Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why I'm all about evidence based information: This post on coconut oil from Salis Skincare

Why am I so obsessed with science? Why do I believe so much in posting references and studies for the things I write? Because without those things, we end up with posts like this one I found at Salis Skincare entitled Why I don't ever use coconut oil on my face. Allow me to quote,

Coconuts didn’t grow native to where my ancestors lived, or to where I lived now. So maybe coconut oil wasn’t the best option for me. It seemed to do really well for people who’s ancestry was from around the equator, but just not for any one that had European ancestry. I did more research and found that coconut oil has a larger molecular structure, and people that live around the equator have darker skin, and their thicker skin can handle and absorb coconut oil.  That’s why my skin couldn’t handle it!  I also looked at what grew naturally to Europeans, and I’ve found that many people of European descent do really well with sweet almond, olive, and apricot. My skin does really well with Jojoba oil that grows in the U.S. which is where I live.

The writer of the piece acknowledges that this theory has come out of her own head and she does offers no evidence for it.
  • What an interesting idea that foods local to you work best for addressing skin/health problems. It should be intuitive, but alas! I had to hear it from an expert. Thank you.
  • So what oils/products would I use being of multiple races? 
  • My ancestors are German on one parents side and English, Irish and Scottish on the other and i am currently living in New Zealand.
I really encourage you to read the comments. She is offering skin care advice based on the ethnic heritage of the commenters and offering medical advice about medications. She also states "What’s even worse is fractionated coconut oil (which makes it stay as a liquid) which is a refined oil, should never be used on the skin." As you saw a few weeks ago, it might be that unrefined oils with all those free fatty acids are worse for your skin.

What's the deal with coconut oil? It is considered comedogenic and acnegenic, which means it can cause the formation of comedones (blackheads) in a relatively short period of time and cause the formation of pimples in a short period of time. It has nothing to do with your ethnicity, but might have something to do with your skin type as people with dry or resistant skin types might find they have fewer problems using straight coconut oil than those with oily or acne prone skin types. It's probably not a great choice for most, if not all, skin types straight on the skin. If we compare the fatty acids found in coconut oil with those found in just about every liquid oil, you'll see that lauric acid and myristic acid are smaller than those found in liquid oils, like oleic and linoleic acids. As we saw in this post on oils penetrating our skin, if coconut oil does penetrate our skin, it'll only go down a few layers, which is more than enough for moisturizing.

Would using local oils mean you have fewer breakouts and pimples? I could try this idea by using something like cloudberry oil - biologically I'm a Viking - or using raspberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil, blackberry seed oil, or meadowfoam seed oil because those grow near my house, and I could keep notes on whether I'd break out or not. But this would tell me nothing. It could be that I didn't break out because I have resistant skin, because these oils don't have something my skin hates or have something my skin loves, or because the weather changed, amongst a million other things. If I don't break out, does this mean that her theory is sound? Of course not. I'm only one person, and we would need a group of people in various locations from various ethnic backgrounds with various skin types to even begin to think about caling this a valid theory.

I can't say either way if her theory is sound. We are starting to learn more about eating local or seasonal foods and health, and there might be a shred of truth in there, but there's no way to know without the help of good ol' scientific methods.

So when someone asks me why I'm so obsessed with things like studies and references, I give you this. There is no evidence whatsoever for this theory - she admits she invented it while reading a book - but it's out there on the 'net with a big stamp of "this might be valid" on it. People are reading this and thinking that they should be using oils local to them to avoid acne, then getting worried when they try something local and it fails. What did they do wrong? Nothing. Because what she is saying is backed up by nothing except her own whimsy and wonderings, and that's not helpful when I'm trying to create products that will work well for my skin and hair.

As a final note, don't get me wrong - if you get an oil that claims to be non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic and mild and all of that and it causes you to break out, all the scientific studies in the world saying it's good for your skin doesn't matter. Trust your common sense and stop using something that is hurting you...but know that the reason it didn't work for you isn't because you're an Ethiopian living in Sweden who used the wrong region's oil. Know that it's because your skin didn't like it!

26 comments:

Unknown said...

Which is why, if you want to do skinCARE and not just skinmarketing, you'll need to do meta analysis of studies - anecdotal postings/experience - and do your own controlled experiments to get closer to the truth(s).

With oils, a crucial factor _could_ be as you point out their level of refinement, it makes logical sense that oils with a lot of crud in them could be more pore blocking and irritating. Similarly organic oils could be worse than non organic ones.

Katie Ziegler said...

Thanks, Susan, for the lovely headache I have now from beating my head against the wall. I am completely astounded by that page you link to and all of the comments. There was one particular piece of advice given by the author in a reply that made me want to tear out my hair: "Drinking water internally is super good too! And…. swishing it around in your mouth is good before you swallow so you can digest the water better and not strain your kidneys."

