Skin Health
Coconut or Coconut Oil Allergy?
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“I’m allergic to coconuts… Can I use products with coconut oil?”

 

“I’m allergic to cocamide-DEA and/or cocamide-MEA and/or cocamidopropyl-betaine so I can’t use any products with coconuts, right?”

It is a common misconception that because of the “coca” in the name, a sensitivity to these allergens is a sensitivity to coconut, coconut oil and coconut derivatives.Pure coconut and pure virgin (unbleached, unprocessed) coconut oil as well as monolaurin have zero reported reactions and are not allergens.In Cocamidopropyl-Betaine, Cocamide-DEA, Cocamide-MEA, it is the AMIDO-AMINE/AMIDE roots (as in cocAMIDOpropyl and cocAMIDE) that indicate their shared chemical compounds which are the allergens: amido-amines refer to a group of chemicals commonly used to process coconut oil to create surfactants, and amido-amines are, indeed allergens.

For more information, check out Bubble Trouble.

“I know essential oils are allergenic; why is coconut oil ok?”

Essential oils are made by extracting essences — from the leaves, roots and flowers of a plant — that include nice-smelling terpenoids such as mentha oil or crystals, dementholized peppermint oil, natural mint terpenes oil, cis-3 hexenol, menthones, basil oil, piperita oil, spearmint oil, etc. The fact that they’re fragrant is an instant red flag: anything that smells nice could spell trouble for those with fragrance sensitivities. The concerns over essential oils are mostly due to the fact that many of them:

  1. Are fragrance oils;
  2. Contain additives that are (or are related to) fragrances; or
  3. Contain other additives that are irritants like preservatives.
  4. Also, essential oils are extracted by distillation so their molecules are smaller, making them more allergenic (the irritants penetrate deeper into the skin).
Much like olive oil or palm oil, coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the fruit which is made up of fatty acids. Virgin coconut oil is extracted by pressing, not distillation, and therefore has larger fatty acid molecules (far less allergenic). For oils that are not fragrance oils, it’s the additives that can spell trouble. Unlike olive oil, for example, virgin coconut oil is a very stable oil that needs no additives. The virgin coconut oil that VMV Hypoallergenics uses in its products is USDA-certified organic and contains no additives at all, fragrance or otherwise there are no reports of contact dermatitis to additive-free virgin coconut oil.

 

“I know virgin coconut oil is very skin safe, but I did get allergic reactions. Why?”

You may not be using a true virgin coconut oil sans any additives or processing.

Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is cold pressed shortly after harvest, does not undergo hydrogenation (hence is trans-fat free, unrefined, and non bleached and has a distinctive, appealing creamy taste. Processed coconut oil no longer has this creamy taste.

Copra often starts off as stored coconuts, the meat of which is dried under the sun in rural areas, often along highways, or over a slow fire of burning coconut husk. The dried meat is then brought to coconut oil mills where it is processed: refined, bleached, deodorized by physical and/or chemical means to become this oil which is commonly used for cooking. Although coconut oil is quite stable, having only 8% unsaturated fatty acids, some people still subject them to partial hydrogenation, producing some, though very little trans fats.

True VCO non-irritating and non-allergenic. RBD or otherwise processed coconut oil or extracts may contain irritants or allergens from storage, extraction or processing.”

 

“Aren’t all coconut oils the same?”

As is true for most cosmetic ingredients, not all virgin coconut oils are created equal. An organic claim basically means that a certifying body audits the farm to ensure that trees are grown with organic practices and no inorganic fertilizers or insecticides are used. Virgin means immediately processed after harvesting. Additional important claims are: cold pressed (no or very minimum heat is used in extraction), hexane-free, zero trans & hydrogenated fat, unrefined, non bleached. A virgin coconut oil that doesn’t not make these or equivalent claims may not be as skin safe.

Our virgin coconut oil (VCO) is cold pressed shortly after harvest, does not undergo hydrogenation and is therefore trans free, unrefined, unbleached and has a lovely creamy taste. Processed coconut oil no longer has this creamy taste. Copra often starts as stored coconuts, the meat of which is dried under the sun in rural areas, often along highways, or over a slow fire of burning coconut husk. The dried meat is then brought to mills where it is processed: refined, bleached, deodorized by physical and/or chemical means to become the RBD Oil which is popular for cooking. Although coconut oil is quite stable, having only 8% unsaturated fatty acids, some people still subject them to partial hydrogenation, producing some trans fats. It is, however, the true, pure, unprocessed virgin coconut oils that are proven to be non-irritating, non-allergenic and non-comedogenic.

