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Oil Cleansing for Fungal Acne and Seborrheic Dermatitis: If It's Safe & Best Oils to Use 

Oil Cleansing for Fungal Acne and Seborrheic Dermatitis: If It's Safe & Best Oils to Use 

We're all familiar with the benefits of daily cleansing. The cleansing process removes excess sebum, makeup, dirt, and dead skin cells, which helps maintain a healthy complexion. 

So, if cleansing removes excess oils from your skin, wouldn't that make oil cleansing a counterproductive process? 

Adding oil to your skincare routine might sound like a massive misstep. However, oil cleansing is more of a double-edged sword.

If you use the wrong oils, this process may exacerbate symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne. But with the right ingredients, oil cleansing is a helpful step you can add to your skincare arsenal. 

In this article, we'll explore what oil cleansing really is and which oils are safe if you have seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne. We'll also take a look at how you can incorporate oil cleansing into your skincare routine. 

Table of Contents:

What is Oil Cleansing?

Oil cleansing is the process of using oils instead of soap to clear away dirt, grime, makeup, and excess oils. 

Some people may use an oil mixture on their skin and then cleanse it away with a wet washcloth. Others might opt for ready-made, oil-based cleansers designed to tackle dirt, grime, and hard, waterproof makeup. 

How Does Oil Cleansing Work? 

oil cleanser, oil cleansing for skin

While oil cleansing sounds counterintuitive, science actually supports this process. 

The oils in your cleanser will bond to the oil and dirt present on your skin. This allows those oils to lift off any excess sebum and dirt, as well as remove makeup and dead skin cells. 

Besides keeping your skin clean and healthy, oil cleansing can also help nourish and soothe sensitive skin, control breakouts, and keep your skin soft and well-hydrated.

In comparison, harsh and more traditional cleansers might strip all the natural oils off, causing excessive dryness. This is why oil cleansing may be less likely to irritate and dry the skin [1]

Additionally, oil cleansers are less likely to remove the good bacteria from your skin that help to control acne. 

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

itchy scalp, symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a non-contagious skin condition that commonly leads to skin flakes, redness, itching, and irritation.

Seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups are thought to be linked to the Malassezia overgrowth [2]. Malassezia is a type of yeast that forms a normal part of your skin microbiome. That said, this fungus can still be the cause of trouble and various skin conditions.

The natural oils on your body feed Malassezia, which is why seborrheic dermatitis most often affects areas of the body that are rich in sebaceous glands. These glands are responsible for producing an oily substance known as sebum.

Areas of the body rich in sebaceous glands include the scalp, face, forehead, chest, and back.

Since Malassezia feeds on sebum, people with naturally oily skin are likelier to develop the condition. But having dry skin due to cold and dry weather can also aggravate symptoms.

Fungal Acne vs. Traditional Acne

acne, comparing regular acne to fungal acne

Regular acne, also called bacterial acne, is one of the most common skin conditions. It develops when dead skin cells and oil clog the pores of your skin.

These clogged hair follicles can develop into pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads. Bacteria that live on the skin can further contribute to the inflammation and infection of these clogged pores.

In contrast, fungal acne, also known as Malassezia folliculitis or pityrosporum folliculitis, isn't actually acne. It is not caused by bacteria or clogged pores, either.

Instead, fungal acne is a fungal infection caused by the Malassezia yeast. The sebum on your skin feeds Malassezia, which contributes to the infection and irritation of the pores on your skin [3].

This can lead to the formation of red, tiny bumps. Occasionally, these bumps may become larger and fill up with white or yellow pus. And while bacterial acne is unlikely to cause itchiness, fungal acne can lead to an itchy sensation [3].

Because Malassezia causes fungal acne, it is unlikely to respond to regular acne medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, which are usually anti-bacterial agents.

Why Oil Cleansing May Be Unsafe for Fungal Acne and Seborrheic Dermatitis

the possible risks and side effects of oil cleansing for seborrheic dermatitis

Both seborrheic dermatitis and fungal acne are linked to Malassezia. And as discussed earlier, this fungus enjoys feeding on the oils your skin produces.

This is why adding the wrong kinds of oil to your skincare routine is a recipe for flare-ups and breakouts. These oils may become food and fuel for Malassezia growth, aggravating your condition.

However, not all types of oils are unsafe for Malassezia. The Malassezia fungi will feed mainly on lipids and oils that contain longer-chain fatty acids. More specifically, Malassezia prefers fatty acids with carbon chains containing 11-24 carbon atoms.

Essentially, oils are made up of different kinds of fatty acids that have varying carbon chain lengths. This is why some oils are Malassezia-safe while others are not.

Examples of oils that are not Malassezia-friendly include the following:

  • Coconut oil

  • Jojoba oil

  • Almond oil

  • Olive oil

  • Argan oil

Adding these oils to your skincare routine may worsen your fungal acne or seborrheic dermatitis.

