Natural (Mineral, Vegetable, Coconut, Essential) Oils and Contact Dermatitis

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2016 Jul;16(7):51. doi: 10.1007/s11882-016-0630-9.


Natural oils include mineral oil with emollient, occlusive, and humectant properties and the plant-derived essential, coconut, and other vegetable oils, composed of triglycerides that microbiota lipases hydrolyze into glycerin, a potent humectant, and fatty acids (FAs) with varying physico-chemical properties. Unsaturated FAs have high linoleic acid used for synthesis of ceramide-I linoleate, a barrier lipid, but more pro-inflammatory omega-6:-3 ratios above 10:1, and their double bonds form less occlusive palisades. VCO FAs have a low linoleic acid content but shorter and saturated FAs that form a more compact palisade, more anti-inflammatory omega-6:-3 ratio of 2:1, close to 7:1 of olive oil, which disrupts the skin barrier, otherwise useful as a penetration enhancer. Updates on the stratum corneum illustrate how this review on the contrasting actions of NOs provide information on which to avoid and which to select for barrier repair and to lower inflammation in contact dermatitis genesis.

Keywords: Contact dermatitis (CD); Essential oil (EO); Fatty acids (FAs); Mineral oil (MO); Natural oils (NOs); Skin barrier; Stratum corneum (SC); Vegetable oil (VO); Virgin coconut oil (VCO).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cocos / chemistry
  • Dermatitis, Contact / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / immunology
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Hygroscopic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Oils, Volatile / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fish Oils
  • Hygroscopic Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils