Coconut oil is extracted from mature coconuts. There are several production processes. The distinctions between the oils produced via different methods are important when choosing a coconut oil to use. The differences matter even if you are using coconut oil for skincare rather than consuming it.
Understanding the different processes will help you to make the right choice when using coconut oil for eczema. The following is detailed but helpful in decoding the coconut oil marketplace. As you will see, some coconut oil has been bleached or treated with other harsh chemicals. This guide will help you find the purest coconut oils available, ensuring you get the best to treat your skin and boost your immune system.
Coconut Oil Production Methods
The process used to produce coconut oil drastically alters the resulting product. There are two main methods: dry processes and wet processes. It is critical to understand that when coconut oil is labeled “virgin” or “extra virgin,” it is tempting to compare it to olive oil. This is a mistake.
Extra virgin olive oil has an actual legal definition established by the International Olive Oil Council. Interestingly it is the only food product in the European Union that is graded by a taste test. Unfortunately, Extra virgin coconut oil has no such legal process defining its quality. Understanding the methods used to produce coconut oil is essential to choosing the right one to treat skin problems.
The Dry Process
Coconut oil, whether extracted by a dry or a wet process, is produced from the white meat of the fruit. To be precise, a coconut is a type of fruit called a drupe, which is characterized as having a fleshy outer part surrounding a shell with a seed inside.
The brown, round fruit we think of like a coconut is the shell with the seed inside. The white meat is called the kernel. A dry process involves separating the kernel from the shell and drying it using some sort of heat. The resulting product is called copra. The copra can be pressed or solvents can be used to dissolve much of the copra, leaving coconut oil and a fibrous, high-protein mash.
The Wet Process
The wet process uses the raw kernel. When pressed an emulsion of oil and water is produced. The procedure to extract the oil from the water is tricky. Different producers use different methods which can include exposure to low or high temperatures, enzymes, chemicals, or distillation. This method is often forgone because it produces a lower yield than the dry process.
High temperatures discolor the resulting product. Often these methods are used because the cost of more traditional methods is too time-intensive or involves extensive human labor. Other methods require a lot of capital investment, increasing the costs of production.
Thus, do not be tempted by the cheaper alternatives. Go for the more expensive oils produced either traditionally or with modern methods. These are detailed below.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil can be produced from coconut milk or from copra. Recall that copra is simply the flesh after it was been dried. How the copra is produced is critical to an effective final product. It alters the efficacy of the oil. All of the benefits highlighted below lose much of what makes them beneficial through any process that involves high heat. Virgin coconut oil solves this by using more expensive or time-consuming means.
The purest forms of virgin coconut oil use some heat but do not reach the boiling point. This protects the parts of the oil that help your skin or provide other benefits. Centrifuges are often used to separate the oil from coconut milk. These methods require equipment so they are capital-intensive.
The traditional preparation method is fermentation. In this process, milk is heated for more than a day. After the heating, it is left at room temperature or several hours. The oil floats to the top. It must be heated one more time to purge impurities. It must be stirred constantly at this stage as a means of temperature control. This product can spoil quickly.
Some producers use centrifuges to separate oil from milk. This process soaks the kernel in hot water. Coconut cream is skimmed from the top. The remaining liquid is strained. This is coconut milk. The milk is then put into a centrifuge that separates the oil. Impurities continue to form, so the oil must sit until fully separated. However, the resulting product is highly pure.
The cold press process is similar to other methods. Once again it is important to find out more about the supply chain. As long as the temperature is tightly controlled, the resulting oil can be used for health and culinary applications.
That is a lot of information. So let us explore how to use coconut oil for eczema and why it works so well.
Why is Coconut Oil Good for Your Eczema?
Eczema is a mercurial beast. Some people call it “the itch that rashes.” For many Eczema sufferers feel the itch before redness or rash occurs. Dry, flaky skin is common. It also affects the hands or joint areas. Sometimes it affects the feet. Others experience symptoms on the face. Eczema is related to asthma, but even that connection is little understood. Eczema affects everyone differently. So how does coconut oil help you during a flare-up?
The first mechanism is its moisturizing properties. This has actually been tested clinically. Coconut oil is proven to reduce eczema symptoms in children. The clinical study compared it to mineral oil, another common treatment. Another common suggestion. petroleum jelly does not moisturize. It only keeps moisture in the skin. If the skin is already dry, it just stops it from getting much worse. Coconut oil adds moisture to provide true relief for dry patches.
Controlling the dryness is critical. Dry skin can crack or split. If these areas are not treated, they are susceptible to infection.
One of the common problems associated with eczema is a form of staph infection. Coconut oil has a high concentration of lauric acid. The body converts this acid into a compound called monolaurin. This substance helps control fungal and bacterial infections, especially certain types of staph. This effect has also been studied and confirmed multiple times.
Another compound called caprylic acid, along with lauric acid, helps control yeast growth. This can help prevent yeast infections.
Coconut oil taken orally can boost the general immune system function.
Coconut oil is primarily composed of medium-length fatty acids and triglycerides. This allows the oil to be used in skin cells to improve the quality of tissue. In short, it strengthens the connectivity of the skin.
How To Use Coconut Oil for Eczema?
Warm coconut oil relieves itching. This is pretty self-explanatory. Just apply it to areas that itch regularly. A cotton swab dipped into the warm oil is a perfect method of application. You can even just put a small amount on your palm and apply it like lotion. This is particularly important for children. They have a little more trouble than adults in resisting the temptation to scratch itches. The problems associated with scratching are highlighted above.
For a general immune boost, coconut oil can be taken orally up to 3 teaspoons a day. This not a direct treatment for the symptoms of eczema, but a general immune system boost can help contain any potential infections. It has not necessarily been shown to reduce the frequency of breakouts.
For a relaxing bath, 5 tablespoons of the can are added to warm bathwater. Stress can induce eczema breakouts and exacerbate their systems. Not only does the coconut oil help soothe these symptoms. The warm bath will help relax you, which should help reduce future outbreaks.
At night, dip cotton gauze in coconut oil and apply it like a bandage. Even applying it for less than an hour can help. The bandage helps to protect any broken skin from infection. The coconut oil helps soothe the skin. This, like taking it a dietary supplement gives a two-pronged attack to the worst eczema symptoms.
Some of these remedies are ideal for children. As stated above, it is best to keep kids from scratching dry patches and rashes. The bandage approach helps, particularly for the tykes.
Finally, a Few Reminders
A lot of information has been shared. We have touched on chemistry, biology, and as well as manufacturing methods and problems. When purchasing coconut oil, it is extremely important to buy the purest form available. To reiterate, too much heat applied during the extraction causes some of the acid chains to break. Those chains are what gives the oil its antimicrobial properties.
Look for a white “paste” that resembles the consistency of petroleum jelly. If it smells too pungent, it may have been heated too much. If it has no coconut smell it all, it has likely been treated with chemicals and bleached. This can cause the same degradation as excess heat.
The best oil should have a slightly more than the faint smell of coconut. Most producers label their product with the process they used to extract the oil. Try to gravitate towards those produced via centrifuge.
Do a smell test on any that claim it is cold-pressed. Most oils produced by the traditional methods described above retain the best properties.