Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that affects the scalp, face, and neck. Seborrheic dermatitis sufferers often have oily skin that can be red and inflamed during an active flare. Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer for eczema and dry, flaky skin. But is shea butter good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Shea butter is a natural, plant-based oil that has been used in Africa and the Caribbean for centuries. Shea butter is known to be moisturizing and protective for the skin because it contains a high level of unsaturated fatty acids. Unfortunately, some products with shea butter can worsen seborrheic dermatitis as it can be too rich and cause clogged ducts.
Let’s take a deep dive:
What is shea butter?
Shea butter is a natural extract that comes from the fruit of the African shea tree, which grows in West Africa. Shea butter has been used for centuries as a moisturizer and in cosmetics. It’s also said to help with muscle soreness, eczema, and other skin conditions. In addition, shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which promote collagen regeneration and skin hydration.
Pure shea butter is solid even at warm temperatures and has an off-white color. Most people don’t use 100% shea butter oil but instead use moisturizers that contain shea butter.
Shea butter is not to be confused with cocoa butter, which is derived from the cacao bean.
Further reading: Is Cocoa Butter good for Seborrheic Dermatitis?
What problem does shea butter solve?
Shea butter has been shown to have a number of benefits for the skin, including accelerating wound healing and reducing inflammation.
It’s known for being a natural moisturizer. It is perfect for people with eczema, as it provides more moisture to the skin barrier and provides a protective layer to prevent moisture loss.
Shea butter is known to absorb quickly and soothe the skin, offering natural relief for eczema patients. It also helps reduce inflammation and itching, which can be helpful for seborrheic dermatitis sufferers.
Shea butter has cetyl esters that lock in moisture within the skin, leaving your skin soft and moist for a long time. It’s also less greasy than standard body butters, making it a great choice for those with oily skin and eczema.
Is shea butter good for seborrheic dermatitis?
One of the causes of seborrheic dermatitis is oily skin (high production of sebum). I’ve found that when a product is rich and heavy, it can make my skin oilier and cause clogged pores. This inevitably leads to exacerbation of my SD.
Shea butter also contains linoleic, palmitic, stearic and oleic fatty acids. These oils are amazing for dry skin and atopic eczema but when it comes to seborrheic dermatitis, I find it does more harm than good. In fact, some of these oils might feed Malassezia, worsening SD.
Having said that, shea butter has properties that are beneficial for SD. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-acne and can even help promote cell regeneration and boost collagen production.
Daily use of a suitable product containing shea butter can be helpful in treating seborrheic dermatitis. However, it can also cause flares. It is especially important to avoid using products that contain harsh chemicals and alcohols, which can irritate the skin even more than SD does already.
The trick here is to choose the right shea butter product for your skin so you can reap its benefits but not its negative effects.
How to treat seborrheic dermatitis with shea butter?
Topical corticosteroids are the first line of treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. Topical antifungals can be used in conjunction with topical corticosteroids. Calcineurin inhibitors have been shown to help with seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, but they should only be prescribed by a doctor if other methods have failed to work. But these are medications that should never be used long-term under any circumstances.
Most SD sufferers inevitably seek out natural and gentler treatments. Shea butter is completely natural, with no processing involved. In fact, it forms a solid at low temperatures, just like coconut oil does. So you don’t need to worry about it turning into liquid in your bathroom cabinet!
Never use 100% pure unrefined shea butter. It’s way too rich for seborrheic dermatitis skin.
However, there are plenty of wonderfully light and moisturizing creams that contain shea butter on the market. This way, you get to reap the benefits of shea butter without the heaviness.
Best shea butter moisturizers for seborrheic dermatitis
Shea butter is a natural skin healer and can help improve the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. However, even though shea butter absorbs easily and isn’t oily, it can still be too heavy for sensitive SD skin.
These are some light, non-SD aggravating moisturizers you can try:
This moisturizer is one of the cleanest I’ve seen. Made fresh in small batches every week, you have to use it within 6 months as there’s no preservatives. Made of everything good for SD – aloe vera, jojoba oil, green tea leaf extract, sweet almond oil and shea butter – this unscented moisturizer suits even the most sensitive of skins.
This cream is light and airy, rapidly absorbed and doesn’t leave an oily residue. It’s better suited for people with dry or dehydrated skin causing a rebound increase in sebum production.
This Korean brand uses steam emulsion to melt shea butter so it’s light and soft. The result is a gel-like cream that goes on easily and absorbs rapidly, leaving your skin moisturized but not greasy. If you have oily to combination skin, or live in a humid environment, this is the cream for you. Just make sure you get the ‘Fresh’ one and not ‘Moist’.
This lightweight moisturizer uses ethically sourced shea butter blended with black soap, tamarind extract and tea tree oil, which has anti-fungal properties that can help control SD. People with sensitive skin, rosacea, acne and SD swear that it has turned their skin around.
This one is for your eyes, especially if your eyelids are affected by SD. You can also use it on your face. It’s ingredient list is pretty clean and it doesn’t contain preservatives.
To wrap up
Moisturizers containing shea butter is excellent for seborrheic dermatitis. They are natural, affordable, and easy to find. Just make sure they are light-weight and don’t contain harsh chemicals. Shea butter also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help improve the condition of your skin.