Eczema is a common skin condition causing the skin to become dry, sore, cracked, red and itchy. It commonly affects children, but not many people realise it can also develop during adulthood. The condition is usually long-term and there is no cure, although symptoms can improve and in some cases clear up completely over time. Medicated creams and ointments are usually the first treatment offered to patients with eczema, with both over-the-counter and prescribed variants available.
However, eczema can be stubborn and difficult to treat, and the effectiveness of different products varies between patients.
More and more people are turning to natural remedies for the treatment of skin conditions, especially those who don’t want to put chemicals on their skin.
Some studies have shown certain natural products to be effective for the treatment of eczema, such as two popular cooking oils – coconut oil and sunflower oil.
According to the National Eczema Association, sunflower seed oil can stimulate the body’s natural ceramide production.
“Ceramides are skin barrier bolstering fats that are naturally produced in our bodies,” explains the National Eczema Association.
“Many cosmetic companies enhance their moisturisers with ceramides as a way to replenish the level of these fats via topical absorption.”
So this means sunflower seed oil can help improve the skin’s barrier and therefore protect the skin.
In addition, sunflower seed oil is an anti-inflammatory, meaning it can reduce inflammation in people with eczema.
According to the National Eczema Association, one study examining sunflower oil distillate found patients who used sunflower oil along with a topical steroid for three weeks had significantly less lichenification.
Lichenification refers to skin that becomes thick and rough from rubbing and scratching.
“While more studies are needed, this small trial demonstrated a beneficial outcome for a treatment that is safe for many patients to try,” said the eczema expert.
Coconut oil, meanwhile, has also been shown to benefit certain symptoms of eczema in adults.
Studies have shown applying coconut oil topically reduces the amount of staphylococcus bacteria on the skin.
Staphylococcus bacteria can cause infections to the skin, causing painful red lumps or bumps, hot, red and swollen skin, and sores crusts or blisters.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a fatty acid used to develop monolaurin, which is an antimicrobial agent that can fight bacteria, fungi, yeast, viruses and other pathogens.
“Coconut oil has the natural ability to penetrate the skin quickly and efficiently, which can boost hydration, improve skin elasticity, fight itch and reduce the chances of infection,” said the National Eczema Association.