Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer. Many people with eczema find that it soothes the skin and relieves symptoms such as dryness and itchiness, and some research supports its use.

Most types of eczema cause patches of dry, itchy, and scaly skin that may crack and bleed. A key aim of treatment is to keep the skin hydrated.

Some commercial moisturizers and treatments can irritate sensitive skin, prompting many people with eczema to search for effective natural treatments, such as coconut oil.

This article delves into the research about coconut oil as a way to relieve eczema symptoms. It also describes how to use coconut oil and the possible risks.

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a healthful fatty acid that is also in breast milk.

Lauric acid is an ingredient in natural remedies for all kinds of health issues, including eczema.

While coconut oil cannot cure eczema, it can soothe the skin, reduce irritation and itchiness, and lower the risk of infection.

Eczema reduces the skin’s ability to stay hydrated. Results of a 2014 clinical trial indicate that applying virgin coconut oil to the skin for 8 weeks may improve skin hydration in children with eczema.

Coconut oil could also help treat eczema by increasing the amount of a protein called filaggrin. Filaggrin is an essential protein that helps keep the skin hydrated and pH balanced. Some believe that having too little of this protein may be one cause of eczema.

A 2019 study found that coconut oil can increase the amount of filaggrin in skin cells, hydrating the skin and improving its moisture barrier. The study concluded that virgin coconut oil could be useful in treating eczema.

As these researchers note, coconut oil also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Other research indicates that antioxidants may help treat eczema.

A different 2019 study concluded that coconut oil has antimicrobial properties and can effectively reduce the presence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

This is significant because people with eczema can be more vulnerable to skin infections. Eczema can cause the skin to crack and bleed, and scratching or even touching broken skin can lead to infection.

Coconut oil can be comparatively inexpensive and is very safe to use, even for infants. People can find it in many grocery and drug stores around the world, making it an accessible and easy option for people with eczema.

Coconut oil’s moisturizing properties can help relieve irritation. Eczema is an inflammatory disease, and the oil also contains properties that can reduce inflammation and ease associated symptoms.

Also, the lauric acid in the oil has antimicrobial properties that could prevent additional infections that are common in people with dry, cracked skin due to eczema.

A person should do a patch test before using coconut oil to ensure that it will not cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and exposure to heat makes it liquid. A person can use solid or liquid coconut oil on the skin. If it is solid, rub a small scoop between the fingertips until it softens.

To reduce symptoms of eczema, apply coconut oil to the skin twice a day, or more often if necessary. A person can essentially use it like any other lotion or moisturizer.

A person may benefit from applying the oil more often when symptoms flare up. Continuing to use the oil may prevent eczema symptoms from returning or getting worse.

If the skin feels dry in the mornings, try applying coconut oil before bed.

To treat eczema on the scalp, try using coconut oil instead of a conditioner. Apply it directly to the hair and gently massage it into the scalp. Leave the oil on for a few minutes, then rinse it off with warm water.

Contact a healthcare professional before using coconut oil or any other natural remedy. They can make sure the remedy fits safely within a treatment plan.

Anyone who is allergic to coconuts should not use coconut oil. To test for an allergic reaction, try applying a tiny bit of the oil to a small patch of undamaged skin. The American Academy of Dermatology Association provides detailed instructions.

It is important to choose a high-quality, organic, extra-virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil. This is to make sure that the manufacturer did not use chemicals when extracting the oil because some chemicals can irritate the skin.

A 2017 study explored whether coconut oil is safe for preterm infants. It concluded that the oil helped keep the babies’ skin in good condition and caused no negative effects.

However, check with a healthcare professional before administering coconut oil or other natural remedies to infants, toddlers, or older children. According to a 2021 study, approximately 20–30% of children may be allergic to coconuts.

If a child has this allergy, do not expose them to the oil. It is crucial to test for allergies first.

When using coconut oil on an infant’s or toddler’s skin, be sure to keep it away from their eyes.

Otherwise, a person can use coconut oil like any other moisturizer or lotion. Pay special attention to areas that are particularly prone to flare-ups, including the elbows and knees.

The best time to use coconut oil is after a bath or shower. Some people also like to add a bit of coconut oil to bath water.

The following natural remedies may also help ease eczema symptoms:

  • Apple cider vinegar. The acidity and antimicrobial effects of apple cider vinegar may relieve symptoms of eczema. However, the high concentration of acid can irritate or burn sensitive skin, so use caution.
  • Omega-3 supplements. Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements may boost the immune system and prevent flare-ups.
  • Vitamin D. These supplements may help prevent eczema symptoms.
  • Probiotics. Regularly taking probiotics may also help prevent eczema flare-ups.

A person might wonder how coconut oil compares with other eczema remedies found in supermarkets, such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly.

A small 2019 study of adults with very dry skin found that virgin coconut oil was better at increasing skin moisture and easing symptoms than mineral oil.

Petroleum jelly, commonly sold under the brand name Vaseline, is another inexpensive, widely available product that people often use to relieve eczema symptoms. People generally tolerate it well, even those with very sensitive skin.

Petroleum jelly is thicker and greasier than coconut oil, and it creates a barrier that can help seal in moisture.

Experts classify coconut oil as an “emollient,” an oil or lipid that hydrates dry skin and improves skin softness, flexibility, and smoothness. Petroleum jelly, on the other hand, is an “occlusive,” a substance that coats the skin and physically seals in water to keep the skin hydrated.

Both may help ease eczema symptoms, such as a burning sensation, itchiness, and discomfort from cracked skin.

Below, find answers to some common questions about coconut oil and eczema.

Can you use coconut oil for eczema in a baby or child?

People generally tolerate it well, but always check for allergies before using coconut oil, and never administer it to a child with a coconut allergy.

Speak with a healthcare professional before using any new product with an infant, toddler, or an older child.

Can coconut oil make eczema worse?

In some people, coconut oil can cause irritation or an allergic reaction that makes eczema worse. Contact reactions can cause a rash, itchiness, and blistering.

Can you use coconut oil on the face or eyes?

Coconut oil is safe to use on the face and the skin around the eyes. Always choose virgin coconut oil that is unrefined or cold-pressed, as this does not contain chemicals that could irritate the skin.

Do a patch test before using coconut oil on the face, especially if the skin in this area is sensitive.

Applying coconut oil is a natural way to keep the skin hydrated. This may be especially beneficial during flare-ups of eczema symptoms, and using it consistently might help prevent symptoms from returning or becoming worse.

A person can purchase virgin coconut oil online or find it in some supermarkets and health stores.

Using coconut oil regularly may moisturize the skin, reduce itchiness, and lower the risk of infection. However, as always, speak with a healthcare professional and do a patch test before using this natural remedy.

Anyone with a coconut allergy should not have contact with the oil.