a natural anti-inflammatory action that can come in handy while using it for eczema relief. Eczema-prone people develop skin inflammations from any number of conditions, from excess cold, to heat and sweating. Contact with rough surfaces, soaps and detergents, plastics and other chemicals also sets off inflammatory responses that may quickly progress into full-fledged flare ups. Timely application of coconut oil may arrest the progress.
Coconut oil can afford some protection against UV radiation and associated skin inflammation too, but its SPF 4 may not be sufficient for full protection. Incidentally, eczema shows improvement with some amount of UV exposure, the associated cancer risk notwithstanding.
Coconut oil has an excellent safety profile
Coconut oil is extracted from the immensely edible, dried kernel or meat of coconuts. This colorless, pleasant smelling, light oil is, in fact, the main cooking oil in many tropical islands and coastal areas. It should be mentioned here that these people enjoy excellent health and longevity, according to statistics.
Coconut oil is natural and non-toxic. Since it is very stable thanks to its high saturated fatty acid content, it does not need chemical additives to increase its shelf life.
Coconut is not a true tree nut, its name notwithstanding, so people with tree nut allergies need not be unduly worried. You should probably test the oil on a small area of the skin and watch for reactions before using it for the first time. But allergies to this oil are extremely rare.
Coconut oil is extremely gentle on the skin that it can be safely used on newborns and people with very sensitive skin. It is one of the best baby massage oils and is often used to wipe the baby bottoms clean of sticky meconium in the first few hours after birth. It soothes diaper rashes too.
Coconut oil is easily obtained and cost effective
Coconut oil, with all its miraculous health benefits, is not forbiddingly expensive, or rare. You should always strive to get the highest quality oil for skin care, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive brand. You can buy in bulk and store to beat the price further. Coconut oil has good spread too, so a little goes a long way. Pick up this jar of Nutiva Coconut Oil on Amazon to try it for yourself.
How To Use Coconut Oil For Eczema Relief
- Topical application
Coconut oil solidifies below 75F, so you are more likely to see it as a white, petroleum jelly-like substance. But it almost always remains a liquid in the warm tropical coasts where coconut palms grow abundantly, and the oil is produced on a large scale. The semisolid to solid state of coconut oil in colder places doesn’t make it difficult to apply, though.
Just take a teaspoonful of coconut oil in the palm of one hand. It readily melts into liquid absorbing the body heat as soon as it comes in contact with skin. Once melted, you can apply it on the eczema affected skin exactly the way you apply lotions. You can gently massage it in without irritating the skin.
When applied in small quantities, the oil gets almost completely absorbed into the skin, and you are left with non-greasy skin sans dryness and roughness. Repeated application may be done, if necessary, but for mild eczema, a single application of oil twice a day will keep the skin moisturized.
2. Coconut oil bandage
If the skin is too rough at places and is prone to break up, apply an oil bandage on the spot to soften the skin. Warm a tablespoon of coconut oil and dip a cotton pad in it. Place the oil-soaked pad over the rough spot and allow it to remain for 15-20 minutes. Afterward, sponge off excess oil with tissue paper. This is an excellent treatment during eczema flare-ups. It gives tremendous relief from night time itching too, so it is especially beneficial for children who find it hard to fall asleep.
3. Coconut oil massage
Eczema first appears in infants and young children as dry, flaky areas of skin with a reddish discoloration. A coconut oil massage before a bath can keep the skin condition from deteriorating further. You may even see a reduction in dry patches.
Warm 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil until it is hot, and then let it cool until comfortably warm. Apply all over, with special attention to eczema prone areas like cheeks, neck, tummy, elbows, knees, hands and feet. Massage in the oil gently with a circular motion. Allow some time, 20-30 minutes maybe, for the oil to absorb. Wash the oil off with warm water and a coconut oil-based soap or other mild soap.
4. Bath oil
Widespread eczema in older children and adults can be treated with a comforting warm water bath to which 3-5 tablespoons of coconut oil can be added. You can also add a teaspoonful of skin-friendly essential oil like lavender or tea tree for a fragrant bath with additional therapeutic value.
Let the bath water naturally dry on the skin, or sponge it off with a soft towel. This bath will leave the skin soft and supple, and provide restful sleep free of itching.
5. Dietary supplement
Eczema has some relation to diet. Although it’s rather difficult to identify the food items that lead to flare-ups, avoiding known food allergens usually helps control the condition. People with egg allergy often experience long-term remission when eggs in all forms are avoided. On the contrary, taking coconut oil seems to help, probably due to its immune-modulating action.
Anyone, even children, can take 1-3 teaspoonfuls of coconut oil daily. Loose or frequent motions may be experienced initially, but will resolve once the body gets used to it.
6. Oil pulling
This is an old detoxification technique people effectively use to clear skin blemishes. It involves swishing around a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the mouth or just holding it in for up to 20 minutes at a time. Well, 20 minutes may be for veterans, but anyone can try it for 5-10 minutes. It is ideally done in the morning on empty stomach.
Oil pulling reportedly clears acne, eczema, psoriasis and sinusitis, and help with a variety of other problems, not to mention its dental health benefits. Coconut oil is the best option for oil pulling because of its mild taste compared to the other alternative, sesame oil. Start with one teaspoonful of warm, liquid coconut oil and increase the quantity gradually. It is best to rinse your mouth with warm salt water after spitting out the oil. One important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t swallow the oil, so this is not a procedure for children.
What Type Of Coconut Oil To Use For Eczema?
Thanks to the increasing popularity of coconut oil, the market is inundated with several types of this oil. Cold pressed, expeller-made, centrifuged or solvent extracted coconut oil is available. Depending on the purity of the oil you get refined and unrefined oil; the refined oil may be bleached and deodorized, as in the case of RBD coconut oil.
All these refining processes involve chemical agents that leave their residues in the end products, something we want to avoid, especially when using the oil for treating skin conditions like eczema. In fact, you should use only pure, unrefined coconut oil for all skin and hair care applications.
What is marketed as virgin coconut oil is unrefined oil made through cold-pressing or centrifugal methods, but it would have the distinct coconut smell and taste. However, strong, nutty smell of coconuts indicates that too much heat was generated during ‘cold pressing.’ Although coconut oil is relatively stable when heated, you may lose out on many heat-sensitive bioactive agents in the oil that could be responsible for some of its beneficial action.
Test different virgin coconut oil samples and choose one that has mild coconut flavor for skin care. Another thing to look for is the ‘organic’ tag. There’s no way to determine the veracity of such claims, but you’d want to play as safe as you can.
Nutiva Coconut Oil is widely regarded as one of the best coconut oils available on the market and can be purchased at a very reasonable price from this page on Amazon.
Safe Storage & Use
Coconut oil can be safely stored for a year or two without refrigeration at temperatures below 75F. Use wide-mouthed glass bottles to store it, and always use a clean, dry spoon. Test a drop of coconut oil on you inner wrist or in the elbow fold before using it for skin applications.
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