It makes me so sad that there are people reading and following her recommendations over that of their own doctors. Those people could be here learning information that is backed up by scientific evidence. Instead, they're following baseless conjectures made by someone who hasn't learned how the body's systems actually work.

Argh! I haven't gotten all of my rant out yet, so now my hubby is going to get to listen to me vent my spleen. (Please tell me someone got that terrible pun!)

We have the mighty Susan to give us the hard science, so maybe there's hope yet for humanity.

Katie Ziegler said...

Oops! Sorry, there was supposed to be a winky face after that first sentence to show I was just teasing. I guess I rattled my brains too much with all that pounding :-)

Nail Polish Society said...

Thank you for this post! I'm going to share it. Every year or so there's the new miracle ingredient. I wish more people understood that there are so many types of oils, and different levels of refinement.

The Kanji Queen said...

There's another statement that she makes that I just cannot get my head around. She says she uses coconut oil as a sunscreen. How?! Am I missing something here?

Beth said...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640777
There may very well be some differences in skin according to race, but then, the differences according to age are probably bigger. However, if we are going to go back in time to use what 'our ancestors had at hand' I believe we will all end up with animal fat smeared across our faces...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ktie! Sorry for the headache. I'm sure chewing the bark of a tree found in your hometown will help.

Hi Kanji Queen! I forgot about that one!

Hi Beth! It makes sense that there are differences in our skin according to race - thanks for the link!

Rachel said...

I love coconut oil and going by her dubious reasoning I shouldn't be using it!!! I've never broken out, even using it neat on my face, but I shudder to think what would happen if I used it as a sunscreen - I too live in New Zealand, I'd end up looking like a cooked lobster!!! coconut has fantastic benefits for skin and health both topically and internally - Dr Bruce Fife has done some amazing research on this.

Aisha said...

Thank you for the brilliant post. She says she is an esthetician *facepalm* and offering consultation and selling products *double facepalm*. Oh, she recommends using salt scrub on the FACE (for fair and probably dry/sensitive skinned ppl) *triple facepalm*. Now THAT is expertise (cuz she sells the stuff, so it must be good).I think pumice would work even better.... For her thick skin. *evil grin* Speechless.... (Anyway, what should I use? Very fair skinned, European, living in the tropics.... Hmmmmm, let me think abt it )

Laura Bradford said...

Ha ha! This is Laura Bradford, the actual author of the post.

Yet again- it's just a theory that I have. Katie Ziegler- I actually do know how the body works. If you drink tons of water it will strain your kidneys. Thanks for your nice comments.

Aisha- You're so sweet.

Laura Bradford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Laura. Welcome to my blog. It's not up to us to prove anything. As the author of this hypothesis, it's up to you to demonstrate its veracity. It's not up to us to prove you wrong; you have to prove yourself right! As Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Please take a moment to read what the commenters have to say because this seems to be a representative response to what you're selling. Your blog is predicated on this notion and other notions that have no basis in science. Please take some time to really evaluate what you are putting out there for people to read.

JennyLynn Smith said...

Dearest Laura Bradford,

The problem is you're presenting your "theory" as truth. You may keep saying "it's just a theory," but you keep acting as though it's the truth. You keep dolling out advice as though you're an expert on the subject who can be trusted. More importantly, people are believing you. You're telling them to disregard their doctor's orders and follow your advice instead. You're turning the people who're coming to you expecting to get valid advice into lab rats for a "theory" that you're too lazy to spend a few minutes searching for a shred of scientific evidence from a legitimate study to support. Yet, you have the audacity to come to this blog, put the burden of testing your "theory" on the author of a post that critically analyzed your claim, and you expect to be taken seriously enough for her to actually do it?

Please, do some research and find out what happens to people who take bad advice from self-proclaimed experts on the internet. They end up with cystic acne, staph infections, scars, and thousands of dollars in medical bills to repair the damage caused by someone who presents themselves as an expert on skincare. Then do some research on whether genetic heritage and current geographic location impact the efficacy of specific plant oils when applied topically to the face. The results could be fascinating. Why would you want to throw away ownership of this idea?

Sincerely,

JennyLynn

Laura Bradford said...

Hey Susan-

I'm actually really offended that you wrote this article and are being so rude about it. I'm not saying you can or can't use coconut oil. I'm just saying in my experience most people don't do really well with it on their face. Also, if an Ethopian is living somewhere else they can still use coconut oil, they don't have to use that region's oil. I'm not saying I'm an expert or have any research on it, it's a theory like I state multiple times. I actually tell people in multiple instances to try and see what works best for them. I've stated that many times in my posts. What works for my skin may not work for another person's skin. After browsing around on your blog I'm actually disappointed with the lack of information and controlled experiments that you have. I really think you should evaluate what you write on your blog, and I think you need to be kinder to companies out there.

Laura Bradford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Laura: I refuse to engage in discussions with anyone who has to resort to personal attacks. Please return when you can behave more civilly.

