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Oil in a bottle, oils to avoid if you have seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff

Oils to Avoid If You Have Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dandruff, or Fungal Acne

Are you dealing with seborrheic dermatitis, fungal acne, or dandruff?

While many treatment options are available, such as a medicated shampoo or a steroid cream, these skin conditions remain elusive and can be tricky to treat.

If you've decided to go down the natural treatment route, you need to know this: Not all oils are helpful or safe for managing your symptoms. In fact, some might harm more than help.


These skin conditions are linked to a type of fungus called Malassezia. If you aren't careful, you might use oils on your skin or scalp that fuel Malassezia growth.

So, before you add a new oil or product to your skincare routine, it's essential to take a look at its ingredients list. This helps you spot oils that might worsen seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, or fungal acne.

Unsure which oils to stay away from? 

We've got you covered with this list of oils you should avoid if you have these skin conditions.

Table of Contents: 

What is Malassezia Fungus?

Malassezia fungus cell culture


Malassezia is a type of fungi that normally lives on the skin. For many people, the presence of Malassezia on the skin does not lead to problems or symptoms.

This fungi typically thrives on areas of the skin rich in sebaceous glands, which release an oily substance called sebum. Sebum helps to moisturize and protect the skin [1].

Because Malassezia feeds on sebum, this fungi will congregate on sebaceous-rich areas of the skin, including the chest, back, forehead, and scalp [1].

How is Malassezia linked to Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dandruff, and Fungal Acne?

These three skin conditions have one culprit in common: Malassezia.

Malassezia usually lives on the skin without causing any trouble. However, in some cases, this fungus's overgrowth may occur, leading to seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and fungal acne [2, 3].

Malassezia thrives on the natural oils and lipids your skin produces. This is why you'd typically experience symptoms in areas of the skin rich in sebaceous glands, such as your scalp, forehead, and chest.

The Problem with Oils and Lipids in Skin and Hair Care

skincare oil in a bottle, the issue with using oil on Malassezia-prone skin


Skin and hair oils, such as coconut oil, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil, are often used as remedies for these skin conditions. After all, they're well-known for their deep hydration, lasting moisture, and antioxidant properties.

But there's a massive problem with this. Malassezia enjoys feeding off lipids. Thus, certain oils can become food and fuel for this fungus [4]. If you're not careful, you might unknowingly feed the culprit responsible for your symptoms.

That said, this fungus does not feed on all kinds of oils or lipids. Malassezia prefers oils containing fatty acids with a carbon chain length between C11 and C24 [5].

Fatty acids are the building blocks of oils and fats. The type of fatty acids that make up these oils and fats makes a difference.

Certain oils contain a high percentage of fatty acids with 11-24 carbon atoms in their carbon chains. For people with Malassezia-prone skin, using these oils often spells trouble.

The following is a list of fatty acids that can be problematic if you have seborrheic dermatitis, fungal acne, or dandruff:

  • Lauric acid (C12)

  • Tridecylic acid (C13)

  • Myristic acid (C14)

  • Pentadecanoic acid (C15)

  • Palmitic acid (C16)

  • Margaric acid (C17)

  • Stearic acid (C18)

  • Oleic acid (C18)

  • Linoleic acid (C18)

  • α-Linolenic acid (C18)

  • Ricinoleic acid (C18)

  • Nonadecylic acid (C19)

  • Eicosanoic acid (C20)

  • Arachidic acid (C20)

  • Heneicosylic acid (C21)

  • Behenic acid (C22)

  • Tricosylic acid (C23)

  • Lignoceric acid (C24)

Those you come across in skincare products usually have even-numbered carbon chains, such as lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid.

The graphs below show the results from two different studies. In each one, you can see that malassezia yeast begins growing rapidly as soon as the carbon chain length reaches C11 and beyond.

Study results showing the growth of malassezia yeast in the presence of fatty acids
Numerical study results showing the growth of malassezia yeast in the presence of various fatty acids based on their carbon chain length

Notice how there is little to no growth when the yeast is exposed to caprylic (C8) and capric acid (C10), found in MCT oil.

Of course, these yeast-feeding fatty acids have helpful properties. This is why they're commonly used as emollients or emulsifiers in skincare products. However, the cons likely outweigh the pros for those with Malassezia-prone skin.

Nonetheless, different people may react to these oils differently. The best way to ensure a product is safe is to patch-test it every day for at least a week or two before applying it to a larger area of your skin.

Oils to Avoid if You Have a Malassezia-Related Condition

coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil for skin


People with seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, or fungal acne should avoid the following common hair oils.

