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Effect of Olive and Sunflower Seed Oil on the Adult Skin Barrier: Implications for Neonatal Skin Care

Authors

  • Simon G. Danby Ph.D.,

    Corresponding author
    • Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
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  • Tareq AlEnezi M.D.,

    1. Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
    2. Department of Dermatology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, Sheffield, UK
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  • Amani Sultan M.D.,

    1. Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
    2. Paediatric Dermatology Clinic, Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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  • Tina Lavender Ph.D., RM, R.G.N.,

    1. Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
    2. School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
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  • John Chittock B.Sc.,

    1. Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
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  • Kirsty Brown B.Sc.,

    1. Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
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  • Michael J. Cork Ph.D., F.R.C.P.

    1. Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK
    2. Department of Dermatology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, Sheffield, UK
    3. Paediatric Dermatology Clinic, Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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Address correspondence to Simon G. Danby, Ph.D., Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield S10 2RX, UK, or e-mail: s.danby@sheffield.ac.uk.

Abstract

Natural oils are advocated and used throughout the world as part of neonatal skin care, but there is an absence of evidence to support this practice. The goal of the current study was to ascertain the effect of olive oil and sunflower seed oil on the biophysical properties of the skin. Nineteen adult volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis were recruited into two randomized forearm-controlled mechanistic studies. The first cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm twice daily for 5 weeks. The second cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm and six drops of sunflower seed oil to the other twice daily for 4 weeks. The effect of the treatments was evaluated by determining stratum corneum integrity and cohesion, intercorneocyte cohesion, moisturization, skin-surface pH, and erythema. Topical application of olive oil for 4 weeks caused a significant reduction in stratum corneum integrity and induced mild erythema in volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis. Sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in the same volunteers. In contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damages the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis. The use of olive oil for the treatment of dry skin and infant massage should therefore be discouraged. These findings challenge the unfounded belief that all natural oils are beneficial for the skin and highlight the need for further research.

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