Coconut oil has gained immense popularity and there’s strong evidence that it’s very helpful for skin. Here’s the current findings and how you can benefit.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil that is made from extracting the oil from raw coconuts (virgin) or dried coconut kernels (refined). It is mainly comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, making it 90% saturated fat. Studies have found that virgin coconut oil provides higher percentages of healthful ingredients for the skin, therefore this article focuses on the benefits of virgin coconut oil. The easiest way to tell the difference is: virgin smells like coconut, refined does not.
The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties that can help protect against harmful microorganisms. This is helpful when treating skin conditions like acne, cellulitis, folliculitis and athlete’s foot, which are all caused by bacteria or fungi. One specific fatty acid, lauric acid, was found to be effective at blocking the growth of bacteria. Another fatty acid, capric acid, is effective in killing strains of bacteria as well as inhibiting the growth of certain fungi.
Chronic inflammation is a common component of several skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema. Studies have found that coconut oil not only has an anti-inflammatory affect but can also help to reduce pain. It appears that coconut oil can improve antioxidant levels which then stabilize free radicals. This then, neutralizes reactive atoms that cause inflammation.
Coconut oil does not clog pores as some would think and in fact, due its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory abilities, can kill the bacterial strains that cause acne while also reducing inflammation. A few test-tube and animal studies have shown that lauric acid is more effective than benzoyl peroxide at preventing the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
Coconut oil is a very light oil which makes it fast absorbing. Several studies indicate that coconut oil significantly improved skin hydration and was just as effective as mineral oil. Additionally, we know that well hydrated skin helps preserve barrier function by warding off harmful bacteria, promoting scar healing and maintaining overall skin integrity. Therefore, coconut oil can be very helpful in promoting anyone’s skin health and can specifically help those with drier forms of psoriasis and eczema.
A few studies have shown that applying virgin coconut oil to wounds sped up healing, improved antioxidant status and increased levels of collagen, an important protein that aids in wound healing. Secondarily, its antimicrobial properties can also prevent infection, which is a major risk factor that can complicate overall healing.
Coconut oil can act as a mild solar radiation protectant during short sun exposures. Its soothing and fast absorbing abilities also makes it a good remedy for those who have spent too much time in the sun. Lastly, it can help to reduce the irritation or pain of a sunburn and help it to heal faster.
Lastly, coconut oil is a very moisturizing oil for the skin and provides long lasting hydration for dry or aging skin. It helps to improve the skin’s elasticity thus reducing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, and skin sagging. It also helps to improve the skin’s natural collagen production which helps to keep skin looking youthful and supple. Coconut oil contains vitamins A and E, which are both anti-aging.
Since coconut oil has been linked to many potential benefits for skin including: reducing inflammation, killing bacteria and fungi, moisturizing, healing wounds and providing protection; it can be a great remedy if you are struggling with skin conditions or just want the benefits of healthy skin.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.