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


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.

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Correspondence to Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell.

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Conflict of Interest

Dr. Verallo-Rowell is a Co-Founder and Chair of VMV Hypoallergenics, a cosmetic and skin care company that manufactures products made with coconut and other natural oils. Drs. Katalbas and Pangasinan declare no conflicts of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with animal subjects performed by the authors. With regard to the authors’ research cited in this paper, all procedures were followed in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 and 2008.

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Verallo-Rowell, V.M., Katalbas, S.S. & Pangasinan, J.P. Natural (Mineral, Vegetable, Coconut, Essential) Oils and Contact Dermatitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 16, 51 (2016).

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