Finding a moisturizer that works for seborrheic dermatitis is quite a difficult task. It is often the case that the popular products on the market actually irritate peoples seborrheic dermatitis. It took me quite a long time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Using my years of testing I feel that these tips can help people quick get a grasp on what moisturizers work for seborrheic dermatitis and which ones don’t
If you ended up on this page you likely have seborrheic dermatitis yourself or are trying to help someone who is currently fighting against it. Unfortunately many dermatologists claim that it is an incurable condition, which can only be tamed. Even though I do not believe this to be true, this article will help anyone suffering with seborrheic dermatitis in their day to day battles.
This article is meant to help put you on the right track. So here are the seven most essential tips for finding a moisturizer that help soothe your seborrheic dermatitis.
Finding the right moisturizer that you can use from time to time or even on a daily basis can help you hide your seborrheic dermatitis like a professional. However, many moisturizers on the market will actually cause more problems and make your skin flare up like never before.
Update March 16 2016: This moisturizer post was one of the first on this website. Since it’s original writing, a lot more research has been accumulated. My most successful approach to dealing with SD is discussed in detail here: My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0 (lot’s of useful discussion in the comments of this post as well).
Table of Contents
- 1 Learn to Read Labels
- 2 Natural Does Not Mean Better or Safe
- 3 Understand Moisturizer Fundamentals
- 4 Change It Up
- 5 Reach for Edibles
- 6 Avoid Petrolatum and Choose Oils Wisely
- 7 Think Outside of Moisturizers
- 8 My Favorite Moisturizers for Seborrheic Dermatitis
1. Learn to Read Labels
If you have ever picked up a tube of moisturizer you will know that the ingredient lists are often times quite long and contain some lots of hard to pronounce items. Most of these items are, however, fairly similar and fall into a handful of major categories.
Typically a cream will consist of some type of oil and this will be indicated on the label as glycol, glycerin, mineral oil, or some type of vegetable oil (potentially label using its medical categorization of an acid).
Along with this oily base there will be an array of potential herbs which aim to soothe damage skin and help fight inflammation, while accelerating healing. The most common are Aloe and Calendula, which are actually quite good. Some creams try to go for large numbers of herbs to try and make the moisturizer look more potent, however large combinations of herbs can actually produce poor results due to strange effects from incompatibility.
Be careful with dimethicone, it acts as a glove on the outer layer of the skin. This affect might be good in terms of keeps thing moisturizer, but can help the fungus which is believed to be the cause of seborrheic dermatitis (malassezia) spread and may prevent the skin from proper ventilation and breathability.
Also try to avoid things that end with “paraben” and other strong preservative agents in the long term. This items have been shown to cause dependability and are potentially carcinogenic to your skin cells. However, I have seen them work quite well for seborrheic dermatitis since these are antimicrobial agents. And these can actually kill off the fungus (malassezia) which is documented to be one the most common causes seborrheic dermatitis.
Aim for not so long labels and understand-ability. If you are unsure how a certain ingredient will affect your skin, try a Google search or a simple spot test on your hand.
2. Natural Does Not Mean Better or Safe
There is a strong trend towards more natural and earthy products. This is great, however many things found in nature can aggravate your skin. Be skeptical with products coming from small unknown companies which make bold claims and say they are the best because they are all natural.
It is true that there are some very amazing all natural products out there, but the majority seem to be pure rubbish. Plus they typically charge a significant premium relative to their not so natural counterparts. This is likely because the individuals producing them have little education in dermatology and their product has only been used on a limited amount of people. Many of the natural ingredients which they use do not work the same from one person to the next, or from one condition to the next.
Many of those which I have personally used are a big waste of time and money. Some of the biggest let downs have been products with a strong herbal base, which claim to heal the skin. These have typically actually aggravated my seborrheic dermatitis. This could be potentially due to lack of preservatives and ingredients going bad/rancid or just being too strong for broken/sensitive skin. Specifically many products containing Aloe Vera have been quite bad. Effective Aloe Vera is amazing, however the majority of the processes used in its refinement actually make it unusable. Once again, be careful and try Google or Amazon for reviews before you buy.
Also try to avoid many of the natural oils since they can serve as the perfect food for fungus which has been demonstrated to produce seborrheic dermatitis (Malassezia). This includes such things as coconut oil (lauric acid), sunflower oil (annui), or olive oil (oleic acid). However, some oils can not be utilized by the malassezia and actually demonstrate anti-malassezia potential. For example, caprylic acid is a unique fatty acid found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil and goats milk which has demonstrated anti-fungal properties which make it perfect for combating malassezia and seborrheic dermatitis.
