Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coconut Oil Facial Detox?

All around the internet you'll find information and stories about using coconut oil as your only moisturizer and cleanser. You'll find amazing stories of "it shrank my pores" and "my skin has never looked or felt this great."  But for each amazing story you'll find one like this: "I tried coconut oil as my moisturizer and I broke out terribly.  I had a rash of pimples and white bumps all around my mouth."  The proponents of coconut oil will then reply "Oh, that's the detox period.  The coconut oil is drawing out the impurities from your skin and bringing them to the surface."

So, today I wanted to make a few things clear, as hopefully it will help some people.

There is no scientific evidence or biological function whereby coconut oil would draw out impurities. And if it was "drawing out the toxins," it shouldn't be in the form of massive amounts of pustules or redness around your mouth and nose.

Now, shouldn't I, a proponent of all things natural and organic, be supportive of coconut oil? Well, let me say this. There are so many healthy benefits that coconut oil brings when it comes to skin and in diet. But it may not be appropriate for facial use for some people. For some people, coconut oil works amazingly as a facial moisturizer. But for others, the results can be horrible.  Why?  What's going on?

If you've developed a rash of red pimples all around your mouth when using coconut oil, you've likely developed a condition called Perioral Dermatitis.  What's happened is that the coconut oil has created what's called an occlusive layer on your skin.  An occlusive layer is especially helpful if you have dry or allergy-prone skin.  Many eczema treatments work by creating this occlusive layer--a protective layer of oil that keeps out allergens and irritants.  The eczema can heal if it's caused by contact allergies and irritants, and the occlusive layer protects it.  HOWEVER, a strong occlusive layer like this can also work against you. What can happen is that a layer of fungi, bacteria, and dead skin cells can get trapped under that strong layer of oil (the occlusive layer) and infection begins and leads to breakouts, such as those seen in Perioral Dermatitis. Now, science is still trying to figure out the exact cause of Perioral Dermatitis, as it can be triggered by many things, not just coconut oil.  Women are more prone to developing the condition. And different people respond to different treatments.  Sometimes a prescription for a steroid cream is made and, because steroid creams are typically thick, they too create an occlusive layer, thus making the problem worse.  It's suggested that if you're suffering from this condition to stay away from all makeups, creams--anything that could create an occlusive layer.  Just use a gentle cleanser and perhaps an astringent like witch hazel (follow your doctor's instructions) so there's nothing trapping in that bacteria and letting it heal.

Coconut oil isn't the only oil that can cause Perioral Dermatitis.  Over-application of any oil can be a trigger, so be judicious when you're using a facial oil or oil-based cream, apply sparingly, patting it on to dry spots and areas that need protection. Without getting in to full depth about Perioral Dermatitis and all its causes (food allergies, contact allergies) I just wanted to offer a quick explanation to anyone that had experienced this so-called "coconut oil detox" and to clear up any confusion out there.

[For educational purposes only. This is not intended to treat, diagnose, or offer medical advice.]