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best essential oils and carrier oils for seborrheic dermatitis

Best Essential Oils (and Carrier Oils) for Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff

Seborrheic dermatitis is notorious for causing itchy skin, inflammation, redness, scaling, and flaking skin.

While scientists don't completely understand the exact cause behind this frustrating skin condition, a fungus known as the Malassezia fungus is thought to be one of the main culprits.

This is where essential oils come into the picture!

Some of the oils have anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, apart from helping to reduce itching and soothe the skin. Due to these benefits, some essential oils may help combat symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and improve your condition.

In this article, we'll explore the best essential oils for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. We'll also look at which carrier oils are the safest for seborrheic dermatitis and which pose the risk of exacerbating your symptoms.

Table of Contents:

What are Essential Oils and Carrier Oils?

bottles of essential oils used for seborrheic dermatitis


Essential oils are concentrated liquids containing compounds from certain plants. These oils capture a plant's essence, scents, or flavors and are commonly used in aromatherapy.

Meanwhile, carrier oils are base oils derived from a plant's kernels, seeds, or nuts. These oils do not have a strong smell and are usually unscented or only mildly scented. The main role of carrier oils is to dilute essential oils before topical application.

But why do essential oils need to be diluted in the first place?

Well, these liquids are highly concentrated, and applying them without first thinning them down may increase the risk of skin irritation or cause a burning sensation upon application.

Hence, diluting essential oils is an important safety measure when utilizing them, and this is where carrier oils play a key role.

If you're keen on using essential oils to help manage symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, you'll have to pair it with a suitable carrier oil.

Best Essential Oils for Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff

Essential oils are one of the most popular natural remedies for treating seborrheic dermatitis. Some essential oils have scientific evidence backing their benefits in combatting symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, soothing the skin, and fostering skin healing.

Here's a list of some of the best essential oils for seborrheic dermatitis.

Tea tree oil

bottle of tea tree oil for managing seborrheic dermatitis


Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is derived from the leaves of the Australian tea tree.

Tea tree essential oil has been traditionally utilized in the ayurvedic system of medicine for treating a range of conditions, including seborrheic dermatitis [1].

One study found that the topical application of tea tree oil gel significantly improved symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, including itchy skin, scaling, inflammation, and greasy crusts. This may be attributed to the anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties of tea tree oil [1].

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is a type of essential oil extracted from the leaves of the peppermint plant. It is well-known for its cool and invigorating scent.

Some research suggests that peppermint oil provides a cooling effect when used on the scalp and may also help combat dandruff and flaking [2].

Additionally, peppermint oil can be an effective remedy for tackling itchy skin, not to mention that it is affordable, has a pleasant odor, and is generally safe when applied topically [3].

Lavender Oil

a bunch of lavenders, exploring the benefits of lavender oil for seborrheic dermatitis


Lavender oil is one of the most well-known and versatile oils used in aromatherapy. This essential oil is popular due to its perceived benefits—from enhancing sleep to boosting mood and reducing stress.

Apart from that, lavender oil is also utilized in skin care. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, this essential oil may help to reduce skin redness and combat the discoloration, hyperpigmentation, and blotchiness of the skin [4].

Cinnamon oil

Cinnamon oil is characterized by its spicy and woody aroma and its wide range of uses in the health, beauty, and food industry.

Research has landed on findings that point toward the benefits of cinnamon oil for managing skin conditions involving the Malassezia fungus, including dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis [5].

Rosemary oil

rosemary branch, exploring the benefits of rosemary oil for seborrheic dermatitis


Rosemary oil is popular for its hair and scalp benefits. Research has discovered that rosemary oil may have anti-fungal effects against the Malassezia fungus, making it a fantastic candidate for combatting dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups [5].

Rosemary oil may also be useful in tackling the formation of the Malassezia biofilm, a protective mechanism utilized by the fungus that increases its resistance against treatment [6].

Apart from its impressive anti-fungal benefits, rosemary oil may also help with supporting hair growth and preventing the premature graying of hair.

Clove oil

Known for its warm, spicy, and invigorating aroma, clove oil has traditionally been used to remedy many conditions, from digestive problems to relieving pain and treating infections.

Additionally, clove oil may also have anti-fungal properties, with some research backing its use in preventing the growth and spread of dandruff-causing microorganisms, including the Malassezia fungus [7]. Clove oil can also help with reducing itch [8].

Eucalyptus oil

dried eucalyptus made into a bottle of eucalyptus oil, using eucalyptus oil for seborrheic dermatitis


Eucalyptus oil is derived from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. It has a long-standing history in the health and wellness space with various applications, including as a repellent, antiseptic, fragrance, and cold remedy.

The benefits of eucalyptus oil for tackling dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis have also been investigated in studies.

Some research notes that scalps with dandruff usually have low ceramide levels. Since eucalyptus oil may help to increase the ceramide levels in the scalp, this may help to improve your scalp's condition and mitigate dryness, scaling, itchiness, and redness of the skin [9].

Oregano oil

Oregano oil is extracted from the leaves of the oregano plant, a fragrant herb widely used in Italian food.

While the oregano herb is better known for its culinary uses, oregano essential oil plays a bigger role in the health and wellness realm.

Because this oil is packed with powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, it is believed to bring about various health benefits, including treating seborrheic dermatitis [5].

Research suggests that oregano oil displays impressive anti-fungal activity against the Malassezia fungus, likely due to a compound called carvacrol [10].

