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Guide to Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis with Coconut Oil

One of the most discussed and popular methods for controlling and/or treating seborrheic dermatitis is with coconut oil. Coconut is mentioned all over in the internet in dozens and dozens of forums and blogs. Some people recommend it for internal consumption others swear by its topical effectiveness.

Coconut oil has a fantastic smell and is warm at room temperature. This allows easy handling and the smell alone is likely to win over the hearts of many.

This article will discuss and analyse each of the most popular methods found online. The details here represent my own experience and the experience of other affected individuals I have had the pleasure of speaking with.

March 2016 Update: Since the writing of this post this website has accumulated a lot more research around seborrheic dermatitis. Based on this I created my own regimen, which has been working well for me since the end August 2015. This approach is outlined in detail here: My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0.

Coconut Oil May Hold Immense Value for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Coconut oil itself may not be the best for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis due to it’s potential to feed the yeast (malassezia) which has been documented to be responsible for seborrheic dermatitis (source). However, coconut oil does contain a significant amount of caprylic acid. And this unique fatty acid has actually demonstrated strong activity against malassezia (source).

So, even though I believe coconut oil, as a whole, may not be the most suitable treatment for seborrheic dermatitis, components of the oil do hold strong potential to become powerful weapons in the fight against seborrheic dermatitis. Based on these findings I began testing various formulations. What came out of the testing was my very own solution which uses a much stronger concentration of caprlyic acid and has been immensely effective. More details on this solution can be found here. Additionally, based on these findings, it may be reasonable to assume that the strong variation in the relative success that individuals report from using coconut oil, may be due to the specific malassezia yeast colonies involved and their ability to withstand lower concentrations of caprylic acid.

Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis with Coconut Oil Facial Cleansing

This method has gained a lot of popularity not only for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis but also for regular facial cleansing and other skin conditions. This simple method is said to originate from the Roman times (likely with different oils though) and has been used throughout history in many different cultures.

Oil cleansing in general, is an extremely simple, inexpensive, and completely natural method for cleansing the skin.

Its methodology is simple. Let oil soak into the skin and collect all the dirt and impurities. This oil is then removed from the skin along with all the stuff that it managed to collect.

One of the biggest advantages of this method is the intense moisture the oil is able to provide alongside the cleansing.

Simplified Coconut Oil Cleansing Instructions

Coconut Oil on a Spoon

The simplified steps of coconut oil cleansing are as followers:

  1. Grab a half teaspoon of your favourite extra virgin coconut oil
  2. Massage the coconut oil into the hands, letting it warm and melt (best to wash hands prior to this)
  3. Using your oil covered hands massage the oil into your facial skin
  4. Keep massaging firmly, yet gently, for 2-3 minutes
  5. Stop massaging and allow the oil to soak into skin for 30-45 seconds
  6. Soak a wash-cloth in warm water (water has to only be warm enough to soften the oil)
  7. Place wash-cloth on the facial skin and hold for 10-20 seconds
  8. Using the same wash-cloth gently wipe the oil off from your skin
  9. Keep rinsing the wash-cloth and wiping until all oil has been removed

My Experience with Using Coconut Oil to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

My experience with the coconut oil cleansing method for treating seborrheic dermatitis has been both positive and negative. At times it seemed to quickly and effectively soothe the seborrheic dermatitis, leaving the skin soft and supple with even skin tone. While, other times it would cause the skin to become over-saturated and greasy, quickly leading to excessive flaking and inflammation.

If you give this method a try, let me know how it works out for you in the comments below.

Soothing Seborrheic Dermatitis by Moisturizing with Coconut Oil

The second most discussed method for using coconut oil to treat seborrheic dermatitis is its usage as a simple moisturize. And especially popular, is it’s combination with the raw honey skin cleansing technique.

This method is clear as can be. High quality extra virgin coconut oil is used in place of regular commercial facial moisturizers. Please note, however, that a very little amount of coconut oil goes a long way.

My method of application was simply taking a tiny dab of coconut oil and massaging it between the fingers to let the oil melt. Once melted, I simply massaged the oil into moist skin (recently washed or rinsed). The oil locks in the water and moisture, while the water helps the oil spread lightly and evenly.

