Is tamanu oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?

Tamanu oil is recommended for all sorts of skin ailments due its antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Even though tamanu oil is recommended by some experts as a natural remedy for seborrheic dermatitis, there is no evidence it helps the condition. In fact, tamanu oil may clog pores, cause greasy skin, encourage Malassezia growth and irritate the skin.

Let’s take a deep dive:

What is tamanu oil?

Tamanu oil is derived from the seeds of the tamanu nut tree. Tamanu oil has a noteworthy look and smell. In its purest form, it has a thick consistency, a dark green color, and a distinct deep, earthy, nutty scent (which admittedly may be off-putting to some).

Tamanu oil is not an essential oil but can be used as a carrier oil to dilute essential oils, or alone to moisturize and heal the skin. This fatty nut oil is inedible and should never be ingested.

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Benefits of tamanu oil

Tamanu oil has a range of benefits that make it a great choice for skin care. Tamanu oil is a rich moisturizer and is great for dry skin.

Tamanu oil is antibacterial and antifungal, which can help fight bacteria and fungus on the skin. It has an antimicrobial effect against the bacteria that usually causes acne. The oil is also commonly used as a natural remedy for athlete’s foot.

Tamanu oil is also anti-inflammatory, which can soothe eczema, inflammatory acne and seborrheic dermatitis. You can also use tamanu oil to restore the skin after aggressive procedures, such as peeling.

This fatty oil is also often used in skin care products, specifically anti-aging creams It is rich in fatty acids, anti-oxidants and can promote collagen production. In fact, a 2009 lab study showed that tamanu oil could absorb UV light and inhibit 85% of the DNA damage caused by UV radiation. 

Is tamanu oil an antifungal?

In lab studies, tamanu oil has been shown to have stronger antifungal activity against Candida and Aspergilllus than fluconazole. I didn’t find any studies looking at the effect of tamanu oil against Malassezia specifically. If you know of any, let me know in the comments below.

Is tamanu oil good for seborrheic dermatitis?

Tamanu oil has been recommended by many experts as a natural remedy for seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff and itchy scalp. Certainly, this oil has a lot of research behind it, especially when it comes to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Certain compounds in tamanu oil have been shown to down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and up-regulate anti-inflammatory cytokines, soothing the skin. A mouse study showed that tamanu oil decreased capillary permeability and reduced inflammation.

However, tamanu oil is mostly made up of stearic acid,oleic acid, linoleic acid and palmitic acid. People with seborrheic dermatitis have a heightened sensitivity to oleic acid. It can cause even more inflammation when our skin barrier is already damaged and our inflammatory response is in full swing.

Plus, long-chain fatty acids feed Malassezia, the yeast that plays a pivotal role in seborrheic dermatitis.

Also, tamanu oil is rich and oily. It’s not easily absorbed by the skin at all. This leads to a greasy feeling and clogged pores. The same goes for applying it on your scalp. I can see some benefit in using tamanu oil as a pre-shampoo treatment but I would never apply tamanu oil after shampooing because it will make my scalp and hair greasy. And we all know what happens when our scalp is greasy – flakes and itch galore!

Long story short, tamanu oil has proven skin benefits but applying pure tamanu oil as a natural remedy for seborrheic dermatitis will probably cause more harm than good. To reap the benefits of tamanu oil without the risks, use skincare products that contain tamanu oil as an ingredient instead of the oil itself.

How to use tamanu oil for seborrheic dermatitis?

Tamanu oil is best used as a small part of your skincare product, for example, as an ingredient in your moisturizer. You can find tamanu oil in creams, lotions, shampoos, conditioners and even cleansers.

This body butter is made of 100% whipped tamanu oil, making it easier to absorb into the skin:

Au Natural Organics Tamanu Butter – Dry Skin, Body & Hair Moisturizer | 100% Pure Natural Cold Pressed | Reduce Brown Spots, Sun Damage, Scars, Rashes, Wrinkles | Regenerates Skin Tissue | 9 Oz 266 MlCheck it out on Amazon

Tamanu oil shampoos are known to be soothing. This one also contains witch hazel for clarifying toxins:

Rated Green - Tamanu Oil Soothing Scalp Shampoo for Sensitive and Troubled Scalp - 13.52 fl. Oz. - Women & MenCheck it out on Amazon

If you are keen to try pure tamanu oil, here are some ways you can try it:

Using tamanu oil on your face

Tamanu oil is a rich, fatty oil which is very moisturizing on dry skin. However, it’s a bit too rich for the sensitive skin of the face. This heavy oil tends to clog pores and leave your skin feeling greasy. The best way to use tamanu oil on your face is as an oil cleanse prior to using your regular cleanser.

If you have dry skin, you can also add a few drops of tamanu oil to your regular moisturizer. Remember, a bit goes a long way.

Using tamanu oil on your scalp

Tamanu oil is best used as a hot-oil treatment prior to shampooing. Massage it in your hands to warm up the oil and gently massage onto the scalp. Once the scalp is fully covered you can smooth any remaining oil onto the hair. Rinse off after 10-15 minutes and shampoo as usual.

You can even take 3-4 drops of tamanu oil and mixed it into either your shampoo or conditioner. This will replenish the hair and scalp in a more diluted way.

You can also use tamanu oil as an overnight hair and scalp mask. Just make sure you wash out all the residue the morning after.

For more benefit, add a few drops of essential oils like chamomile oil, geranium oil, or peppermint oil. Read more about the best essential oils for seborrheic dermatitis.

Before using tamanu oil, make sure you perform a spot test. Apply the oil to a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is any reaction.

If you’ve used tamanu oil a few times and find that your skin feels greasy or congested, stop using the oil. It’s not right for you.

Side effects of tamanu oil

Tamanu oil is safe to use even if you have an allergy to nuts and is generally well tolerated. The most common side effect of topically applied tamanu oil is that it could clog your pores.  There is also a small risk of an allergic reaction or skin irritation. However, this is unlikely to happen unless you have very sensitive skin.

Unfortunately, as tamanu oil contains many long-chain fatty acids including oleic acid, it may encourage malassezia growth and worsen skin inflammation if you have seborrheic dermatitis.

Even though tamanu oil is a plant-based natural oil, you cannot ingest tamanu oil or use it to cook.

To wrap up

Even though tamanu oil has good anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, it can clog pores, encourage Malassezia growth and worsen seborrheic dermatitis. I don’t recommend tamanu oil as a natural remedy for the condition.

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