Background: Xerosis is a common skin condition (1) characterized by dry, rough, scaly, and itchy skin, (2) associated with a defect in skin barrier function, and (3) treated with moisturizers. People in the tropics have effectively used coconut oil as a traditional moisturizer for centuries. Recently, the oil also has been shown to have skin antiseptic effects. A moisturizer with antiseptic effects has value, but there are no clinical studies to document the efficacy and safety of coconut oil as a skin moisturizer.
Objective: This study aimed to determine the effectivity and safety of virgin coconut oil compared with mineral oil as a therapeutic moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.
Methods: A randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial was conducted on mild to moderate xerosis in 34 patients with negative patch-test reactions to the test products. These patients were randomized to apply either coconut oil or mineral oil on the legs twice a day for 2 weeks. Quantitative outcome parameters for effectivity were measured at baseline and on each visit with a Corneometer CM825 to measure skin hydration and a Sebumeter SM 810 to measure skin lipids. For safety, transepidermal water loss (TEWL) was measured with a Tewameter TM210, and skin surface hydrogen ion concentration (pH) was measured with a Skin pH Meter PH900. Patients and the investigator separately evaluated, at baseline and at each weekly visit, skin symptoms of dryness, scaling, roughness, and pruritus by using a visual analogue scale and grading of xerosis.
Results: Coconut oil and mineral oil have comparable effects. Both oils showed effectivity through significant improvement in skin hydration and increase in skin surface lipid levels. Safety was demonstrated through no significant difference in TEWL and skin pH. Subjective grading of xerosis by the investigators and visual analogue scales used by the patients showed a general trend toward better (though not statistically evident) improvement with coconut oil than with mineral oil. Safety for both was further demonstrated by negative patch-test results prior to the study and by the absence of adverse reactions during the study.
Conclusion: Coconut oil is as effective and safe as mineral oil when used as a moisturizer.