Coconut Oil For Seborrheic Dermatitis And Dandruff: Why it's harming, not helping.
Natural remedies for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are spiking in popularity. Among the host of natural treatments available, you'll usually find options such as apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, coconut oil, mineral oil, and even olive oil.
Admittedly, both dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are tricky to treat. And if you've had either of them, you may be familiar with the frustration resulting from treatment failure, frequent recurrences, and consistent flare-ups. From antifungal agents and medicated foams to anti-dandruff shampoos and hairsprays—you may feel like you've exhausted your options.
You're not alone, which is why many people have turned to natural remedies to alleviate their symptoms.
If you're well-assimilated into the seb derm community, you've probably heard personal accounts and stories of people using coconut oil to treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Usually, these reports involve the application of coconut oil directly to the scalp.
But the looming question is this: Should you really be using coconut oil for dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis? Is coconut oil good for these skin conditions, or is it an overlooked culprit responsible for notorious flare-ups and symptom aggravation?
The short answer could be a bit surprising: Coconut oil may not actually be suitable for treating dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. We'll explore the reason behind this and other natural treatment options that are more likely to help rather than harm.
Dandruff & Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms
The hallmark symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are an itchy scalp and skin flakes. While both skin conditions share some similarities, seborrheic dermatitis is usually more severe in nature.
Seborrheic dermatitis can encompass additional symptoms such as stubborn dandruff, scaling, flaking, and skin inflammation.  Severe, untreated cases may even lead to premature hair loss or a bacterial infection. 
You may experience seborrheic dermatitis whether or not you have oily or dry skin. But this skin ailment tends to affect areas of your body that are rich in sebaceous glands, such as your scalp, chest, and behind the ears. Sebaceous glands are oil-producing skin glands that secrete a natural oil known as sebum. This natural oil serves as food and fuel for a fungal species known as Malassezia.
The Malassezia Fungus
The Malassezia fungus usually is harmless. It is typically found on your scalp, a silent inhabitant with no mischief up its sleeve. You go about with your day, minding your own business, and this fungus goes about with its own.
Though scientists aren't able to pinpoint the exact underlying mechanisms behind the development of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, the Malassezia fungus population could play out as one causative factor.
The rapid multiplication and growth of this fungal species can evoke a particular immune response, which, in turn, triggers inflammation and leads to a seborrheic dermatitis flare-up. Additionally, M. globosa and M. restricta, which are two different species of the Malassezia fungus, predominantly reside in the scalps of patients with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. 
This fungus tends to feed on certain types of oils, which is what we'll explore further in this article. You don't want to be unknowingly fueling its growth with these oils.
Types of Coconut Oils
Essentially, there are two main types of coconut oil, which are refined and unrefined coconut oil.
Unrefined coconut oil is also known as virgin coconut oil. The difference between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil could be somewhat surprising—because there isn't any difference between them both at all.
Nonetheless, unrefined coconut oil does differ from its refined counterpart in several aspects. In essence, refined coconut oil undergoes some additional processing steps, whereas the unrefined variation is extracted but undergoes no further processing after that. 
Coconut oil can be found in various skin and hair products, even those labeled as anti-dandruff shampoos.
Coconut Oil Composition
Coconut oil is generally composed of several fatty acids, including caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, and palmitic acid. The fatty acid with the highest percentage (almost 50%) in coconut oil is the lauric fatty acid. These are medium-chain fatty acids with a carbon chain length of 12. 
Applying coconut oil to your skin or scalp could be a recipe for disaster. But the science behind it lies in the composition of coconut oil.
The Truth About Coconut Oil For Dandruff & Seborrhoeic Dermatitis
You may have heard that coconut oil possesses antimicrobial and antifungal properties and is said to help nurture a healthy fungal scalp microbiome. However, while coconut oil may display antimicrobial or antifungal activity against certain microbes, the same cannot be said about the Malassezia fungal species.
Quite the opposite, the Malassezia fungus enjoys feeding off fatty acids with a chain length between 11 and 24. And if you recall, the fatty acid with the highest percentage in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has a 12-carbon chain. And that's why lipids such as coconut oil facilitate Malassezia growth and can make your seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff worse.
The bottom line is this: Some people report using coconut oil. According to them, it has helped to eliminate dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. But many others have reported worsening seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups after coconut oil application to the skin.
That said, when you use coconut oil on your skin and scalp, you're risking flare-ups and symptom aggravation when there are, in fact, other safer oils and remedies available. These options are less likely to be food and fuel for the Malassezia species.
Other Seborrheic Dermatitis & Dandruff Treatment Options
Without a doubt, seeking professional medical advice on how you may best tackle your seborrheic dermatitis is the best route to go. However, if you'd like to try some other treatment options for seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff, here are some safer alternatives that won't feed the growth of Malassezia (but help counter it instead).
Before trying any of these remedies, ensure you perform a skin patch test first.
Apple cider vinegar
There are many anecdotal reports of success with apple cider vinegar (ACV), which has antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
In fact, one study showed that a mixture of diluted lemon juice and ACV displayed positive results in hampering the growth of Malassezia on the scalp. 
The most common ratio used is one part ACV to four parts water, and this mixture is applied to the affected area or scalp. Be sure to avoid using undiluted ACV on your skin.
MCT oil is currently one of the few safe oils for seborrheic dermatitis. MCT oil mainly contains capric and caprylic fatty acids (8 and 10-carbon chain fatty acids) that do not feed the Malassezia fungus.
If you wish to try out topical MCT oil for your skin, go for products that do not contain lauric acid. We recommend massaging a few tablespoons of MCT oil into the affected regions. You may leave it on overnight.
One study on manuka honey involved participants who had atopic dermatitis. In the study, manuka honey alleviated the various symptoms related to eczema, such as itching, irritation, and inflammation.  Hence, manuka honey may help soothe some symptoms related to seborrheic dermatitis.
Opt for medical-grade manuka honey, and you may wish to water it down since it has a naturally thick and sticky texture. The diluted mixture can be applied directly to the affected area.
In one study, participants with sensitive skin bathed with dead sea salt solution. They found that the sea salt solution helped reduce skin irritation and improve skin barrier function. 
You can dissolve sea salt in warm water, pour it slowly over the affected region, and gently massage it in. Then, leave it on for a few hours or overnight, depending on what you're comfortable with.
The Calming Seborrheic Serum
Last but not least is a serum crafted with a mix of holistic ingredients. This serum combats seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and associated symptoms such as scalp irritation, dandruff flakes, and skin inflammation.
It disrupts the Malassezia biofilm, gently yet effectively clears the fungus, and soothes the skin without using lipids that feed the fungus. Ultimately, the Calming Seborrheic Serum reduces flakes, itching, and redness to give your skin much-awaited peace and relief.