Overall this methods effectiveness in treating seborrheic dermatitis was very similar to the coconut cleansing method discussed above. The results were often inconsistent and at times it seemed to actually have a negative affect on the inflammation, while leaving the skin excessively greasy. Also, when the raw honey cleansing treatment method was used my skin already felt well moisturized and I personally never really needed to use the two methods together.

Coconut Oil Hair and Scalp Treatments to Fight Dandruff

Here is another popular, extremely simple and very effective way of fighting seborrheic dermatitis specifically on the scalp (dandruff). It is very similar to the oil cleansing method, with the main difference being the amount of time the oil is left to soak into the skin.

Coconut Oil Scalp Treatment Instructions

To perform the coconut oil scalp treatment:

  1. Start by massaging some extra virgin coconut oil between your hands (enough to cover your entire scalp).
  2. Let the oil warm and melt.
  3. Once the oil has melted simply massage it into the hair and scalp.
  4. Wash your hands and leave the oil to soak for 3-4 hours.
    • A shower cap can be warn to prevent oil from scalp from getting on your clothes.
  5. After the oil has soaked into the scalp and hair, simply wash off with your favourite natural shampoo.

My Experience with Coconut Oil Scalp Treatments

In my experience, this was the most consistent and effective method for treating seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp. After each application, the scalp was usually left dandruff free and well moisturized. I believe the difference in consistency and effectiveness (compared to using for the facial area) is due to a biological differences between the skin of the scalp and the skin of the face.

Consuming Coconut Oil to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis from Inside

People all over the internet are raving that coconut oil is good for this and that. Various forums and bloggers claim that it can be used to treat almost any condition. And all of this magical coconut oil power, is supposed to come from the medium chain triglycerides which are said to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties (specifically the lauric and caprylic acids).

And it is these medium chain triglycerides give the oil it’s extremely high saturated fat content (even higher than butter). However, coconut oil proponents say that this saturated fat is nothing to worry about and is actually healthy.

The main way that people recommend consuming coconut oil for treating seborrheic dermatitis, is by consuming one or two tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil per day. This coconut oil is supposed to cleanse the system and combat any fungal or bacterial conditions that could be existent in the body (internal and external).

However, some individuals even go as far as recommending upwards of 5-10 tablespoons of the oil per day. This is very aggressive and people on the internet should not recommend such things as many medical conditions can be very negatively affected by consuming such large amounts of any type of fat.

My Experience with Consuming Coconut Oil for Internal Cleansing

My own experience with consuming several tablespoons of coconut oil have been fairly poor. Even after two months of regular consumption (upwards of two tablespoons of coconut oil per day) absolutely no notable effects were seen. The skin kept acting sporadically, with inflammation and flaking constantly sticking around.

One benefit that I did notice, was the coconut oils strong energy boost. My main usage, since experimenting with it for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis, has been part of a pre-workout drink. The medium chain triglycerides seem to rapidly convert to clean and sustained energy giving a nice little boost. However, even now, I consume it only every so often. It’s just not something I very much enjoy eating on it’s own. Just seems to fat and thick for me.

If you’ve found a good way to incorporate it (in it’s raw form) into your daily diet, let me know in the comments below.

Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil to Remove Toxins

An increasingly popular, but ancient practice, is the usage of oils to pull toxins out of the system. And it just so happens to be that one of the most popular oils for oil pulling is coconut oil.

Coconut oil pulling is simply the practice swishing the oil in the mouth for 4-5 minutes and spitting it out. This is believed to pull toxins out from deep in the body and infuse them into the oil being used

However, critics of this method often point to the illogical way in which toxins are presumed to magically make their way through the body and into the mouth where they are somehow absorbed into the oil.

Nonetheless, there is one thing that the even medical researchers have agreed with. And it is the powerful benefits that oil pulling holds in the area of dental care. Research studies have actually demonstrated that oil pulling is one the most powerful methods for removing dental plaque and bacteria from the mouth (source).

Simple Instruction for Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil

Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature it needs to be melted in order to be swished in the the mouth. In order to melt the oil you can either use a heating element (like the microwave) or start with solid coconut oil and let it melt inside your mouth.