Best Carrier Oils for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Essential oils have to be diluted a carrier oil before topical application. But picking the right carrier oil can be a little tricky. The Malassezia fungus may actually feed on certain oils, so it's important that you pick a carrier oil that is Malassezia-safe.

The following are two of the safest carrier oils for those with seborrheic dermatitis.

MCT oil without lauric acid

mct oil used as a carrier oil for seborrheic dermatitis


MCT oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides. These are a type of fat composed of many building blocks known as fatty acids.

There are many different types of fatty acids, and each fatty acid consists of a straight chain of carbon atoms. The number of carbon atoms in this chain may differ depending on the type of fatty acid.

The Malassezia species feeds on sebum present on your skin, an oily substance rich in lipids and fatty acids. But this fungus is a little picky. It tends to favor fatty acids with a certain number of carbon atoms in its chain, and this is where the entire puzzle piece comes together [11].

Fatty acids with a carbon chain containing 12 to 24 carbons may be food and fuel for the Malassezia fungus, spurring the growth of this fungus. On the other hand, shorter-chain fatty acids (those with 10 or fewer carbon atoms per chain) are less likely to fuel the spread of this fungus.

MCT oil is made up of four different types of fatty acids as follows:-

  • Caproic acid (6 carbon atoms)

  • Caprylic acid (8 carbon atoms) 

  • Capric acid (10 carbon atoms)

  • Lauric acid (12 carbon atoms)

MCT oil is mainly composed of caprylic acid and caproic acid, which are fatty acids that contain less than 12 carbon atoms. 

Research has shown that both caprylic acid and caproic acid, in addition to capric acid, do not promote the growth of the Malassezia fungus. In contrast, these fatty acids may actually have an antimicrobial effect and be toxic to the Malassezia fungus at certain concentrations [12, 13].

However, some MCT oil products may contain lauric acid, a fatty acid with a 12-carbon chain, which may encourage the growth of the Malassezia fungus.

Hence, if you're keen on using MCT as a carrier oil, ensure you purchase a brand that does not contain any lauric acid. These brands typically note on the label that they only contain C8 and/or C10 fatty acids.

Some examples include the Kiss My Keto Pure C8 MCT oil and the Sports Research Organic C8 MCT Oil.

Squalane oil

Squalane oil is a modified version of squalene oil. It mimics natural skin oils and is synthesized via the hydrogenation of squalene oil. This makes the final product more skin-friendly and suitable for skin care use, in addition to giving it a longer shelf life.

Squalane is a saturated fatty acid with a 30-carbon chain, making it an unlikely food source for the Malassezia fungus [14].

On top of this, squalane oil is believed to have numerous benefits for the hair and skin. It has potent hydrating effects, helping maintain moisture in your skin.

Additionally, squalane's antioxidant properties may help combat skin damage and aging, not to mention that regular use may also promote collagen production.

Carrier Oils To Avoid With Seborrheic Dermatitis

olive oil should be avoided as a carrier oil in seborrheic dermatitis


Some of the most popular and widely-used carrier oils may be unsafe for those with seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff.

Of course, some people may find that the following oils do not do anything to aggravate their seborrheic dermatitis.

However, it's best to err on the side of caution if you've not used them before, especially when there are safer options readily available on the market.

These oils are best avoided if you have seborrheic dermatits:-

  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil consists of fatty acids, the main one being lauric acid (12-carbon chain). In fact, coconut oil is the highest natural source of lauric acid, making it less suitable if you have seborrheic dermatitis [15].

  • Almond oil: When the Malassezia fungus feeds on your skin sebum, it secretes fatty acid known as oleic acid. Oleic acid also happens to be the main fatty acid found in almond oil [16]. What's interesting is the fact that oleic has been shown to induce dandruff-like symptoms, itching, and flaking in people susceptible to dandruff [17].

  • Olive oil: Research has suggested that olive oil may encourage Malassezia overgrowth, which isn't optimal when treating seborrheic dermatitis. In fact, olive oil is often used as a growth medium for the Malassezia fungus in lab studies [18]. Oleic acid is also the main fatty acid in olive oil, and this fatty acid may increase flaking and itching in people with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis [17].

  • Argan oil: Argan oil contains two primary types of fatty acids, which are oleic acid (18-carbon chain) and linoleic acid (18-carbon) [19]. Unfortunately, these fatty acids may also feed the Malassezia fungus, making argan oil a less favorable option for those with seborrheic dermatitis—not to mention that oleic acid may cause flaking, dandruff, and itching in susceptible people.

Final Takeaway: Best Essential Oils and Carrier Oils for Managing Seborrheic Dermatitis

Fortunately, a wide range of essential oils on the market may help combat seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. Tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and oregano oil are just a few of the many options available. With these essential oils, it's important that you dilute them appropriately a suitable carrier oil.

Getting the ratio right is one piece of the puzzle. On top of that, you should patch-test the concoction before applying it to your scalp, face, or body.

If you're looking for something more convenient and easy to use, the Calming Seborrheic Serum is a fantastic choice!

This serum contains a blend of holistic ingredients, including tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and sea salt, all of which work together to calm your skin, reduce itching, soothe flaking, and clear away the Malassezia fungus. There's no need to dilute the product before use. Plus, the serum is completely safe for Malassezia.

We also risk-proof your purchase with a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you're not satisfied with the results, send us an email within 60 days, and we'll process a refund!

Recommended Product

Calming Seborrheic Serum

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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