MCT oil is gaining popularity as an alternative treatment for seborrheic dermatitis (SD). This oil is a highly concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) and is most commonly extracted from coconut oil.
MCT oil may decrease sebum production, improve skin quality and help reduce inflammation in seborrheic dermatitis. Just make sure you use MCT oil without lauric acid.
Let’s take a deep dive:
- Can you use MCT oil for seborrheic dermatitis?
- Is MCT oil good for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff?
- How to treat seborrheic dermatitis with MCT oil?
- Best MCT oil for seborrheic dermatitis
- Does ingesting MCT oil help with seborrheic dermatitis?
- MCT oil Vs. coconut oil
- Negatives of MCT oil
- To wrap up
Can you use MCT oil for seborrheic dermatitis?
MCT oil is mostly derived from coconut oil and has been shown to be effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis. Anecdotally, people have been using MCT oil to treat SD and other skin conditions related to fungal growth with good results. You can slather it on as a body oil or ingest it like a supplement.
MCT oil is known to be non-irritating and hypo-allergenic, so even if you have sensitive skin, you should be fine. However, if you have oily skin like me, you may find adding more oil to your face can make it feel greasy and dirty. It may also clog your pores. Having said that, applying a few drops of MCT oil sparingly to your face may also decrease sebum production as your skin receptors detect that your skin is oily enough without it having to make more sebum.
Is MCT oil good for seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff?
In a recent study, coconut oil was found to increase beneficial bacteria and yeasts on the scalp after 12 weeks of treatment. Higher amouts of these organisms – Cutibacterium acnes and Malassezia globosa were thought to improved dandruff. The researchers concluded that coconut oil was beneficial in preventing dandruff. I found this interesting for 2 reasons:
- Coconut oil contains lauric acid and other long-chain fatty acids that may encourage Malassezia growth. In fact, I don’t recommend using coconut oil at all for seborrheic dermatitis.
- Malassezia globosa along with Malassezia restricta are 2 of the most common Malassezia species linked to seborrheic dermatitis.
This study was done in Indian women and coconut oil has long been used on the scalp in India. Maybe their scalp microbiome have evolved so that Malassezia globosa is well tolerated. If you are of Indian heritage, maybe it’s worth trying if coconut oil helps with your dandruff. But for the rest of the world, I recommend MCT oil instead. It’s basically coconut oil without the long-chain fatty acids.
A lab study published in 1999 showed that MCT oil inhibits Malassezia growth. MCT oil is supposed to be better than coconut oil as it doesn’t contain lauric acid and other long-chain fatty acids which can feed Malassezia and worsen seborrheic dermatitis.
Capric acid and caprylic acid are two of the main MCTs in MCT oil. These compounds are antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. They also have many other health benefits which I won’t go into in this article.
MCT oil is easily absorbed by the skin, giving it a lightweight, non-greasy feel. Applying topical MCT oil regularly may be helpful in seborrheic dermatitis because it helps to soothe and calm the skin. It can also help to improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Just remember, as with any oil, less is more. A few drops of MCT oil goes a long way.
How to treat seborrheic dermatitis with MCT oil?
You can use MCT oil topically on your face to treat seborrheic dermatitis or on your scalp to treat dandruff (which is SD of the scalp). MCT oil can also be ingested for its antifungal and anti-bacterial properties to boost your immune system.
How to use MCT oil on your face
You can use MCT oil in any part of your skincare regimen really. However, my favorite way of using MCT oil is as an oil cleanse to remove makeup and excess oil before cleansing with my Sanskrit Saponins. I also sometimes add a drop to my favorite moisturizer for some extra hydration in winter.
When you add MCT oil to your skincare products, use a light hand. Too much oil is still too much oil and will leave your skin greasy and heavy.
How to use MCT oil on the scalp
You can apply MCT oil directly to the scalp pre-shampoo and comb throughout your hair for extra benefits. Leave it on for a few minutes to make sure the oil has a chance to penetrate, then rinse it off thoroughly before shampooing as usual. If you want more of a lather, mix warm water with the oil and rub it between your palms before use.