  • Once you have the melted oil in your mouth simply begin swishing it all around
  • Pull and push the oil through the teeth and pulsate the oil in the cheek areas
  • Keep swishing and pulling for about 5-10 minutes
  • Once you feel like it has done its job, spit out all of the oil into the toilet and thoroughly rinse your mouth with water. Make sure not to swallow any of this oil as it is believed to now be contaminated and full of toxins

My Experience with Coconut Oil Pulling

My own experience with coconut oil pulling for seborrheic dermatitis was very similar to simply consuming the oil. As even after 2-3 weeks of consistent (twice daily) usage, no clear results were seen (in relation to my skin). Another main drawback for me was the time and effort that had to be put into oil pulling on a daily basis, as it was quite inconvenient for me to do.

However, I do wish that I was much more able to withstand the inconvenience so I could enjoy the dental care benefits it provides.

 Conclusion and Summary to Using Coconut Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis

With the rave reviews and extraordinary claims coconut oil seemed like the magical solution to my seborrheic dermatitis. However, after many attempts to integrate it into a successful treatment plan, it failed to hold up to claims. The only method that did relieve seborrheic dermatitis were the scalp treatments.

All of the topical facial applications failed to provide consistent and long term relief for my seborrheic dermatitis. While, the internal consumption method and the oil pulling proved to be completely ineffective.

Research did reveal that coconut does in fact have a role to play in other aspects of health and nutrition. It seems to have exceptional usability in oil pulling for dental health and an ability to provide instant and sustainable energy. And these were the two main takeaways for me.

If you have had any experience with treating seborrheic dermatitis with coconut oil, leave some details on your approach or results in the comments below.

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  1. Goldenberg Gary "Optimizing treatment approaches in seborrheic dermatitis." The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 6.2 (2013): 44-9. PubMed
  2. A P Adams, E M Santschi, M A Mellencamp "Antibacterial properties of a silver chloride-coated nylon wound dressing." Veterinary surgery : VS 28.4 (1999): 219-25. PubMed
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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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  1. neil says:

    I have not tried Coconut oil topically, however, I am trying oil pulling.

    Although the Oil pulling has had no affect on my Skin to my knowledge, I feel like My teeth are cleaner and more white than before after 3 weeks of use. My gums feel much better as well.

    It is recommended to swish the oil through your teeth and do it for 15-20 minutes.
    Also, I highly recommend flossing your teeth first and brushing your teeth after.
    I usually do this in the shower before going to bed.

    This brings up an important topic I wanted to mention.
    Although Seb Derm is a horrible thing, I have learned a lot about getting healthy which is a plus.

    Firstly, it made me stop and assess myself and I began to realize I had a number different issues/symptoms (Hair loss, cold hands/feet, shakiness, acne) …
    As I have tried to cure it, these issues seems to lessen which is great.
    I am on a super healthy Paleo Diet and taking directions from naturopath who is provided me homeopathic remedies and detected my food sensitivities.

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  2. Hi Neil,

    Can definitely agree with you on the last point. Having seborrheic dermatitis has really lead to quite a few discoveries about staying healthy.
    The Paleo diet wasn’t quite for me. My workouts felt a little under powered and I was really missing carbs.

    Oil pulling worked exceptionally well for my dental health as well. There’s quite a bit of medical studies (such as this one) that actually support this as well.
    Unfortunately I was unable to make it a daily habit. The process made me want to gag at times. Also I felt like spitting the oil in the sink or toilet could potentially have negative effects on the plumbing (maybe not). Instead I ended up investing in a professional Oral B toothbrush and a water flosser (really nice for massaging the gums).

    Out of all the other issues/symptoms you pointed out the only one I have is cold hands. Did you find something that works for this?

    All the best.

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  3. sarah says:

    Have been using various natural Oils for my facial Sebo Derm as I find regular lotions and creams are gunky and do not help it much. The Coconut seems to be preventing flare ups, keep my T Zone (where I suffer more) moisturised and fresh looking. It has stopped the flaking dry skin and overall feels quite good! I’ve also tried Rose Hip Oil which I need to alternate now and again but my skin seems to prefer the Coconut Oil, which smells far better and has a nice consistency.
    Please bear in mind that my Sebo Derm is worse if I drink Milk and if I do not stick to a regular facial cleansing, moisturising regime.

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  4. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the update. Yeah I loved the smell of coconut oil. For some reason my skin didn’t seem to really absorb it well.
    However, I’ve made my own solution which has a unique combination of specific fatty acids (extract from coconut and palm oil), plus several other components. My skin seems to agree with it much better and it absorbs really quick.