Laura Bradford said...

Susan- agreed. If you would like to take off your comments on my site, I would be happy to take these off. And cease any more contact.

I just find it funny that you're not even a chemist. And you attacked me personally.

Laura Bradford said...

Susan!

I'm piecing it all together now! You're the one who wrote the only rude comment on my site! You claim that our skin doesn't absorb anything. You should tell that to people who wear the birth control or nicotine patch, or people who get contact dermatitis with ingredients that you deem safe on your site.

I also find it hilarious that you are giving out expert advice on chemistry, but YOU'RE not even a chemist! What background even qualifies you to write this blog? What hard & proven science do you create out of your home in Canada? I'm sure you do lots of scientific studies in your own home "lab." I actually feel sorry for the people who read your blog and think that you know anything about organic skincare. So before you go attacking people on their blogs maybe you should take that into consideration.

Also, you need to do a lot more research on all the ingredients that you say are safe. You give hardly any evidence. And the links that I clicked on took me to bogus sites where the content had been taken off.

I guess the evidence of 100's of women saying that coconut oil breaks them out isn't enough evidence for you. You should construct a controlled experiment in your house.

Seriously though, no wonder you have a clause on your website that says no hateful comments, but you write them on other people's blogs. Kinda hypocritical?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I will leave it up to the readers of this blog to judge if my comment on your site is hateful or stoops to personal attacks. See below...

http://www.salisskincare.com/2013/11/25/salt-scrubs-versus-sugar-scrubs/#comment-940

I’m wondering where you get the idea that our skin absorbs everything we put on it or that your skin will brown if you eat sugar or put it in your skin? I’m reading a lot of very dubious theories from you, and I would encourage you to back up your theories with evidence. Please take a few minutes to look up the biology of your skin…you will soon see that our skin isn’t this porous thing that allows everything in. If that were the case, wouldn’t we gain weight after taking a shower as the water molecules penetrated our skin?

Laura Bradford said...

Still picking a fight I see. Your article that you've written is a complete attack.

I find it interesting that many of your articles are not based in science as well. And still you're not defending that you're not a chemist or have any training in this field.

Many authors such as David Wolfe, Dr. Mercola and the blog "chemical of the day" by Bubble & Bee, Living Libations are sites that I refer to and sites that I go to. Many of them claim as well that your skin absorbs things. And even on your own blog you state that your skin can absorb some oils.

This article that you've written is rude and the comments are even worse. I'm just trying to enlighten people that coconut may not work for everyone.

Please discontinue and further contact. Let's just agree to disagree that you like to use certain chemicals on the skin, and I disagree with that.

Alexis said...

Susan, extraordinary what happens when someone decides to change the definition of science to justify their own ends.....

Ms. Theory Lady, there's this necessary "thing" for good scientific research called a random sample. If all your data is from your customers and/or from one source like the internet, there is nothing random about those samples. NOTHING. In fact it is the antithesis of a random sample and considered biased and unworthy for scientific evidence/research.

Now, you are free to research your customers all you like to tailor your products to them, but never and I mean NEVER think for one millisecond that product/customer base research is the same as scientific research/evidence. NEVER!!!!!

goodgirl said...

I totally agree with you, Susan. Unfortunately (or should I say funny enough?), your comment obviously was deleted. And that posting on the sugar scrubs is one of the worst I have ever read. Simply bs.

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm not sure about refined coconut oil... but virgin coconut oil is supposed to be non comedogenic, right?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Unknown. Please put your name in your comment or I'll have to delete as per my blog policy!

There is nothing special about virgin coconut oil when it comes to our skin. It behaves the same as regular coconut oil, which is to say they're both comedogenic!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi goodgirl. She's been deleting her comments here as well, specifically the ones where she comments negatively on my weight and education. (I have copies of all her comments in my e-mail just in case she chooses to return here and attack me personally again. I feel it's smart to keep those things around...) I think it's both sad and slightly amusing that she calls me rude, but behaves quite rudely, and I think it's sad she won't allow other opinions on her blog but expects to get the same privilege here. I only take down comments in which someone is attacking me or someone else personally or if they're behaving as a bully. I'm not always right, and I'm open to being corrected if it's done in a kind and evidence based way. At least I'm gracious when I'm wrong...

gd said...

Drama aside I'd like to say using unrefined coconut oil was the worse idea for my skin, im a latina with european, maya and mulatto ancestry yup a full mix. Got black hair and eyes medium complexion, I put the oil on my face like my aunt recommended and woke up with the worst rash and hives! I just had my baby and due to my sister in-law, s insistance I put the darn coconut oil on a little rash on my baby's cheek and holy the thing got so red and irritated. My baby is mixed Asian (korean) and latina. So what does this means? Ethnicity doesn't matter, if you have really sensitive skin, your cells will ract to any product or ingredient that irritates it!