You can also add other ingredients in your pre-shampoo hair treatment, such as essential oils like tea tree oil. Wear a shower cap to avoid getting the oils on clothing.
Further reading: The 5 best hair oils for seborrheic dermatitis
Best MCT oil for seborrheic dermatitis
While there are many different MCT oils on the market, some of them contain lauric acid, which is a key food source for Malassezia.
If you have seborrheic dermatitis, make sure you use an MCT oil formulation without lauric acid. This way, you’ll make sure you’re not feeding the yeast.
How do you know if MCT oil contains lauric acid? Buy from a reputable brand and read the label.
These are some of my favorite MCT oil brands:
The famous Bulletproof MCT oil only contains caprylic acid(C8) and capric acid (C10). You can ingest MCT oil directly on a spoon or mixing it in with your coffee or smoothies.
You can also use it on your face and scalp but the large bottle mouth makes it a bit hard to get small amounts out.
If you’re looking for something more medicine cupboard-friendly, Alana Mitchell offers an organic MCT oil formula that is purified and to only contain caprylic acid and capric acid as well. Best of all, it comes with a handy dropper.
Some MCT oils are blended with other oils to form a ‘treatment cocktail’. BIOM8 oil contains MCT oil, sea buckthorn oil and Vitamin E and is a pretty popular oil among SD sufferers. Read more about BIOM8 oil.
Does ingesting MCT oil help with seborrheic dermatitis?
MCT oil is made of fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the growth of yeast and bacteria. Some research suggests that MCTs may have a variety of antimicrobial and antifungal effects, though more research is needed.
In fact, coconut oil’s ability to reduce yeast and bacterial growth is thought to be due to caprylic and capric acid.
However, most of the research on MCTs and immune support were on cells in test tubes and animals. High quality human studies are needed before stronger conclusions can be made.
There is no harm ingesting MCT oil in small amounts but there are many other supplements and good foods that you can take to boost your immune system and treat seborrheic dermatitis.
MCT oil Vs. coconut oil
When it comes to MCT oil and coconut oil, there are a few key differences. MCT oil is often sourced from coconut oil but can also be from other sources like palm kernel oil.
Coconut oil comes straight from coconuts and doesn’t go through extra processing to change its compounds. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid while MCT oil contains little to no lauric acid. Lauric acid is beneficial for health in many ways. It’s fine to ingest lauric acid but not so good if you are applying coconut oil to your skin.
MCT oil is a great treatment for fungal acne and dandruff because it contains only caprylic and carpylic acid. These acids have antifungal and antibacterial activity and kills the buggers that cause these problems. Coconut oil, on the other hand, contains lauric acid, which can actually feed Malassezia.
Coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores. MCT oil, on the other hand, purportedly does not clog pores. This makes it a better choice for people with acne or dandruff.
MCT oil is light-weight and easily absorbed, leaving your skin moisturized, while coconut oil does not. It just leaves your skin feeling oily and heavy.
Negatives of MCT oil
MCT oil is often considered a natural and safe product to use on the skin, but there are some risks associated with it. People with sensitive skin or eczema may experience a reaction to MCT oil, such as hives, rashes, or itchiness. It’s important to test your skin for any sensitivities before applying MCT oil topically.
Some reactions may not arise until several hours later, so you’ll want to wait at least a full day to see if any side effects happen before you’re in the clear.
If you use too much MCT oil, it can still leave your skin feeling greasy and clog your pores. A few drops go a long way.
To wrap up
MCT oil is a promising option for those who are looking for an alternative or supplementary treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. It is a natural and safe treatment that can be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as prescription medications. If you are suffering from seborrheic dermatitis, MCT oil may be the solution you have been looking for.
If you’re looking for other carrier oils, here are some safe oils for seborrheic dermatitis.