Our virgin coconut oil is certified organic and first- and cold-pressed. This is important not only for the purity of the oil but also to avoid allergens and comedogens from getting into the oil. Some other virgin coconut oils are extracted, purified or otherwise extracted with chemicals and additives that are allergens. Others might be mixed, heated or otherwise processed or stored in vats which are also used for storing or mixing other oils that are allergenic or comedogenic. There have been reactions reported to oils that have been processed, stored or handled with allergens.

 

“Isn’t coconut oil comedogenic?”

Comedogenicity usually refers to an ingredient or products tendency to clog pores — not, strictly speaking, the same as an allergic or irritant reaction. But in short, virgin coconut oil is proven to be non-comedogenic. For details on why it is sometimes confused as comedogenic (comedogenicity testing has evolved), see Is Virgin Coconut Oil Comedogenic?

For more on VMV’s virgin coconut oil, check out “On Comedogenicity, Rabbits’ Ears & Virgin Coconut Oil” at blog.vmvhypoallergenics.com, enter “virgin coconut oil” in the search field above, or click here to shop.

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  • SylvaBrazos

    I’m highly allergic to coconut flakes, coconut oil, and sodium bisulfites or sulfites. It seems that sulfites preservative are in coconut oil and coconut flakes and cannot be removed from these items. Sulfites are highly suspect of causing this allergy. The allergic reaction is an extremely high blood pressure in the range of 197/107 with any amount of coconut, coconut oil, or sulfites within two to thirty minutes depending on the amount ingested. From the six trips to the ER, an itching of the throat, racing pulse, fainting feeling, chess pain, uncontrollable shaking are noted besides the immediate high blood pressure. Since these substances show up in most of processed food, it is very difficult to stay clear of any processed candy, cake, popcorn, bleached flour. Despite being extra aware and wary of anyone’s cooking except my own, I still have ingestion accidents but the time in between is longer as I get better at avoiding any thing with coconut, coconut oil and sulfites. Also I avoid palm oil, just in case.
    For these allergic reactions with either coconut, coconut oil or sulfites, Benedryl and cortisone and Pepcid infusions are given in ER. Takes about two to six hours to get the BP back to normal 116/64. EKG and chest Xray and blood tests are taken. It’s a scary and costly ordeal to be avoided.Wondering if anyone had a similar high BP reaction to the coconut, coconut oil, or sulfites.

  • Thomas Case

    My daughter and I are both allergic to coconut flakes and coconut oil. For us it starts with trouble breathing and a very bad head ach. We also avoid palm oil, and tree nuts just in case. I have meet more people allergic to coconut than peanuts.

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  • Lexi Nicole

    I am also allergic to coconuts.. verified through skin testing. It is irresponsible to promote inaccurate information.

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  • Michelle Young

    so there really is sulphites in coconut oil? i’ve been searching, I’m not allergic but was thinking to use it for an irritated scalp treatment, however I have a keratin smoothing treatment in my hair and can’t use sulphite containing products on my hair atm

  • Skintelligencenter

    Hi Michelle!

    Thanks for writing in!

    Our Virgin Coconut Oil does not contain sulphates. The oil that we us is cold-first-pressed. Meaning, it’s as fresh-from-the-tree and unprocessed as possible. It’s why our oil is so clear and aroma-free.

    For more on this, we suggest this short article in our skintelligencenter: http://skintelligencenter.vmvhypoallergenics.com/c39-skin-health/imallergictoallessentialoilscaniusecoconutoil/

    We hope this has been helpful. Please let us know how else we may be able to assist you.

    Skincerely,
    VMV HYPOALLERGENICS

  • Andrew Xu

    Hi Sylva, I’m actually very surprised to have read this here, because I suffered similar unexplained and unbearable symptoms as you after eating stuff like olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I thought it was an allergic reaction at first, but my main symptoms were anxiety, adrenergic symptoms like heart palpitations, panic, and increased BP. This also gives a very ‘overwhelming doom’ feeling and I’d be physically weak for a few hours to few days afterwards. I searched high and low for the explanation to my symptoms but really haven’t nailed down anything as the true cause. If you are still around, may I get a few more details about your symptoms? Like how did you come up with the diagnosis and how did you pinpoint it was sulfites? Could it have been histamine or tyramines? What did you do for your symptoms? And anything else you would like to add in terms of symptoms and how it made you feel?
    Thanks!