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.]



15 comments:

Vicki said...

Thanks so much for this information. I have recently gotten Perioral Dermatitis. I also make my own face cream and use coconut oil so now I know to leave out that ingredient. I got this before I started making my own cream and was using other organic creams so I don't think it initially caused it but it may be why I am not getting rid of it. I have to use a sunscreen on my face and most have moisturizing oils so I am not sure what I will do in the end to get rid of it. Thanks again.

Suzanne said...

I used to have PD really badly and my theory, based on TONS of Google searching over the last couple of years, is this: the irritation that leads to the rash is caused by toxic/sensitizing ingredients(petroleum, sulfates, strong artificial fragrances and flavors such as synthetic cinnamon, etc), but what actually causes the irritation to lead into the rash is the excess yeast in the body coming to the site as some sort of bodily/ healing response. This would also explain why my girls get PD more than guys, as they tend to use more products. However, now that more guys are becoming product junkies, there's an increasing number of them with the problem. What a lot of people do to holistically treat PD is either go natural with cosmetics or get rid of yeast in the body by cutting out sugar,or healthy carbs like fruits or grains, etc.(which is never healthy because our body needs glucose for fuel)and have it go away. Either of these methods will usually work, although with the anti-candida approach they're only treating the symptoms. Some also like to use zinc supplements to help make the PD less severe, but this is bc the zinc is helping the skin be able to heal more easily from the innitial irritation. The problem with many people that try to get rid of PD by going "natural" with their products is that they aren't actually totally natural. Usually they are still using green-washed shampoos that contain sulfates like ammonium laureth sulfate, even if they've cut out SLS, or they're using coal tar colorants in their "organic" lipsticks that have also been green washed. Since they're still using some of the ingredient culprits they still suffer from PD.

As an aside, I use coconut oil for makeup removal and use a water-free moisturizer made with organic shea butter, jojoba oil, and coconut oil with no problem and I had PD as horribly as I possibly could. I should say I don't use straight coco oil as a moisturizer because it causes a bit of a forehead breakout for me. Luckily I *don't suffer from PD anymore(*knock on wood*), but what I'm guessing the issue is with people using coconut oil, beeswax, and other thick natural substances(as you addressed) is that it traps this yeast in the skin and creates a worsened breeding ground for that bacteria as the skin can't breathe. Unfortunately many of these people that seek out natural alternatives like coconut oil haven't fully rid themselves of the sulfates, petro. products, etc. that cause the rash, so their PD will only intensify. You can think of it a bit like squeezing lemon juice on a wound: simply having lemon juice on your finger isn't going to sting, but once it's been cut, the acidity in the lemon can cause the pain of the cut to worsen. Of course with anything your mileage may vary, so what for one person might only be a couple red bumps that look like really mild acne, for others would be a full-blown muzzle rash. I guess the reason PD is so confusing is that it's not just the typical one allergen causing a reaction, there are so many responses going on in the body that different treatments seem to work, but ultimately to treat the issue a PD-sufferer has to get rid of the cause(the irritants) and be *truly* natural with their products. I apologize for the rambling, but it's such a personal issue for me that I was miserable with for years, so I have a bunch to say on the topic.

PS. If you've gone totally clean with your products, and aren't noticing it go away, give it time, it could take several weeks. Also, while you're trying to initially get rid of the rash, don't use anything other than water on the skin since your body will be able to quickly get rid of the yeast sitting in the irritation that is still there early on. I'm thinking once your skin is cleared, stuff like shea butter, lavender water, truly natural makeup, and such should be fine. You just have to be a major stickler about the ingredients you are using.

Wildflower said...

My skin got really dry after I had my twins, and I have started using a homemade face scrub make of coconut oil, lemon juice and sugar. I love it. I sometimes use more coconut oil as a moisturizer afterwards, but often I don't feel that I need it.

ReNew Organic Skin Care said...

I would also like to add that as a licensed Esthetician and practicing for over 22 years I have to stress that no matter how wonderful a specific oil may be their properties work differently for each skin type. One size does not fit all. For instance a person with very oil skin would benefit from hazelnut or grapeseed oily because they are slightly astringent but not from Avocado which is very rich but Avocado is perfect for someone with dry skin.

anonymous said...

As always, this is great information - thank you! Do you think that applying coconut oil to moisturize skin other than the face could cause this same reaction, or is the main risk related to the face?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Yes, it can happen to other parts of the body. However, on other parts of the body it would be considered to be folliculitis or another condition, as perioral dermatitis is the term that only relates to the condition around the mouth, (and perhaps other parts of the face.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie, thank you so much for this post! You have solved a mystery for me! What is the best coconut free makeup you could suggest for us? Do you already have a blog about this? I would appreciate it! PS-RMS Beauty has coconut oil in everything.... :(

Stephanie Greenwood said...

That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to avoid coconut oil--it's all about how much you're putting on and the other ingredients present. You can find all of my recommendations here: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-picks-part-1-makeup.html However, they're not necessarily coconut-free.

Lora said...

I've suffered from PD a few times in my life, mostly at "hormonally sensitive" times like changing birth control pills or being pregnant or post partum. I've found that completely cutting out sulfates is the only thing that totally eases the rash. I try to be (mostly) sulfate free anyway, but I do use a toothpaste with sulfates and every now and then I'll use soaps and shampoos with them. To rid myself of the PD, I need to cut them out of all cosmetics, dish soap, laundry detergent, mouthwash, etc. I even carry my own soap with me when I leave the house so I can wash my hands when I'm away.

PD is a horrible thing to have, and I know that cutting sulfates won't be a cure all for everyone, but after years of trial and error, it's the only thing that works for me 100%

Andreas Bliss said...

I have found that it helps my sensitive scalp when the well water sediments from the shower get built up on it enough to get my scalp irritated. I lather the oil on and put on a shower cap and leave it on for a few hours while doing housework, etc. Then I shower it off with a diluted (using distilled water to dilute it) clarifying shampoo. Over night my scalp heals and the next day my hair is soft and smooth and my scalp feels wonderful. It also healed up my face rash.

Peter Parker said...
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sooth sayer said...

I realized that its been a while since anyone has commented on this but when I read this something clicked and i've now been able to manage my Perioral Dermatitis. I promised myself that if I found something that worked I would spread the word for others who suffer. http://perioraldermatitis.wordpress.com/

Thank you soooooooooooooo much !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you to all for the great information. Probably a dumb question- but regarding sulfates, does this include red wine? Or is that a sulfite?

Thank you again,

Stephanie Greenwood said...

I think that they're referring to cosmetic sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium myreth sulfate, etc, not compounds found in foods. And yep, it's sulfites in red wine, not sulfates. :)

Anonymous said...

For the past month I had small red bumps around the crease of my eyes. I had shared makeup with a friend and thought that might be why. However, I had been using coconut oil as a face moisturizer for over a year. I tried using a hydracortize OTC cream and while it made the small bumps initialy better, within a week it made the whole situation worse. Now I stopped the h-cream, and after reading your blog, stopped using coconut oil or any face moisturizers, and have been using Cetaphil (which DOES contain sulphates, so not sure if this will work 100%) and the red rash has slowly been going away (though I cannot wait!! to be healed and wearing at least mascara again soon) thank you for the info in this blog, it was very helpful as I had never heard a critique of coconut oil before, and I do think it contributed to my problem.