You may recall I wrote a piece called Thinny Skinnies a while ago now, discussing the skin barrier and what affects it. I followed it up with Skin Creams: A Barrier to Health? You can read both of them here. I noticed in the SkinsMatter newsletter this morning a study showing what I was trying to say: that mineral oils are just not going to strengthen a hyper-permeable barrier in the same way as a non-mineral oil would.
In this study, dermatitis sufferers were tested to see how their skin, and specifically their TEWL rating, a way of measuring the skin permeability, performed with mineral oil or virgin coconut oil (VCO) applied over 8 weeks. I immediately perked up at this because I have been doing an experiment myself using VCO straight onto my skin and dropping it into my bath water to get a good coating. And, yes, I have ruined the bath! A year or so ago I started reacting to the grains and sunflower topically (after a skincare product was labelled incorrectly and I had been inadvertently using sunflower, which I know I am sensitive to, for months, sigh) so I was trying to strengthen my skin. We are pretty convinced that, internally, coconut oil is very healing so why not on our outer skin too? Anyway, that was my thinking. And then here we are with a nice study showing me the wisdom of my ways..
The researchers concluded that:
In the VCO group, 47% (28/59) of patients achieved moderate improvement and 46% (27/59) showed an excellent response. [Ed; That’s 55 out of 59, 93% improved].
In the mineral oil group, 34% (20/58) of patients showed moderate improvement and 19% (11/58) achieved excellent improvement. [Ed: that’s 31 out of 59, 53% improved but far fewer scored excellent – 19% as opposed to 46% VCOs].
The VCO group achieved a post-treatment mean TEWL of 7.09 from a baseline mean of 26.68, whereas the mineral oil group demonstrated baseline and post-treatment TEWL values of 24.12 and 13.55, respectively….[Ed: just look at the difference in barrier integrity there – just 7.09 for VCOs which is almost 50% lower than MOs].
Thus, among pediatric patients with mild to moderate AD, topical application of VCO for eight weeks was superior to that of mineral oil based on clinical (SCORAD) and instrumental (TEWL, skin capacitance) assessments.
Clearly benefits from both treatments but more from the VCO. I wonder too how sustainable the mineral oil treatments would be? My guess would be that you would need to continue applying mineral oils to get the same moisturisation etc whereas I would expect more healing with the VCO over time, meaning less need for it. Mineral oils are great for preventing moisture loss from the skin but are ultimately drying, which is why you get addicted to your lip balms!