3. Understand Moisturizer Fundamentals
The basis of how pretty much all moisturizers work is the same. First they serve to seal moisture in and second they stimulate the skin to bring moisture to the top.
The first item is quite straight forward. The moisturizer typically contains some sort of oil or embroilment which locks things and prevents everything from drying up. If the wrong ingredients are chosen for this purpose then you will typically be left with greasy skin and clogged pours, which you must avoid at all costs when fighting seborrheic dermatitis.
The second item is a little bit more complicated. Many creams have their own way for achieving this affect. Typically herbs or other agents are used to stimulate the skin. The target stimulation is what causes the moisture to come forth. However, think of your skin as an athlete who can only be pushed so far.
Please be aware, that if you constantly force the skin to push moisture to the top, then you remove this moisturize by cleansing or washing you may end up pushing your skin to exhaustion. Learn to take it easy and let your skin recover on its own time. Moisturize only when absolutely necessary and try to take regular breaks from moisturizers.
4. Change It Up
Everyone’s skin is different, what is recommended for some is not recommended for others. This also applies to seborrheic dermatitis, which also varies from person to person.
The easiest way to find a moisturizer that works for you seborrheic dermatitis is to try out different ones, until you find something that works. As long as you know the fundamentals and make educated decisions you should have a reasonably high success rate. Having two or more products that work for you is better than just one as this gives your skin some variability and keeps it alive.
Once you get a feel of which ones work for you, it will be easier to pick the correct one for the occasion. Occasions could be things such as intensive repair (typically too heavy for going out), for sports and sweating, and one for regular usage.
One way to try out different moisturizers is to talk to the clerk at the pharmacy or chain store to see if they have any samples of products available. Typically popular pharmacies will have the most sample variety available, since this is where company reps typically go first.
At the end of this article you can find a list of moisturizers that I’ve personally tried and that have been the most positive for my dermatitis.
5. Reach for Edibles
When one thinks that he needs to find a moisturizer, they typically visit their local store. However, what many do not know is you might have some amazing moisturizers right there at home.
My favorite moisturizers are actually ones in my kitchen. Instead of creams and lotions I actually tend to use these the most. My favorite is regular boiled tap water in a spray bottle, several hour honey-water cream, or even padding the skin with a used green tea bag. These simple, quick and dirty tricks actually allow me to refrain from almost ever using a moisturizer. Yes it is true I have a cupboard full of cream and lotions, but this is only because I didn’t know the wonders things in the kitchen can bring.
One word of warning in regards to edibles. Many people online report using coconut oil on their face, and claim that it has cured them altogether. Please give this a try, it may work for you. When I attempted this, everything was amazing on the first application. Skin was great. However, soon after my seborrheic dermatitis got very unhappy with the coconut oil. Things when steeply downward and my skin was super angry. After this, I never really used coconut oil on my facial skin again. It did become a staple for dry hands though. The smell is terrific and I frequently use it after the shower. It penetrates the skin quickly and does not leave the greasy feeling I get from most creams.
6. Avoid Petrolatum and Choose Oils Wisely
This ties in directly with the end of the last point. After trying many natural oils and/or petrolatum (Vaseline based) products I’ve concluded that the majority are not good for seborrheic dermatitis.
I’ve tried hemp oil, olive oil, sesame seed oil, coconut oil, plain Vaseline, and many other oily products. They were also great at first and skin improved drastically, but after a few days of usage things quickly get out of control. The seborrheic dermatitis starts reacting to the oil and strong inflammation occurs.
At the fundamental level, the majority oils likely fail to work because they feed the fungus (Malassezia) which is believed to cause seborrheic dermatitis. Oils causes the fungus to go on a feeding frenzy and this in-turn leads to aggravation of symptoms. This connection can be seen in many online discussion.
However, as noted earlier, some fatty acids (single components of oils) have shown strong anti-malassezia activity and are much more suitable for treating seborrheic dermatitis. Perhaps instead of abandoning oils altogether, we just need to be very selective.
Please Google around if you wish to find out more or leave a comment and I’ll dig up the research for you. There is one specific research study where they tried different methods for culturing the malassezia and all oils tested promoted their growth, while specific single triglycerides did not.
7. Think Outside of Moisturizers
Moisturizing is not the only way to keep you skin moist. Sweating, sauna and high water intake all go hand in hand with healthy skin. These things are not just great for your skin, but also for your health. So why not put them to use.
Simply taking the time to learn about seborrheic dermatitis can be a huge step towards long term treatment. Consider bookmarking and reading the Seborrheic Dermatitis – The Owner’s Manual. It goes over many aspects of finally getting your skin under control.
