Eczema. It might just make your baby’s cheeks a little rosier than usual, or it might cause an angry red rash. If your little one has eczema, you’ve probably tried everything under the sun to soothe their soft, tender skin.
You’re not the only parent worrying about this: Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in children and babies.
Over-the-counter and prescription creams and ointments can help calm your child’s skin down to just the right amount of pink. But home remedies like coconut oil have also been proven to help treat eczema.
Coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil, is safe to use on babies and children. It may help improve their symptoms, as well as moisturize their sensitive skin.
Plus, coconut oil doesn’t contain added chemicals or perfumes — and it smells delicious! (As if you didn’t already feel like you could eat your precious newborn right up!)
Here’s the deal with using coconut oil for baby eczema.
Eczema is an allergic skin condition that’s also called atopic dermatitis. Babies can get eczema at 6 months old or even earlier. Sometimes it goes away by itself by the time your child is 5 years old. Other times, it develops into child and adult eczema or flares up later.
It’s pretty common. In fact, up to 20 percent of children under the age of 10 have eczema. This number shrinks to only about 3 percent of adults.
Eczema in babies is usually different than eczema in older children and adults. If your baby is younger than 6 months old, eczema usually happens on the:
Your baby’s skin might look:
Some babies only have eczema for a short time on their cheeks, giving them an adorable “rosy” look. Other babies only have scalp eczema, or cradle cap. You might notice your little one trying to touch their head or pull at their ears if they have cradle cap, but it usually doesn’t bother them.
Surprisingly, eczema doesn’t usually appear on the bum and other diaper areas. This might be because the moisture from the diaper protects the skin in these areas from drying out.
Babies older than 6 months but under the age of 1 year might have eczema on other areas that get rubbed when they sit or crawl, including:
- lower legs
One 8-week study in 117 children showed that virgin coconut oil treated eczema more effectively than mineral oil. Children that were treated with coconut oil showed improved eczema symptoms and less redness, as well as more moisturized skin.
Another medical review noted that coconut oil is safe for dry and flaking skin. It can help moisturize and has natural anti-germ properties that may help treat minor skin infections. This is why it’s is often added to soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers.
Virgin coconut oil is like virgin olive oil. It’s less processed than regular oils and comes from fresh coconuts. According to medical research, this might give virgin coconut oil stronger health properties than other kinds of coconut oil. It has more germ-fighting and inflammation-soothing powers.
Extra virgin coconut oil is safe to use on the paper-thin skin of premature babies. In fact, medical research has found that using this kind of coconut oil on premature or low birthweight babies helped protect and thicken their delicate skin.
Even though virgin coconut oil is considered safe, it’s possible to be allergic to coconut oil. Discontinue using it if a skin reaction occurs.
Look for the best quality virgin coconut oil you can find to use on your baby. You’ll likely be able to find the kind used for cooking and as a food supplement at health food stores. Double-check the ingredients to make sure it’s pure coconut oil without any added chemicals or dyes.
Give your baby their daily bath using warm water and a gentle baby shampoo. Pat your baby dry and wrap them in a soft, fluffy towel.
Warm a small amount of coconut oil in a bowl. Coconut oil melts at about 78°F, so if it’s a warm day, you can just leave it on your kitchen counter. Alternatively, zap it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.
Wash your hands carefully with warm water and soap. It’s always important to wash your hands before touching your baby, but it’s even more important if your baby has eczema. This rash can break the skin, letting germs get in more easily.
Test the warm coconut oil on the inside of your wrist — just like you test a baby’s bottle — to make sure it’s a comfortable temperature. If it’s too cold or hard, rub some between your palms to melt it. If it’s too warm, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes.
Scoop up some coconut oil and rub it between your fingers or the palms of your hands. Gently use your fingers or whole hand to massage the coconut oil into your baby’s skin. Start with the areas that have eczema and continue all over for a relaxing massage that also helps you bond!
You can also use coconut oil with wet wraps. This treatment uses damp cotton strips to help improve the skin’s moisture and heal eczema faster.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Get a new, soft, unbleached cotton or flannel cloth.
- Cut the cloth into strips that are small enough to cover your baby’s eczema areas.
- Boil water to sterilize it.
- Let the water cool down until it’s warm.
- Apply coconut oil to your baby (following the instructions above).
- Dip a strip of cloth into the warm, sterile water.
- Squeeze the excess water from it.
- Place the damp cloth strip over the coconut oil.
- Repeat and layer cloth strips to “wrap” the area.
- Leave the cloths in place until they’re almost dry — or until your wriggling baby takes them off!
Using coconut oil is actually not too far off from the recommended treatment for baby eczema. Giving your baby a nice, warm bath and moisturizing their skin afterward are the main ways to help soothe this skin rash.
Pediatricians and dermatologists recommend moisturizers like:
- petroleum jelly
- baby oil
- fragrance-free cream
That said, show any kind of baby eczema to your pediatrician right away. In more serious cases, they may recommend medicated creams. If your baby’s eczema gets infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibacterial or antifungal cream.
Other steps to take include:
- avoiding using harsh detergents, shampoos, and soaps on your baby
- avoiding wearing perfumes or moisturizers with chemicals that you might pass onto your baby’s skin
- dressing your baby in soft, breathable fabrics that don’t itch
- avoiding putting your baby in temperatures that are too cold or too warm
- trimming your baby’s nails or putting on cotton mittens so they won’t scratch themselves
Important to note
Not all natural oils are good for your baby’s skin. Avoid using olive oil and other vegetable oils. They can thin the skin and worsen eczema symptoms.
It may look scary, but baby eczema is a common skin condition that usually goes away by the time your little one is a toddler.
Several studies recommend virgin coconut oil for baby eczema. Still, as with any treatment, ask your pediatrician to be sure it’s right for your baby.
If they experience any reaction, such as a rash, discontinue using it and seek medical advice for other products to use. If a medicated ointment or other treatment has been prescribed, make sure to use that before trying coconut oil.