How to Choose an Oil Cleanser that's Safe for Fungal Acne and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Now that we've discussed the kinds of oils that are unsafe for Malassezia-linked conditions, let's look at how we can choose an oil cleanser suitable for fungal acne and seborrheic dermatitis.

In general, two types of oils can be considered Malassezia-safe. They are MCT oil and squalane oil.

MCT Oil for Fungal Acne and Seborrheic Dermatitis

mct oil for seborrheic dermatitis and fungal acne

Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs for short, are saturated fatty acids.

MCT oil is composed mainly of these medium-chain triglycerides, including caproic acid (6 carbon atoms), caprylic acid (8 carbon atoms), and capric acid (10 carbon atoms). Certain MCT oils also contain lauric acid (12 carbon atoms) [4].

It's important to pick an MCT oil product that does not contain lauric acid, as this fatty acid can feed Malassezia.

MCT oil that's free from lauric acid is a worthy product to incorporate into your skincare routine since it does not feed Malassezia.

On top of that, it is also a natural antifungal with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help inhibit Malassezia overgrowth and tackle symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne.

Squalane Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis and Fungal Acne

squalane oil for seborrheic dermatitis and fungal acne, bottle of squalane oil

The sebaceous glands on our skin naturally produce squalene.

Squalene can be converted into squalane. This conversion process prevents this ingredient from spoiling, thus extending its shelf life. In other words, squalane is the modified version of squalene commonly found in different skincare products.

This saturated oil is popularly used due to its hydrating and anti-inflammatory effects. It's unlikely to fuel Malassezia yeast overgrowth, making it a safe bet for seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne.

Additionally, squalane is lightweight, non-comedogenic, and unlikely to clog pores, so it may also be suitable for acne-prone skin.

Other Considerations

food grade oils, avoiding food grade oils for face cleansing

If you wish to include MCT oil or squalane oil into your skincare routine, try to avoid food-grade oil and opt for cold-pressed oils that have been minimally processed.

Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-mixed, ready-to-use oil cleanser containing MCT oil or squalane oil. These oil cleansers should also be free from any scents or fragrances.

How to Perform Oil Cleansing

how to perform oil cleansing

If you choose a pre-mixed oil cleanser, you should follow the instructions included by the brand or manufacturer.

However, if you choose to use your own oils, you can carry out oil cleansing in two ways.

The regular method involves applying the oil directly to the skin and then rinsing it off. Here's how you can do that:

  1. Place a couple of drops of MCT oil into the palm of your hands. Rub the oil onto your face, and then wet your face.

  2. Gently massage the oil into your face using small, circular motions for a couple of minutes. The oil will help remove makeup, dirt, and impurities on your face. Don't rush this process; give the oil time to work its magic.

  3. You can rinse the oil off with warm water, but this could leave a little residue on the face. Alternatively, you can use a damp, warm, and clean washcloth to gently and carefully remove the oil.

  4. Pat your face dry with a towel and proceed with the rest of your skincare routine.

An alternative method of doing this is by carrying out a double cleanse.

Here's how you can do this:

  1. Start with the oil of your choice, and follow the steps above.

  2. After rinsing or wiping the oil off your face, you can wash your face with a water-based, non-comedogenic cleanser. This cleanser shouldn't contain any harsh chemicals or fragrances.

  3. Wash off the water-based cleanser, then pat dry before proceeding with the rest of your skincare routine.

If you have seborrheic dermatitis, you can also use essential oils to enhance your skincare routine further. Essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil can help manage seborrheic dermatitis.

Add a few drops of an essential oil to a carrier to dilute it. You can use MCT oil or aloe vera gel as a carrier, which can then be applied to your face.

Alternatively, you may add a few drops of essential oil to your shampoo if you have scalp dermatitis or to your body wash if you have seborrheic dermatitis on your chest, back, or arms.

Before using any new product on your skin, whether that's an oil cleanser or essential oils mixed with a carrier, it's always best to perform a skin patch test.

Apply a small amount of the product you intend to use on an area of your face that can be easily covered, such as the underside of your jaw or a corner of your forehead.

Leave the product on for around 24 hours, then wash it off. Check for any signs of allergy or irritation, such as redness, swelling, or itching.

The Dermazen Solution

dermazen for seborrheic dermatitis and fungal acne

Managing seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne can be tricky. Removing excess sebum is key, but at the same time, you don't want to dry out your skin.

The Dermazen Purifying Facial Cleanser gives you the best of both worlds. This holistic formulation helps to clear away the fungus, dirt, and sebum. It also contains squalane oil, so you can enjoy the benefits of oil cleansing without risking a flare-up of your condition.

This cleanser also helps to soothe, calm, and nourish the skin without any use of harsh or potentially irritating ingredients, such as parabens, sulfates, or fragrances.

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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