    Always wanted to try Rose Hip Oil, but never got around to it. Do you apply this on it’s own or in a carrier oil?

    All the best.

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  5. The health benefits of coconut oil are difficult to number. Whether you use coconut oil for your skin, hair or to eat as a substitute for butter or other oils, coconut oil is definitely good for you and one of the best oils you can use. What are the health benefits of coconut oil for skin and hair?

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  6. andy says:

    I’ve been suffering from SD on my scalp since almost a year, and this website has given me immense help on how to treat it naturally. I had tried the honey water method a couple of times, but it didn’t really work. Few months back i got a really intense flare of SD where my scalp used to get covered with white layers of dandruff right after hair wash! It was damn horrible at a point of time. I wanted to try the coconut oil method after reading about it at a number of places, but was reluctant to apply it on scalp as my dermatologist advised me against it. So i started consuming small amount of virgin coconut oil with my meals and with in a couple of weeks i saw a marked improvement in my scalp. The itchiness and scaling have reduced substantially. It is important to note that i was using chemical shampoos (having coal tar, ketoconazole and salicylic acid before starting this regimen and throughout this period as well) but i started seeing improvement only after adding coconut oil to my diet. And its a relatively small amount that i consume, around 2 tablespoons daily. I am still unsure if I should try this on my scalp, but for anyone who wants to try the coconut oil, i would definitely recommend it.

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  7. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your coffee or tea, blend !

    I am suffering from seborrheic dermatitis and have tried what the dermatologist has recommended for a year and no help! Excited to try the coconut oil!
    I will comment to let you know results!

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  8. susan says:

    I acquired seborrheic dermatitis 5 years ago. My scalp became 100% clear after 2 years of treating it every day. It remained clear for 3 years. I became sick a couple of months ago and the SD came back. I took up my old treatment plan and after a few weeks it is 95% clear.
    I shampoo my hair in the morning with “Jason’s Dandruff Relief” shampoo. I let it stay on my scalp for a half hour and then rinse. When my hair is thoroughly dry I go through it with a rat tail comb looking for any affected areas and if found put a small amount of the steroid ointment my dermatologist prescribed. At night I put the coconut oil on my hair. I dampen first a little with a spray bottle of water first. I put a plastic bag on my head. I have a plastic garbage bag over my pillow and a pillow slip over that. I go to bed like that and leave it on all night. Next morning I start all over again. I don’t know if all of that is necessary but it works. I’m afraid to experiment by cutting any step out. I just want to be done with this as happened before. I believe my immune system was down when I got sick and that’s why it came back. Before I discovered coconut oil I use to have to go to bed with a steroid ointment on my head that just stunk so bad it kept me awake. The coconut oil was such a relief in that regard. I didn’t start ti see improvements in my scalp until I started using coconut oil and Jason’s shampoo which by the way is made up of rosemary, olive and jojoba. Oil of oregano is suppose to be good for SD but I can’t take it because of a cancer med. that I take.

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  9. k01 says:

    I have had SD in my T-zone, around my ears and my scalp for 20 years. Ive tried various shampoos, vitamin E, various moisturizers, etc. In the last year I started using coconut oil on my t-zone and the itching, redness and flaking has stopped. Im now starting around my ears and I will then try on my scalp. I didnt change my facial cleaning routine, just started using coconut oil in place of moisturizer on my t-zone. I haven’t tried using the oil on my cheeks, chin areas etc because i have no SD there and I’m worried about clogged pores. But its definitely worked where I did use it.

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  10. Massaging lots of coconut oil into my pre teens hair a couple of hours before shampooing is the best method for dealing with his SD at its most severe. He also washes with selsun blue shampoo regularly to keep it under control. The other dandruff shampoos didn’t work for him.

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  13. I tried coconut oil on my face and it made the condition much much worse, prob because the oil fed the yeast. So not good for me.

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  14. amit says:

    I can confirm like few others in the comments, i applied coconut oil to my seb derm on my face overnight, and in the morning it got way worst.
    I believe there might be a major difference between face seb derm and scalp.
    For me personally, something that helped chill the flaking but not the redness was going vegan, taking in lots of veggies and such.
    Best of luck everyone!

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