Most plant-based oils are double-edged swords and need to be used with caution. Natural oils have many skin benefits but may also worsen seborrheic dermatitis by clogging pores, worsening inflammation or encouraging Malassezia growth.
For oils that are safe, check out the Best carrier oils for seborrheic dermatitis.
Otherwise, let’s take a deep dive:
What carrier oils should you avoid in seborrheic dermatitis?
Carrier oils are plant-based oils that have various functions in the body. Some carrier oils are used to heal wounds and fight inflammation. Carriers can also help protect skin from aging by reducing oxidative damage and increasing antioxidant activity.
There are a variety of carrier oils available on the market, each with different benefits. It’s important to choose a carrier oil that is appropriate for seborrheic dermatitis.
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For those of you who can’t bring yourself to watch, read on instead.
These are some of the most popular carrier oils and why they are not suitable for seborrheic dermatitis sufferers:
Coconut oil is one of the most popular carrier oils on the market. Coconut oil is great for skin care because it’s not processed with chemicals, so it retains its natural smell and flavour. Coconut oil can help moisturize the scalp and is a natural choice for some people.
However, coconut oil is not easily absorbed and can clog pores. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid which can feed Malassezia. That’s a double no for SD. If you like coconut oil, choose MCT oil instead. MCT oil is coconut oil without the long-chain fatty acids.
Further reading: Is coconut oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Argan oil is gentle enough for sensitive skin and a great moisturiser to use all on its own.
There are 3 grades of argan oil:
- cosmetic – most commonly found in skincare products)
- beauty grade – cold pressed from non-roasted Argan kernels and the one we want to use as a carrier oil
- edible – cold pressed from roasted Argan kernels and safe for ingestion
Argan oil has a multitude of amazing compounds like polyphenols, Vitamin E, antioxidants and carotenoids. It’s world reknowned for its ability to keep hair shiny and healthy. Argan oil may also control sebum production.
Sadly, argan oil also contains loads of oleic and linoleic acid, which can be broken down by Malassezia for food, encouraging its growth and potentially worsening SD.
Also, argan is a heavy oil that doesn’t absorb easily into the skin, leaving your skin greasy after application.
All in all, argan oil is not worth the risk for SD sufferers.
This oil is an excellent source of enrichment for dry skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and a healthy mix of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
However, it’s not easily absorbed by the skin. Avocado oil is also rich in oleic acid and linoleic acids.
You guessed it. Avocado oil is a BIG NO for seborrheic dermatitis.
If you’re interested, you can take a deep dive into avocado oil and why it’s not good for SD despite all its other benefits.
Sweet almond oil
Almond oil is one of the more popular carrier oils around. Almond oil has Vitamin A, E and zinc. The oil may helps hydrate dry skin, improve complexion and may even treat acne.
This oil is medium-weight and is absorbed relatively easily. In fact, almond oil has been used to treat dandruff in Chinese and Aryuvedic medicine for centuries (without evidence).
Again, being an organic (plant based) oil, almond oil contains high amounts of oleic acid and linoleic acid and is therefore not recommended in seborrheic dermatitis.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
Rose hip oil
Rose hip oils is extracted from the seeds of rose hip. It contains beneficial antioxidants and phenolic acids, making it a good oil to use on inflammatory conditions like eczema.
The oil unfortunately also contains substantial amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, specifically linoleic acid, linolenic acid and oleic acid. These long-chain fatty acids encourage Malassezia growth.
Sunflower seed oil
Sunflower oil is particularly good for eczema as it’s high in linoleic acid-an essential fatty acid that helps restore the protective barrier of the skin. Unfortunately, this makes it a bad carrier oil option for seborrheic dermatitis.
As sunflower oil is easily absorbed and doesn’t clog pores (supposedly), it’s used in many skincare products. If you’re finding it hard to control your SD, start looking at all your creams and cleansers. You may want to stop using some of them to see if avoiding them makes a difference.
Grape seed oil
Grapeseed oil is also high in antioxidants which can help protect against free radical damage. It has also been shown to be antimicrobial with activity against common skin bacteria.
It’s lightweight and easily absorbed, making it an awesome carrier oil. Just make sure you don’t keep it for too long as it goes rancid very quickly.
Unfortunately, grapeseed oil contains mostly linoleic acid and oleic acid.
Further reading: Is grape seed oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Castor oil has been used for centuries to treat various ailments and also in industrial settings as a lubricant. Even though there is cosmetic grade castor oil, I’m not a fan of putting ‘engine oil’ on my face.
Make sure you choose castor oil from a reputable brand that is USDA certified organic so you know it doesn’t contain synthetic ingredients and harmful chemicals.
Castor oil is heavy weight, not easily absorbed and can clog pores. I don’t recommend using castor oil or its sibling, black castor oil, as a carrier oil for your skin or scalp.
Further reading: Is castor oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Sesame seed oil
Sesame oil is one of my favorite oil to pour on soups and stir-fries but it’s one of the oiliest, heaviest oils I’ve seen. Sometimes I wash my hands with soap twice just to get it all off.
Sesame oil is also rich in long-chain fatty acids and has been shown in lab studies to be a good growth culture for Malassezia. It’s a definite no for seborrheic dermatitis sufferers!
However, sesame seed oil has plenty of skin benefits and you can use it on skin unaffected by SD. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and even protects your skin from UV-radiation. To reap maximum benefits from this oil, use products that contain refined sesame seed oil rather than pure unrefined oil.
Further reading: Is sesame oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Olive oil is a popular home remedy for everything. While cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is an amazing edible oil to have with everything, topical olive oil on the skin doesn’t bring about as much good.
Olive oil is super high in oleic acid (55 – 83%) which feeds Malassezia. It’s also a heavy oil and absorbs very slowly into the skin. In fact, research on the use of olive oil in SD found that olive oil may worsen seborrheic dermatitis and trigger a flare.
Olive oil is probably the worst oil you can put on your skin if you have seborrheic dermatitis.
If you don’t mind massaging animal fat into your face, you may have tried emu oil. This oil is derived directly from the fat of emus and is often used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
However, emu oil is rich in oleic acid which can feed Malassezia. It has also been compared to hydrocortisone cream and clotrimazole cream and found to be much less effective.
Further reading: Is emu oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Tamanu oil has a host of skin benefits. Lab and mouse studies show that tamanu oil down-regulates inflammatory cytokines and upregulates anti-inflammatory ones, soothing inflammed skin. It also has antibacterial activity against common acne bacteria. However, tamanu oil is rich and doesn’t absorb rapidly into the skin.
The oil also contains mostly long chain fatty acids and comprises of about 25% oleic acid. This can encourage Malassezia growth and irritate the skin further, aggravating seborrheic dermatitis. Tamanu oil is definitely one to avoid if you have SD.
Further reading: Is tamanu oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Marula oil is an awesome skin hydrator and has gained popularity in recent years thanks to brands like Drunk Elephant and The Ordinary. However, it also contains up to 78% oleic acid which not only feeds Malassezia but can also aggravate skin inflammation.
Sadly, marula oil is another no-no oil but you can read more about how to use marula oil safely here.
To wrap up
Avoid using any oils with long chain fatty acids when treating seborrheic dermatitis. These oils may aggravate the condition and make it worse. There are many other oils that can be used on your skin. Of these, my favorite is squalane oil.