Coconut oil for skin and hair is my third and final post on this subject, at least until new research presents itself. In this post we cover the external use of coconut oil as an additive to your hair care products and its benefits to your skin when applied topically. If you haven’t done so already, be sure and read the other two posts. The first post The Truth about Coconut Oil covers basic information about coconut oil. The second post Coconut Oil Health Benefits covers the benefits of coconut oil taken internally when used as cooking oil or taken as a supplement.
Coconut oil for your skin
As is my usual habit, I rely on those long boring scientific studies versus testimonials to determine the facts. Not because I think testimonials are invalid, but rather to eliminate the placebo factor that may be partly or even completely the reason for a positive result.
Currently the science is sparse when trying to determine the benefits of coconut oil for use on the skin and hair. However, there are promising results based on preliminary studies.
The Department of Biochemistry, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India did a study on rats. Three groups of rats with six rats in each group were studied for wound healing. One group was the control group and the wounds in the other two groups were treated with virgin coconut oil.
The results were encouraging in that the wounds treated with coconut oil healed much faster than in the control group. Plus, there was an increase in fibroblast proliferation and neovascularization. (That’s science speak meaning an increase in the cells that produce collagen and other connective tissue fibers and new blood vessels.)
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2009) published a study investigating the effectiveness of lauric acid (coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid according to a 2001 IUPAC technical report) in destroying the bugs that cause acne (P. acnes) and two other bacteria that cause skin problems (S. aureus and S. epidermidis).
This study was conducted using mice with infected ears. The study indicated that lauric acid was more effective than benzoyl peroxide in destroying these bacteria and with no ill effects on mouse cells. The conclusion was that lauric acid has the potential of being an effective treatment for P acnes, S. aureus and S. epidermidis whether injected or applied topically.
How does virgin coconut oil compare to olive oil in treating skin infections?
Dermatitis (2008) published another study, Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an itchy skin inflammation that is easily colonized by S. aureus. The condition is often chronic. This study was conducted out of two clinics and involved 26 real live people from each clinic instead of lab rats and mice.
When the study was started 20 of the people who received the virgin coconut oil were positive for S. aureus, but only 12 of the people receiving olive oil were positive. At the conclusion of the study only 1 person receiving the virgin coconut oil remained positive whereas 6 of those using olive oil remained positive. Both oils reduced the severity of the patient’s dermatitis; however those using the virgin coconut oil had a greater reduction in severity.
The conclusion, of course was that virgin coconut oil would be a good option in treating people with atopic dermatitis.
The amount of vitamin E in coconut oil is very small coming in at about 1%, for fractionated coconut oil and less .011 milligram per gram of refined non-fractionated coconut oil. (Now you know the truth when vendors try and sell you on the idea that coconut oil is rich in vitamin E). That said, fractionated coconut oil, consisting mainly of caprilic and capric triglycerides has a very important function when it comes to the absorption of vitamin E through the skin.
One very small study published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology International (1999), demonstrated the ability of fractionated coconut oil as an effective transport for vitamin E.
In the study, Myritol 318 (basically fractionated coconut oil which consists mainly of capric and caprylic triglycerides) was used as a base into which 14C-tocopherol succinate (vitamin E) was dissolved. This was then applied to a small area on the back of a hairless mouse. Later it was discovered that not only was the vitamin E discovered in parts of the skin other than where it had been applied, it was found in the organs of the mouse. (If you ever doubted the importance of what you put on your skin, this should dispel those doubts.)
The significance to the scientists looking at their data was the possibility of a topical application in situations where a person’s body doesn’t absorb vitamin E when it is consumed. I see another benefit. Namely, the benefits of vitamin E to skin cells when it is applied with fractionated coconut oil. (If you’re interested in the benefits of vitamin E for your skin, check out the posts on the subject listed below.)
Coconut oil for your hair
In the Journal of Cosmetic Science (2003), mineral oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil were tested on the prevention of hair damage. Coconut oil was the only oil of the three to prevent protein loss from hair when it was used as a pre-wash and post-wash product. The thought is that the lauric acid in coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft and thus protects it from protein loss and this prevents hair damage. The reason for this has to do with the shape and complexity of the lauric acid molecule.
A 2001 study published in the same journal, produced the same results. The mechanism of prevention is the ability of coconut oil to prevent what is termed hygral fatigue. Hygral fatigue is damage caused because hair strands expand and contract between being wet and dry. Hygral fatigue will cause hair from the cuticle to the ends become damaged.
It’s been reported that too much coconut oil can penetrates hair that is very porous hair. This can cause frizz, a greasy look and limpness. To test the porosity of your hair, check out this post: Hair Porosity – What You Need to Know. If your hair is very porous add coconut oil to your hair cautiously until you know how your hair will react.
In addition to the studies conducted on hair, it’s important to remember that it all begins in the scalp therefore the benefits listed above that apply to your skin also applies to your scalp.
From the three posts on coconut oil, you can understand the benefits of coconut oil. It’s a healthy food and healthy for your skin and hair. We here at SpaFromScratch consider coconut oil a must have in your arsenal of weapons to help keep you healthy and looking absolutely gorgeous. We recommend using both virgin coconut oil and fractionated coconut oil depending on how you plan to use it. We’re certain you will be as pleased with it as we are with it.
Now go have fun and relax