Specific supplements have also be shown to keep the skin well moisturized. The only two that I actually stuck with on an almost regular basis Vitamin C and Vitamin D. Fish oil and hyaluronic acid are also amazing, however I try to get my share of these two from food.
Living in a coastal city I have access to fresh affordable fish on a daily basis which supplies me all the fish oil I need.
Now the hyaluronic acid might seem a little herded to get in food, but the supplements that contain it are total crap (stay away). After looking around I found out that sweet potatoes, yams, and squash actually contain hyaluronic acid and in good quantities. Ever since switching to them for a good portion of my carbohydrates, my skin is much better. In fact I can almost see immediate results after binging on sweet potatoes or yams.
Also take a closer look at the rest of your skin care regimen. Most soaps on the market are highly drying. After getting away from using soaps on my face and switching to only small amounts of an oil free cleanser my skin is typically moist and supple all on its own. When your skin is practically clean as is and you trip away its natural (very hard to produce) oil, it makes sense that your skin will be dry.
My Favorite Moisturizers for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Now for the list I promised earlier, here are my favorite moisturizers in descending order.
1. Biom8 a solution I had to create when Restoraderm stopped working
After using Restoraderm (mentioned next) for about a year, my results started to decline and seborrheic dermatitis started to return. Not 100% sure why this occurred, but many individuals reported similar experiences (results being fantastic and then tapering off).
Luckily, at this time I had been attempting to write a book on seborrheic dermatitis and was compiling hundreds of medical research papers on the subject. And this research combined with careful analysis of the Restoraderm patent (plus several others) allowed me to formulate my own solution which was specifically targeted at resolving seborrheic dermatitis.
The solution has been extremely effective, is all natural and at it’s core a unique combination of specific triglycerides. The best part for me, was that it seems to have been able to fully restore my skin; even under close examination everything appears healthy. Currently, I haven’t even washed my face with anything except water for almost 2 month.
However, I was skeptical if the formulation would work for others the same way it worked for me. Initial samples were sent out to the community here at SkinDrone and similar results to mine were reported back. As a result, I have decided to make the solution available to the everyone else unfortunate enough to have to deal with seborrheic dermatitis. It was given the name BIOM8 and more information can be found on the dedicated website: http://www.biom8.com/
2. Cetaphil Restoraderm a gentle moisturizing lotion
An amazing lotion I discovered shortly after writing this post. At a random visit to a neighborhood clinic one physician noticed my skin. She came up to me and said she used to have a similar issue. She proceeded to give me a bunch of sample of products to try and noted this one specifically (never even got around to trying the other samples).
The Restoraderm lotion is very light and quickly absorbs in to the skin. It’s labeled purpose is to treat eczema and dry irritated skin so it looks like it was specifically designed for to help with these sorts of conditions. One thing to note is that Amazon.com has the same lotion as mine, but the ingredients list is different. The ingredients list on my sample bottles is identical to the ones specified on their official website. Not sure if the Amazon.com is the new formula, a different product, or the old formula. Also the labeling of these is strange, the one I’ve been using is “Replenishing Moisture Lotion”, but their official website has one labeled “Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer” and one labeled “Skin Restoring Moisturizer” (ingredients seem identical).
3. Raw honey as a natural moisturizer
Creates a sticky situation, but when diluted with boiled water and left on the skin for several hours the results are amazing. This is my go to method. All the other stuff I have tried does not even come close. If used on a regular basis this method is phenomenal. Also one very strange thing I found, is that if I use regular tap water this method is so-so. If I used boiled water and then rinse off with boiled water, then this method is hard to beat.
4. Gold bond healing for quick results
Contains parabens and other things I pointed out are not that great, however if I need a moisturizer this works great and the dermatitis has never reacted poorly to it. When applied after a shower it has a very soothing effect and locks in moisture exceptionally well. Even now that my facial skin is soft and moist on its own, I keep this around for the hands in dry season (personally don’t wear gloves in the winter and hands can become dry).
5. Diluted glycerin a natural low cost moisturizer
Can be amazing, but I never use it repeatedly. Seems to be amazing on first use, but quickly angers the seborrheic dermatitis if used repeatedly.
6. Cerave moisturizing lotion for occasional use
Great stuff, very diluted, contains parabens, but is never made my seborrheic dermatitis act up. It claims to contain hyaluronic acid and ceramides which on paper look amazing. However, I never really witness crazy results from this lotion (more for maintenance purposes). When using this stuff I found that less is more and when diluted with boiled water it makes it much better. This lotion was also very ineffective as a hand moisturizer.
If you have any questions or have found something a moisturizer that works for your seborrheic dermatitis, please drop it in the comments below.