 Lipid Main Fatty Acid
Jojoba oil Eicosenoic acid (20C)
Argan oil Oleic acid (C18)
Coconut oil Lauric acid (C12)
Avocado oil Palmitic acid (C16)
Olive oil Oleic acid (C18)
Sunflower oil Oleic and linoleic acid (C18)
Castor oil Ricinoleic acid (C18)
Shea butter Stearic and oleic acid (C18)
Cocoa butter Stearic and oleic acid (C18)
Murumuru butter Lauric acid (C12)
Mango seed butter Stearic and oleic acid (C18)
Beeswax Palmitic acid (C16) and oleic acid (C18)

 If you see these ingredients in your haircare or skincare product, it's best to avoid using the product.

Which Oils Are Safe for Malassezia?

There are only three kinds of oils that are safe for Malassezia-prone skin.

#1: MCT Oil

MCT oil for skin


MCT oil is actually a derivative of coconut or palm kernel oil. It undergoes a process known as fractionation, which separates the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) from the rest of the oil. 

MCT oil is composed of MCTs, which include the following:

  • Caproic acid (6 carbon atoms)

  • Caprylic acid (8 carbon atoms) 

  • Capric acid (10 carbon atoms)

  • Lauric acid* (12 carbon atoms)

You can see that most MCTs are Malassezia-safe, except for lauric acid.

Fortunately, MCT oils mainly contain caprylic acid and capric acid, which are not a food source for Malassezia.

Of course, opting for an MCT oil product free from lauric acid is still best. This fatty acid can fuel Malassezia growth, so choosing a product that does not contain it is the safest bet to minimize the risk of a flare-up.

MCT oil is also said to help promote scalp health, reduce dandruff, and encourage hair growth.

Looking for a product that contains MCT oil? Our moisturizer and body wash combines MCT oil with other ingredients that can help combat Malassezia-related symptoms.

We've harnessed the impressive antimicrobial and moisturizing properties of MCT oil in the Dermazen Soothing Malassezia Moisturizer and Mineral and Enzyme Body Wash. The MCT oil in these formulations helps clear away the fungus and soothe and hydrate the skin.

#2: Squalane Oil

squalane oil for skin


Squalane oil is a type of saturated oil that's commonly used in skincare products due to its hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. It comprises fatty acids with a 30-carbon chain backbone, making it Malassezia-friendly.

Squalane oil tends to be less greasy even though it is technically an oil. Plus, research suggests it is odorless, non-comedogenic, and safe for sensitive skin. It can also be helpful in managing different skin conditions, including contact, seborrheic, or atopic dermatitis [6].

This powerful emollient is incorporated into the Dermazen Purifying Facial Cleanser helps to hydrate, soothe, and soften the skin,

#3: Mineral Oil

mineral oil for skin


Despite its name, mineral oil isn't actually oil and does not contain fatty acids. Because of this, it is unlikely to become a food and fuel source for Malassezia.

Mineral oil is safe and suitable for many skin types. Thanks to its hydrating and soothing properties, it is commonly used in skincare products.

However, mineral oil is naturally thick and occlusive. It can trap sweat and dead skin cells that clog pores. Thus, it may still be best to opt for MCT oil or squalane oil instead.

Choosing the Right Product

Knowing how to pick the right product for your skin can feel like navigating a maze.

Certain products may be labeled as safe for dandruff or Malassezia-related conditions but may still contain ingredients that can fuel fungal growth. For instance, many anti-dandruff shampoos contain coconut oil or olive oil, which are known to spur Malassezia growth.

You can, of course, opt for single-ingredient remedies, like MCT oil or apple cider vinegar, that can control the population of Malassezia on the skin or soothe itchiness and flakiness. That way, you'd know exactly what you're putting on your skin.

The Best Malassezia-Safe Serum

The most holistic solution comprises a range of ingredients that work together to clear away the fungus and provide relief and nourishment to the skin.

Through a symphony of powerful yet safe ingredients, the Calming Seborrheic Serum is designed to combat Malassezia, disrupt its biofilm, and soothe the skin without fueling the fungus' growth.

Xylitol and colloidal silver safely disrupt the Malassezia biofilm, leaving the fungus vulnerable to the antifungal effects of tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and dead sea salt.

The other ingredients wrap up the process by calming the skin and reducing inflammation, flakiness, and itchiness.

The Calming Seborrheic Serum

dermazen calming seborrheic serum for seborrheic dermatitis


With this all-in-one serum, you get the best of both worlds. Not only does it help to minimize Malassezia growth and reduce symptoms, but it also soothes, nourishes, and hydrates the skin.

You can finally say goodbye to flakes and itching and hello to happy, healthy skin!

dermazen calming seborrheic serum benefits
dermazen calming seborrheic serum review

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This all-in-one serum clears away malassezia fungus while soothing irritated skin. Provides relief for the scalp, face, and body.

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