Sea salt has been in used since the ancient times for the treatment of various skin conditions, yet the results for its use in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis are mixed. Many individuals across the internet report different success rates, and many appear to relapse after the initial treatment phase, even if treatment is maintained. Nevertheless, it does present a potential treatment approach and one that is very low cost, easy to maintain and all natural.
When scientists analyzed the effect that magnesium rich sea salt (Dead Sea salt) had on barrier function of atopic skin (skin inflammation due to various skin diseases), the results were impressive. In one study, 30 individuals with atopic dry skin of the forearms underwent a daily treatment in a 5% magnesium salt water soak for a period of 6 weeks . Overall, these individuals showed significant reduction in inflammation, improvement in barrier function and decreased transdermal water loss, but these results occurred gradually and throughout the whole 6 week period. This showed that it takes time for the salt water solution to have impact on overall results.
One thing to note is that each time the skin was washed, temporary loss of skin moisture and impairment of barrier function occurred. This was attributed to the removal of skin lipids and water binding compounds. As discussed earlier, most medical researchers have indicated that lipids strongly relate to the pathogenesis of seborrheic dermatitis.
Then perhaps, it may be this exact component of this treatment approach that is beneficial for seborrheic dermatitis. For instance, as the lipids and water binding compounds are removed, the skin is temporarily freed from irritation and can start to rebuild. However, here an issue presents itself. What if the malassezia communities of the skin adapt to this environment and take advantage of the distributed skin barrier? In this case, even though the treatment may show initial benefit, the end-outcome becomes questionable.
Add the fact that most of the studies done on the benefits of salt water only demonstrated the benefits for non-lipid rich skin surfaces, at which the malassezia do not make up a major constituent of the skin community, and you are left with no clear answer. Nonetheless, online communities seem to push this method forward as it has many favorable aspects. But, from my experience, very few individuals actually report long term results from this approach when it comes to seborrheic dermatitis.