Coconut oil is commonly used in skin care because it is extremely effective at hydrating the skin. Unlike most commercial moisturisers, coconut oil doesn’t contain water or petroleum byproducts. This is important as water in your moisturiser will make your skin feel moisturised for a short time, but once it has dried out, your skin will once again be dry and in need of hydration.
Dry skin (xerosis) is characterised by a decreased skin barrier function and causes symptoms like itching, roughness and scaling. In a randomized double-blinded controlled clinical trial, 34 patients suffering from xerosis applied coconut oil twice daily for 2 weeks. Both patients and investigators reported improvement in skin hydration after ending the 2 week trial, as well as an increase in skin surface lipid levels1. Furthermore, studies on patients suffering from atopic dermatitis showed a four-fold decrease in transepithelial water loss (TEWL) upon applying virgin coconut oil twice daily for 4 weeks2.
This decrease of TEWL can be seen as a result of improved barrier function, either by a direct improvement of the skin’s natural barrier, or as a result of coconut oil’s occlusive properties upon the surface of the skin.
The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above.
Updated: July 2017