Can Coconut Oil Help Hidradenitis Suppurativa? | myHSteam

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Can Coconut Oil Help Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on June 25, 2024

Finding relief from hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) symptoms is a big priority for people living with this skin disease. You may be curious about trying natural treatments and home remedies for HS along with following your standard treatment plan. Coconut oil has become especially popular, but is it good for skin affected by HS?

Researchers and doctors believe that blocked hair follicles cause hidradenitis suppurativa, an inflammatory skin condition that’s sometimes called acne inversa. HS causes painful skin lesions (sores) in areas of the body that have a lot of apocrine sweat glands and where skin rubs together, such as the thighs, armpits, groin, breasts, and buttocks. HS lesions can resemble nodules, blackheads, pimples, or boils that can leak pus, which may have an odor. Lesions can become open wounds or abscesses and may develop bacterial infections. HS often leads to scarring.

Coconut oil — an oil pressed from fresh or dried coconut meat — may not help everyone’s HS symptoms, but many myHSteam members have shared good results. They’ve reported that coconut oil can sometimes help manage their HS symptoms alongside their medical treatment plans and improve their quality of life. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist about coconut oil for your HS, particularly if you’re experiencing a flare-up.

“I’d like to share if this helps,” a myHSteam member wrote. “I made this mixture of 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 15 drops of tea tree oil, and I applied it on my affected areas. This is only day two, and I have some relief.”

Here’s more on coconut oil and whether it may help improve your HS symptoms.

Research on Coconut Oil and Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Scientific studies that focus on coconut oil and HS aren’t readily available. However, some dermatology research suggests that coconut oil may help improve skin symptoms in people with chronic skin conditions — skin disorders that have no known cure — such as psoriasis, eczema, and HS.

One study found that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the skin barrier, which helps regulate immune function in the skin. Skin barrier damage is believed to be a factor in people with HS.

Research has also shown that coconut oil has antimicrobial properties — it fights bacteria, viruses, and fungi — when used topically (applied to skin) or ingested (taken orally). Bacteria is believed to be a significant factor in HS inflammation.

Coconut oil is also an effective moisturizer. Also known as emollients, moisturizers keep skin hydrated. In general, skin needs moisture to function properly.

Potential Risks

It’s important to know that coconut oil is considered comedogenic — it clogs skin pores, and hair follicles are situated in skin pores. Topical use of coconut oil has been linked to outbreaks of inflammatory acne. But although HS can look like acne, it isn’t actually a type of acne, and research hasn’t indicated that coconut oil will aggravate HS in general.

In rare cases, people may develop an allergic reaction (allergic dermatitis) to coconut oil. For them, using coconut oil could make the symptoms worse instead of better.

Everyone’s HS is different. What’s helpful for one person with HS may not be for someone else. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new treatment or product, even if it’s natural. It’s also a good idea to test a small amount of an over-the-counter product such as coconut oil on a small patch of affected skin to see if you have an unwanted reaction.

How myHSteam Members Use Coconut Oil

Members of myHSteam have frequently shared tips for using natural products such as coconut oil to help with HS symptoms. Some members use coconut oil with other products that they’ve found beneficial. Here are some of their suggestions.

Managing HS Symptoms With Coconut Oil

One myHSteam member wrote, “I’ve been managing my HS with lots of bathing, using different antibacterial soaps and putting coconut oil mixed with tree tea oil on lesions. I have also used aloe leaf gel. Just apply it directly.”

Another member said, “I use many different solutions, including a homemade ointment my sister made with CBD and coconut oil. It works! I have one scar that has reversed. I was told without surgery it was impossible.” Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in marijuana that may have effects throughout your body but won’t cause a high.

Applying Coconut Oil To Reduce Skin Friction

“I have found good results with petroleum jelly with cocoa butter and plain coconut oil. It keeps the friction to a minimum and keeps skin from drying out,” one myHSteam member said.

“I use petroleum jelly continually,” another member wrote. “I also use coconut oil cream — keeps skin supple so it doesn’t rub and get sores.”

Using Coconut Oil To Reduce Odor From HS

Several members said they’ve found that coconut oil can help control HS odor, posting comments such as these:

  • “Do you all know what you can use for the smell that comes along with this condition?! Lime juice and coconut oil. Since I get my breakouts under my arms, I have stopped using deodorant and began using lime juice in place of deodorant. Not only does it help prevent me from getting musky, it also stops the foul smell HS causes.”
  • “I’ve also stopped using deodorant altogether (even in this heat, I know). But instead, I’ve used coconut oil and not smelled at all.”
  • “I found coconut oil with tea tree drops to be very helpful to soothe the discomfort and minimize the smell.”

Eating or Drinking Coconut Oil

Current research isn’t clear about the health benefits of eating or drinking coconut oil. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which means it’s solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular disease and should be consumed in limited quantities.

However, some coconut oil has been formulated into medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which consist of medium-length chains of dietary fat. MCTs break down faster in the body and may have more health benefits, such as boosting immunity and preventing fat storage, which can help people maintain a healthy weight. “MCT (coconut) oil — single best tonic for me!” shared a myHSteam member. “When consumed daily, I can nearly shut all of my inflammation down.”

Keep in mind that experts generally agree that more research is needed on the potential benefits of consuming coconut oil.

How To Store Coconut Oil

Generally, coconut oil should be refrigerated or kept in a cool, dark location in a sealed container. Virgin coconut oil can last for two to three years when stored properly without exposure to heat or light. If coconut oil shows signs of spoilage, such as mold, a yellowish tint, or an unpleasant smell, don’t use it — immediately dispose of it.

Talk to Your Dermatologist

Coconut oil may have benefits for people with HS, but its effectiveness varies from person to person. It may serve as another part of your HS management routine, along with other natural products such as aloe vera, manuka honey, or essential oils.

However, it’s important to check with your dermatologist and get medical advice for an approach to skin care that’s right for your needs. Always talk to your doctor before trying any natural product, including dietary supplements. Some supplements can be very concentrated and may have unpleasant side effects or interact poorly with medication that you’re taking.

Find Your Team

On myHSteam, the social network for people with hidradenitis suppurativa and their loved ones, more than 42,000 members from across the world come together to ask questions, share advice, and find support from others who understand life with HS.

Have you tried coconut oil for your HS symptoms? Share your experience and tips in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on June 25, 2024
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    Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
    Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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