Can Coconut Oil Help Psoriasis Symptoms?

If you're looking for a natural remedy to add to your psoriasis treatment plan, coconut oil gets a lot of buzz. There's not a lot of research on whether that's truth or hype, but there are reasons to think it might be another tool for your toolkit.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil comes from the fruit -- white part -- of a coconut. You can cook and bake with it. And many people use it on their hair and nails as a natural beauty product.

It has two forms: refined and unrefined or virgin. Refined coconut oil comes from dried coconut. The oil is taken out under high heat and then goes through a bleaching and deodorizing process. It doesn't smell like coconut -- it has a neutral odor. In the kitchen, you can use it for sautéing, stir-frying, and baking.

Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut fruit. The process doesn't involve high temperatures, which is why you might see it called "cold-pressed." Virgin coconut oil smells like coconuts. You can use it to bake and cook, just like refined coconut oil, but it's best for dishes cooked at lower temperatures.

Virgin cold-pressed coconut oil (VCO) is the kind experts think has the most health benefits, both as part of your diet and for your skin. Because VCO isn't processed with high heat, it keeps more of its germ-fighting power than refined coconut oil.

It can:

Coconut Oil and Your Skin

When you put VCO on your skin, it can help hold in moisture, ease redness and swelling, and keep certain bacteria from growing. Studies show VCO can help with symptoms of eczema (atopic dermatitis), a skin condition that looks a lot like psoriasis.

Eczema and psoriasis share many of the same symptoms and even have some of the same causes. Psoriasis scales tend to be thicker than patches of eczema, but both need moisturizing treatment to help with dryness, scaling, and itching. So even though they're different conditions, VCO can help with both.

Coconut Oil to Loosen Psoriasis Scales

While it may be a good add-on to your psoriasis treatment plan, coconut oil isn't a stand-alone solution.

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For psoriasis medications like steroids to work well, it's best to get rid of hard scales so they can get to the skin below. Coconut oil can help soften and loosen the scales first.

Scalp psoriasis tends to have the hardest scales because your hair traps them in place. They can get bigger and tougher over time. Here's how to use coconut oil to help with the scales on your scalp:

  • Spread the oil over your scalp, focusing on scaly areas.
  • Gently massage the oil into the scales.
  • Wrap your scalp in a towel or shower cap.
  • Leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Wash your hair and scalp with normal or tar shampoo.

After treating with VCO, it should be easier to take scales off gently. Do it while your scalp is still damp and the scales are the softest and loose. Then:

  • Put a plastic comb flat against the scale and rub it in a circle.
  • As the scale loosens, try to comb it out of your hair.
  • Wash your hair to remove any leftover scales.

Don't pull too hard or too quickly. Doing so can hurt your skin or make you lose hair. After you've taken the scaly layer off, apply your prescription treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on February 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Coconut Oil -- What Is It All About?"

Dermatology World: "The Pantry as Medicine Cabinet."

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Alternative, Complementary, and Forgotten Remedies for Atopic Dermatitis."

International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: "Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil."

Journal of Dermatological Science: "Recent advances in atopic dermatitis and psoriasis: Genetic background, barrier function, and therapeutic targets."

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: "Scalp Psoriasis."

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