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MYTHFOLIATION: If I’m Allergic to Nuts, Can I Use Virgin Coconut Oil?

AW, NUTS!
wait, maybe not…

I’m allergic to nuts. Can I use virgin coconut oil?

The short answer is almost certainly, yes!

IMPORTANT: the short answer is almost certainly yes IF you choose a pure, first-and-cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (VCO) that has not been exposed to allergens during processing, handling or storage.

There are almost no reactions to pure coconut oil in medical literature. Casual reports seem to be to contaminants in the processing of less pure oils, not to pure coconut oil.

Despite its name, the coconut is not a tree nut. Botanically, it is a drupe. Echoing multiple dermatological reviews, including our own, Dr. Scott Sicherer in Allergic Living magazine writes “When it comes to coconut oil, there is almost no medical literature on allergic reactions to it.”

Practically all VCOs are non-allergenic but do avoid those that are mixed, heated or stored in vats used for other oils or allergens (such as lavender, ylang-ylang, rose, etc.)

Food and Skin Allergies Are Not The Same

Note that food and skin allergies do not often correlate. As with dander, pollen, and bee stings, food allergies tend to be IgE-modulated, involve antibodies, and are determined by prick, scratch or RAST tests. Skin allergies tend to not involve antibodies, are T-cell mediated, and are determined by a ski. patch test. Learn more here.

Avoid RBD Coconut Oil for Use on Skin

There are reactions reported to contaminants in the processing of less pure oil and Refined Bleached Deodorized copra oil (RBD should not be used topically by those with sensitive skins). The first-cold-pressed VCO in Know-It-Oil, Oil’s Well, and other VMV Hypoallergenics products is very simply extracted without heat or additives, organically, and quickly after the nut is taken from the tree. This is important for the purity of the oil and to avoid allergens. Our VCO is so clinically-validated and well tolerated that it has randomized, double-blind trials (the gold standard of clinical studies) on its gentleness, tolerability and efficacy for atopic skin diseases (some of the most sensitive and reactive) published in Dermatitis (the journal of the American Contact Dermatitis Society) and the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Several more studies on our VCO have been published in and presented at dermatology conventions around the world.

What About Eating Coconut?

In terms of eating coconut, work closely with your allergist because cases of sensitivity vary from individual to individual. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) states: “While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut.” Dr. Sicherer adds:

“Coconut allergy appears rare, and uncommon even among those with tree-nut allergies. In a national registry of 5,149 people with peanut or tree-nut allergies, only four self-reported an allergy to coconut. And a more recent study of 40 children with positive tests or known allergy to peanuts or tree nuts showed no increased risks for having positive tests or allergy to coconut. Your allergist would consider your personal allergy history in deciding whether to add coconut to your diet or to perform any testing. However, be aware that tests are often positive to coconut in people who could actually tolerate it, so a physician-supervised feeding test may be necessary for a conclusive answer.”

The Bottom Line

If you’re allergic to tree nuts, there’s a good chance you can eat coconut and an even better chance you can use virgin coconut oil on your skin. Work with your allergist and dermatologist and, for topical usage, get a patch test that includes pure VCO.

Subscribe to VMVinSKIN.com and our YouTube channel for more hypoallergenic tips and helpful “skinformation”!

If you have a history of sensitive skin…

don’t guess! Random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

Main References: 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

  1. Sicherer, M.D., S. (2013, June 12). Are Coconuts Safe With Tree Nut Allergy? Allergic Living, https://www.allergicliving.com/experts/are-coconuts-safe-with-tree-nut-allergy/
  2. Tree Nut. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Reviewed for Accuracy June 8, 2023. Accessed April 10, 2024. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/food-allergies/types/Pages/tree-nut-allergy.aspx
  3. DeKoven JG, Silverberg JI, Warshaw EM, Atwater AR, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2017-2018. Dermatitis. 2021 Mar-Apr 01;32(2):111-123.
  4. DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Zug KA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2015-2016. Dermatitis. 2018 Nov/Dec;29(6):297-309.
  5. DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results 2013-2014. Dermatitis. 2017 Jan/Feb;28(1):33-46.
  6. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59.
  7. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009.
  8. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.
  9. Warshaw EM, Buonomo M, DeKoven JG, et al. Importance of Supplemental Patch Testing Beyond a Screening Series for Patients With Dermatitis: The North American Contact Dermatitis Group Experience. JAMA Dermatol. 2021 Dec 1;157(12):1456-1465.
  10. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97.
  11. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.
  12. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.
  13. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.
  14. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38.
  15. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
  16. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.
  17. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.
  18. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.
  19. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.
  20. 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) . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-016-0630-9.
  21. Park G, Oh DS, Lee MG, Lee CE, Kim YU. 6-Shogaol, an active compound of ginger, alleviates allergic dermatitis-like skin lesions via cytokine inhibition by activating the Nrf2 pathway. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2016 Nov 1;310:51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2016.08.019. Epub 2016 Aug 22. PMID: 27562088.
  22. de Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy, Volume II – Fragrances and Essential Oils. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group; 2019.
  23. De Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy Volume I. Non-Fragrance Allergens in Cosmetics (Part I and Part 2). Boca Raton, Fl, USA: CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, 2018.
  24. Zhu TH, Suresh R, Warshaw E, et al. The Medical Necessity of Comprehensive Patch Testing. Dermatitis. 2018 May/Jun;29(3):107-111.

Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis SocietyDermnet New Zealand, the Contact Dermatitis Institute, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.


DrVR LVB 8rDF Bertotto8106e 5May2014 20191023 e1705647730526

Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her family and VMV’s signature “skinfatuated, skintellectual, skingenious” team. In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a VMV cream)!

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