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A promising new study published in the International Journal of Dermatology[i] has confirmed the natural healing properties of virgin coconut oil in treating atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition characterized by scaly and itchy rashes.
Researchers at the Department of Dermatology, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Manila, Philippines compared the effects of topical virgin coconut oil (VCO) to mineral oil, a crude oil derivative, in a randomized, double-blinded clinical trial.
Patients with atopic dermatitis have inflamed skin with defects in the epidermal barrier function, primarily related to inflammation and dehydration, which leads them to use ostensibly soothing moisturizers. Most mass market skin care products, however, contain mineral oil and related petrochemical ingredients which not only may contribute to skin irritation, but more serious skin conditions such as skin cancer, as well as bodily accumulation of significant quantities within internal organs. This is why natural, food quality ingredients like coconut oil, which have been used in traditional cultures for thousands of years, hold great promise as a viable alternative, and are increasingly becoming the subject of modern scientific investigation.
In the study titled, "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," a total of 117 patients were evaluated at baseline, and at 2, 4, and 8 weeks. Results showed that atopic dermatitis symptoms decreased from baseline by 68.23% in the VCO group and by 38.13% in the mineral oil group (P < 0.001). The VCO group clearly experienced superior results versus the mineral oil group:
- In the VCO group, 47% (28/59) of patients achieved moderate improvement and 46% (27/59) showed an excellent response.
- In the mineral oil group, 34% (20/58) of patients showed moderate improvement and 19% (11/58) achieved excellent improvement.
- The VCO group achieved a post-treatment mean transepidermal water loss (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.
- In the VCO group, post-treatment skin capacitance (an indication of the water content of the outermost layer of skin known as the stratum corneum) rose to 42.3 from a baseline mean of 32.0, whereas that in the mineral oil group increased to 37.49 from a baseline mean of 31.31.
The researchers concluded, "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."
For more information on coconut oil as a moisturizer, and the dangers with petroleum-based ones, read our article on the topic: Let Food Be Your Cosmetic: Coconut Oil Outperforms Dangerous Petroleum Body Care Products.
For additional research on natural interventions and preventable causes of atopic dermatitis, visit our research page on the topic: Atopic Dermatitis research, or a guest post by Pat Robinson from Heal Thyself on 27 Natural Alternatives for Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) which summarizes the most compelling research on our database on the topic.
[i] Mara Therese Padilla Evangelista, Flordeliz Abad-Casintahan, Lillian Lopez-Villafuerte. 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. 2013 Dec 10. doi: 10.1111/ijd.12339.