Olive Oil For Seborrheic Dermatitis: How To Use It And Why

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that can be caused by an overproduction of sebum, a natural oil found on the skin. Some people are more prone to this condition than others, and it can be difficult to treat.  Olive oil is a popular home remedy for seborrheic dermatitis. Some people believe that it can help to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

In fact, research on the use of olive oil for seborrheic dermatitis found that olive oil can worsen seborrheic dermatitis and trigger a flare. Pure olive oil applied directly on the skin is not recommended. However, it can be beneficial as a small component of your larger skin care regimen. Ingesting olive oil as part of a healthy, balanced diet is also beneficial. 

Read about safe carrier oils to use in seborrheic dermatitis.

Let’s take a deep dive:

Does olive oil help seborrheic dermatitis?

There is some debate over whether or not olive oil helps with SD. Olive oil has traditionally be recommended as a treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. However, the few studies done on olive oil suggest otherwise.

The benefits of olive oil are well-known. It can help hydrate dry skin and repair damaged skin, e.g when you’re sunburned.

However, olive oil is a heavy oil and doesn’t absorb easily into the skin. It also contains oleic acid. While not exactly the same as the free oleic acid produced by Malassezia that triggers seborrheic dermatitis, I would be wary of adding more oleic acid on my face when I’m already reacting to it.

Interestingly, olive oil is also used as an in vitro culture media for Malassezia in the lab. This means Malassezia actually likes living in olive oil!

Based on these findings and personal experience, I don’t recommend using pure olive oil for seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff. Use MCT oil,jojoba oil or squalane oil instead

Even in cradle cap, I recommend using squalane oil, mineral oil or vaseline instead of oils like olive oil and argan oil.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-derived Squalane 30mlCheck it out on Amazon

What are the side effects of using olive oil for seborrheic dermatitis?

When it comes to using olive oil on the skin, there are some risks and potential side effects that you should be aware of. One such risk is that olive oil is a heavy oil that doesn’t absorb well. It sits on the surface of your skin, making your skin really oily and clogs your pores. This inevitably leads to breakouts of acne and seborrheic dermatitis.

Long-term use of olive oil has also been shown to make seborrheic dermatitis worse by distrupting the skin lipid structure and promoting Malassezia growth.

I don’t recommend applying olive oil on your skin or scalp but if you insist on trying it, use caution and a light hand when applying olive oil to your skin if you are struggling with SD.

How can olive oil help treat seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that cannot be cured, but it can be managed with treatments. If you are a fellow SD sufferer, you have probably gone through many different products to find ones that are right for your skin.

Some people have found that emollients help keep their skin from getting too dry. One such occlusive treatment that you might have tried is olive oil.

In theory, olive oil could be beneficial in some ways. It’s anti-inflammatory, contains good oils, and is even mildly antifungal.

Further reading: Is seborrheic dermatitis a fungus?

Even though pure olive oil is not recommended in seborrheic dermatitis (or for any other skin condition for that matter), let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Olive oil is a great natural component in many moisturizers and cleansers. Combined with other products and used in extreme moderation, olive oil should definitely be part of your skin care regimen.

Organic Blend of Olive, Lavender, Almond and Grapeseed oils with Vitamin E. Day and night Moisturizer for Skin, Dry Hair, Face, Scalp, Foot, Cuticle and Nail Care. Natural Body oil for Men and WomenCheck it out on Amazon

Can olive oil be used in combination with other treatments for seborrheic dermatitis?

Some people have used olive oil as a carrier oil for tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can kill Malassezia but is extremely irritating when used in its pure form. Therefore, diluting a few drops in a carrier oil allows you to make your own tea tree oil at home as a remedy for SD.

If you are using olive oil this way, I would recommend only using it sparingly and on small areas. Massage the oil in rather than let it sit on your skin.

TEA TREE OIL BALM -100% All Natural | Great Cream for Soothing Skin Irritations like Eczema, Psoriasis, Rashes, Jock Itch, Folliculitis, Acne, Itches, Dry Chapped Skin, Heels, Cuticles, Hemorrhoids, Saddle Sores and more!Check it out on Amazon

Olive oil has also been combined with honey and beeswax to treat facial fungal rash (not specifically SD). Patients with facial fungal infection were cured in 3 weeks. 

In this instance, again, olive oil is merely the carrier oil for honey, which is the primary active ingredient. However, there are other carrier oils that I find less oily and much more absorbent than olive oil. I recommend using jojoba oil instead.

The only role olive oil has in my skin care regimen is in my MooGoo moisturizer. I slather it on during a flare and it helps to hydrate my skin and reduce sebum overproduction:

MooGoo Natural Scalp Cream - 120g - For relief of dry skin around the scalp, ears, hairline, eyes, and along the side of the noseCheck it out on Amazon

Further reading: The 5 Best Face Moisturizers For Seborrheic Dermatitis

Can I put olive oil on my itchy scalp?

Some experts recommend applying olive oil as a treatment for itchy scalp and cradle cap before shampooing. I’ve tried using warmed olive oil with a few drops of tea tree oil as a hair mask and to reduce dandruff. However, I found the oil so heavy and oily that I had to use much more shampoo and even shampooed twice just to get rid of it. The times when some oil was left on my scalp, my hair was limp and oily. More importantly, my scalp started itching again because of the residual oil.

This doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If you have dry hair and scalp, olive oil is very hydrating. However, most SD sufferers already have oily scalps so I don’t recommend it.

Even in infants, it’s not recommended to use organic oils like olive oil, castor oil and coconut oil because Malassezia can feed off it. Instead, experts recommend using mineral oils or squalane oil instead.

However, if you are using olive oil on your scalp as a small component mixed with other ingredients, it may be beneficial:

As I Am Dry and Itchy Scalp Care Oil Treatment - 4 ounce - Enriched with Salicylic Acid, Olive Oil, and Tea Tree Oil - Fights Dandruff, Seborrheic Dermatitis, and PsoriasisCheck it out on Amazon

Can olive oil worsen seborrheic dermatitis?

Slathering olive oil on the skin doesn’t only make you feel greasy and dirty, it can worsen seborrheic dermatitis and trigger a flare up very easily.

While stress, humidity, hormones and other factors can be triggers for SD, it often boils down to increased sebum production and oily skin. As olive oil is not easily absorbed, it adds oil to the surface of the skin, causing clogged pores and a proliferation of Malassezia.

Further reading: What foods trigger seborrheic dermatitis?

When should you stop using olive oil for treating seborrheic dermatitis?

Even if you are only using skin care products containing olive oil, you should stop using these products if it is not effective in treating your seborrheic dermatitis or if it causes any adverse effects such as skin irritation. Try another treatment method instead as everyone’s skin is different.

If you experience any worsening of SD, you might be sensitive to olive oil. You should discontinue use immediately and avoid all products containing olive oil.

Is ingesting olive oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?

Olive oil is a healthy fat that is anti-inflammatory, antifungal and has a host of other benefits. It can help stabilize your blood sugar, indirectly reducing sebum overproduction.

Its anti-inflammatory properties can also calm a seborrheic dermatitis flare and help regulate your immune system.

Instead of using vegetable oils or saturated fats, use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to cook and as a healthy dressing in your salads.

Pompeian USDA Organic Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil, First Cold Pressed, Full-Bodied Flavor, Perfect for Salad Dressings & Marinades, 24 FL. OZ.Check it out on Amazon

To wrap up

I don’t recommend using olive oil to treat seborrheic dermatitis. Moisturizers are very important to keep your skin hydrated and prevent sebum overproduction but it’s important to use the right ones.


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