Finding the Best Moisturizer for Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you have seborrheic dermatitis, finding a moisturizer that works can be very difficult. Many popular skin care products can actually irritate this condition. Through extensive testing of various moisturizers over time, I’ve identified what generally works best for soothing seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups.
In this article, I share my learnings to help you quickly identify moisturizers likely to help calm your seborrheic dermatitis, and ones to avoid.
How I Arrived at These Tips
After dealing with seborrheic dermatitis for many years, I spent a lot of time experimenting with various over-the-counter moisturizers. Many dermatologists view seborrheic dermatitis as an incurable condition that can only be managed. While I don’t fully accept that, this article contains suggestions to help make living with seborrheic dermatitis more bearable on a day-to-day basis.
My goal is to help set you on the right path to finding moisturizers that soothe your seborrheic dermatitis rather than making it worse. Here are my top 7 tips:
1. Learn to Read Ingredient Labels
When choosing a moisturizer, read the ingredient list closely. Creams typically contain some type of oil or glycerin as a base, along with various herbs and additives. Watch out for these ingredients in particular:
- Dimethicone – Can worsen seborrheic dermatitis by trapping moisture and encouraging the growth of skin fungus
- Parabens – Preservatives that may irritate skin over time
- Multiple herbs – Too many herbs can react poorly with sensitive skin
Look for shorter ingredient lists you can easily understand. If in doubt about an ingredient, look it up online or do a skin patch test first.
2. “Natural” Doesn’t Always Mean “Better”
Many natural moisturizers actually worsen seborrheic dermatitis. Smaller natural skin care companies often make big claims without much evidence to back them up. Natural ingredients can vary widely in their effects person-by-person and condition-by-condition. I’ve tested many “natural” moisturizers that ended up aggravating my seborrheic dermatitis.
Specific natural oils may also encourage the growth of skin fungus that contributes to seborrheic dermatitis. These include coconut, sunflower, olive, and other plant-based oils. Some fatty acids like caprylic acid (found in coconut and goat’s milk) demonstrate antifungal properties and can help combat skin fungus. But approach natural oils cautiously.
3. Understand How Moisturizers Work
Moisturizers work in two key ways:
- Sealing moisture – Oils/emollients lock moisture into skin
- Stimulating moisture production – Herbs or other active ingredients tell skin to produce more moisture
It’s important not to over-stimulate moisture production. If you constantly force skin to push moisture to the surface then wash it away, you can exhaust skin over time. Use moisturizers judiciously and give skin breaks to recover.
4. Try Multiple Moisturizers
Since every person’s skin is unique, experiment to find what works best for your seborrheic dermatitis. As long as you make informed choices using the criteria here, your chances of success are reasonably good.
Aim to have 2-3 moisturizers in rotation to give your skin variety including:
- Intensive overnight repair
- Daily use
Talk to pharmacy staff about getting samples of different moisturizers to test.
Below this article, I share specific products I’ve found helpful for my seborrheic dermatitis.
5. Look to Your Kitchen
Before running out to buy another moisturizer, check your kitchen first! Some of my favorite seborrheic dermatitis home remedies come from simple kitchen ingredients like:
- Plain boiled water spray
- Honey cream mask
- Used green tea bags
These tricks allow me to rarely need store-bought moisturizers.
I’ve seen people report success with coconut oil, but it severely aggravated my seborrheic dermatitis. Coconut oil is still great for moisturizing dry hands though!
6. Avoid Petrolatum and Non-Antifungal Oils
In my experience, petrolatum (vaseline) and oils like hemp, olive, sesame, and coconut provide only temporary seborrheic dermatitis relief before causing flare-ups. This is likely because they feed the skin fungus that triggers symptoms.
However, as mentioned earlier, some antifungal fatty acids like caprylic acid seem to help combat skin fungus. So maybe avoiding all oils goes too far – we likely just need to be selective. Research shows that while certain oils promote skin fungus growth, specific fatty acids do not.
7. Look Beyond Moisturizers
Moisturizing skin is not the only path to relief. Lifestyle measures like saunas, hydration, and targeted supplements also help:
- Vitamin C & D – Helps skin retain moisture
- Omega-3s – Found in oily fish and fish oil supplements
- Hyaluronic acid – Found in sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash
- Gentle cleansers – Avoid harsh soaps that strip natural facial oils
Concluding Remarks and Summary
Living with seborrheic dermatitis can be frustrating. Over the years of carefully experimenting with various moisturizers, I’ve come to learn what works and what tends to make things worse.
The key learnings for finding a moisturizer that alleviates rather than aggravates your symptoms are:
- Read ingredient lists closely and watch out for problematic components
- Don’t assume “natural” necessarily means better or gentler for skin
- Understand how moisturizers work so you don’t overdo it
- Sample a variety of products – everyone’s skin responds differently
- Look to your kitchen first – homemade remedies can be as good or better
- Avoid too many oils, but certain antifungal fatty acids may help
- Adopt lifestyle measures like supplements, saunas, hydration to support skin
Hopefully these evidence-based tips set you on the right track to taming your seborrheic dermatitis and making life with this condition a bit easier. While it may not seem like it at times, seborrheic dermatitis can be managed. Be patient, pay attention to your skin’s signals, and incorporate the most helpful practices into your routine. Relief is possible!
To dig deeper into getting your seborrheic dermatitis under control, have a look at my Complete Owner’s Manual.