I’m a fan of essential oils and use them for various purposes including managing seb derm. One of the essential oils that caught my eye is orange essential oil. Known for its uplifting and stress-relieving properties, orange essential oil has also been found effective in treating skin conditions such as acne by reducing inflammation.
Orange oil, in particular limonene, one of its active compounds, has been shown in many lab studies to have antifungal activity against Malassezia. However, orange oil can be irritative and worsen skin inflammation, aggravating seborrheic dermatitis.
Let’s dive deeper into this citrusy oil and explore the potential role of orange essential oil in treating seborrheic dermatitis:
What is Orange Essential Oil?
Orange essential oil is a concentrated liquid derived from the peels of oranges. The extraction process, called cold pressing, involves mechanically pressing the peels to obtain the oil. This essential oil is known for its sweet, citrusy aroma and its numerous health and wellness benefits.
There are two main types of orange essential oil: sweet orange oil, which comes from the fruit of the Citrus sinensis tree, and bitter orange oil from the Citrus aurantium tree. Sweet orange oil is more commonly used in aromatherapy and skincare products because it has fewer risks and potential side effects compared to bitter orange oil.
The primary active component in orange essential oil is limonene, which accounts for its recognizable citrus scent and various therapeutic properties. Limonene has been demonstrated to possess antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.
Often used in aromatherapy, orange essential oil is said to help lift mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation. Orange oil is also commonly used in skincare products for its scent and potential benefits on skin conditions like acne, inflammation, and more.
Does Orange Essential Oil have Antifungal Properties?
Orange essential oil has some antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which means it might be helpful in inhibiting the growth of bacteria or yeast. However, the evidence to support this claim is not very strong. The available studies on orange essential oil primarily focus on its effects on bacteria, rather than Malassezia yeast that contribute to seborrheic dermatitis.
Citrus oil (orange oil) was found to have to have anti-fungal activity against Aspergillus, Candida and Cryptococcus – all fungi that have the potential to cause disease in humans.
Another lab study showed orange oil can inhibit Malassezia although its effect was not as strong as lemon oil.
Limonene, one of the active compounds in orange oil, was extensively studied and found to have significant activity against Malassezia.
However, a large Korean lab study looking at the effect of 17 essential oils on Malassezia at 2% concentration showed orange oil had no anti-Malassezia effect. It could be that the 2% concentration wasn’t strong enough as another study showed the antifungal activity of orange peel essential oil increased with higher concentrations.
Unlike many essential oils, orange oil was actually studied in humans. A small study on 60 patients found that bitter orange oil had antifungal activity against skin fungal infections like tinea corporis, curis and pedis.
Is Orange Essential Oil Good for Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Even though lab studies have found that orange oil is inhibits Malassezia, there actually isn’t any direct evidence to suggest that orange oil is effective for treating seborrheic dermatitis.
The other isssue with orange oil is that it needs to be in a strong enough concentration for it to have significant anti-fungal activity.
If you’ve used citrus oils before, you know it can be caustic and very irritative if it’s not uber diluted. It’s one of the oils I avoid when my skin is inflammed and my skin barrier is down for the count because it stings!
Therefore, even though orange oil has good antifungal activity, from a practical sense, I don’t think it’s a good natural treatment for seborrheic dermatitis.
If you’re looking for essential oils that are good for seb derm, here’s the list.
Does Orange Essential Oil Worsen Seborrheic Dermatitis?
There are no studies showing that orange essential oil worsen seborrheic dermatitis. In fact, theoretically and based on lab studies, orange oil has anti-Malassezia activity and is therefore a potential treatment option for seb derm.
Having said that, from a practical point of view, orange oil in strong enough concentration to inhibit Malassezia, will likely cause more irritation and inflammation to sensitive skin. This reaction will almost definitely worsen seborrheic dermatitis.
Plus, orange oil (and other citrus oils) can cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun. Even though sunlight may improve seb derm, it will give you a bad sunburn when your skin barrier is impaired. This will worsen the redness, pain and scaling.
Skin Benefits of Orange Essential Oil
Orange oil is not all bad and can actually be of use in your skincare toolbox. I’m just saying use it with caution, especially when you’re in the inflammed phase of seb derm.
Orange essential oil has been found to have skin-lightening properties due to its citrus components, which means it can even out skin tone and regenerate collagen in skin cells. As a result, it might assist in fading those stubborn dark spots caused by inflammation or irritation associated with seborrheic dermatitis.
Studies have shown that it may also be effective in treating acne and other skin issues caused by bacterial or fungal infections. This is probably because of its antibacterial properties.
Adding to its skin benefits, orange essential oil has the ability to lift mood and reduce stress. Since stress can exacerbate seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, utilizing orange essential oil as part of a regular skincare routine might indirectly improve the condition.
Potential Side Effects of Topical Orange Oil
As with any essential oil, there is a risk of skin irritation, particularly when applied without proper dilution. To avoid this, I recommend diluting orange essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or squalane oil before use.
Alternatively, you can also add a drop of the essential oil to your regular moisturizer or bathwater for a soothing and calming effect on my skin.
We’re talking at least 1:20 dilution. Even then, your skin may get irritated. Perform a patch test before applying any new oil to a larger area of the skin, in order to avoid any adverse reactions.
Orange oil also makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you’re going to try orange oil, use it at night.