Kim Kardashian and I have one thing in common. No, not a love of Kanye that others find inexplicable, not an oversized derriere or a knack for self-promotion (I wish). We’ve both got psoriasis, that chronic, systemic inflammatory skin disease. Kim Kardashian, me and 73,000 other sufferers in Ireland.
(Side note: finding out that a famous person who seemingly Has It All battles with things too always makes them more likable and relatable, doesn’t it?)
Anyway, I’ve been using extra virgin raw coconut oil on my psoriasis for a few months now and just wanted to share my experience.
I’ve had psoriasis since I was a child. On the scale of one to ‘psoriasis is ruining my life’, I consider myself really lucky because I just have it on my scalp so it’s pretty much hidden by my hair until you’re up close to me. I’ve met people who have broken, bleeding skin after years of using steroid creams, who have aggressive psoriasis on their hands, arms and cheeks which stops them from going outside and makes small things like putting their hands out in a shop to collect their change a big deal. The impact psoriasis can have on your self-esteem is unbelievable.
So, while mine’s not always immediately noticeable, it’s still something that impacts my thoughts, from not being able to tie my hair up to not wearing black clothes (hello, dandruff). In the last 6 months to a year, my psoriasis got increasingly worse for the first time in years thanks to a particular surge in stress, so it started spreading about an inch from my hairline onto my face and forehead. It was angry, sore, flaky and I was so self-conscious and upset about it all over again, after years of thinking I was on top of it.
Over the years I tried everything for psoriasis – lotions and potions from the doctor that either burned my scalp or just made the plaque worse, washing my hair with cider vinegar, stopping dyeing my hair (which I LOVED doing as a gothy teenager who was finding herself through hairdyes from Asha Boutique) to chewing on raw garlic each day (sexy!) and cutting out all spicy food (I LOVE SPICY FOOD).
The most depressing thing about psoriasis is that you’ll never cure it, you can only manage it. One night I started Googling natural remedies for psoriasis for maybe the 50th time and I got lost in a coconut oil K-hole. Coconut oil was pretty much last year’s big wellness story, with everyone going coco-crazy but the benefits of coconut oil for the skin hinge on its lauric acid content, a fatty acid with anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
I’m sceptical about most of these pseudoscience sites spouting health advice (I discovered one recently where the writer claimed his diet could reverse root canals) but desperation kicked in and I vowed to give extra virgin coconut oil for psoriasis a whirl. When you’ve got psoriasis you’ll try anything. The verdict? It’s been the best thing I’ve done for my psoriasis in years. I kid you not. But before we get to that, I learnt an important lesson – I made the mistake of buying the cheapest coconut oil in Tesco and, after applying it a few times, thought it made my psoriasis worse. Back to Google. Turns out it has to be the raw, extra virgin coconut oil to be effective so don’t make the same mistake I did.
Each night I applied a generous amount of coconut oil onto my scalp, gently massaging it along my hairline and even smoothing it onto my face (I stopped using all my usual face creams in case the chemicals were making things worse). The next day, I washed my hair (twice – coconut oil is tough to budge) with Palmer’s Coconut Oil shampoo which isn’t tested on animals and doesn’t contain sulphates or parabens. That night, I applied the mask all over my scalp again, washed it out in the morning. And repeated this cycle for a fortnight. Initially there wasn’t a noticeable change except the psoriasis looked supple, like new skin instead of looking dry and ready to crack. Within 5 days, the redness was gone and my psoriasis was barely noticeable. For real! My family even commented on it. Internet wellness gurus say you should eat a spoonful a day too so I started putting a dollop in my turmeric lattes too. Unexpected side effects: my hair was silky smooth afterwards and, with my skin practically oozing coconut, I smell a bit like a bakery. Hot!
The downside is your hair looks a bit Greasy Bear with the oil mask on so I know it’s really not ideal for anyone going to an office each day to do this every night and wash your hair every morning but I really think applying it consistently each night was the key to my positive experience. I’d also recommend you don’t leave it on any longer than overnight – I tried this and my head got real itchy so any longer than 7-8 hours is probably counterproductive – and sleep on a towel so you don’t stain your pillow.
This is the best bit – the coconut oil I’ve been using costs a grand total of €3.99 in Lidl. Seriously! This is in no way a sponsored post (but hey Lidl, if you want to send me a lifetime supply….) there are plenty of other brands of coconut oil out there so it doesn’t matter what you use, just make sure it’s the extra virgin raw variety. I’ve been using extra virgin, raw coconut oil and the Palmer’s shampoo for 3 months now and my scalp psoriasis has improved drastically. I even attended a work event with – wait for it – my hair all scraped back in a Lily Van Der Woodsen-style bun and for once wasn’t thinking about my skin. To add to the coconut oil hair mask regime, two weeks ago I bought a bottle of Capasal Therapeutic Shampoo, something a doctor recommended to me as a teenager, and I use it once a week, leaving the lather on for a few minutes before rinsing and so far it really complements the coconut mask and removes any residue.
Just to be doubly clear – I still have psoriasis, I know I’ll always have psoriasis but the three products mentioned have REALLY taken a lot of pain out of how I deal with it. I fully believe if I stopped using the coconut oil religiously, it’ll flare up again but at present, I’m delighted with how this cheap and cheerful, 100% natural product is taking the aggression and soreness out of my psoriasis (after years of being hopeful and then disappointed with a lot of medicated products) and letting me get on with worrying about other things, like y’know, my cat.
If you’ve got psoriasis, I would love to hear what works for you! If you want to find out more about psoriasis and the treatments available, check out the Irish Skin Foundation’s guide.