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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.