Because seborrheic dermatitis is a long-term condition, a patient may need to undergo repeated treatments before symptoms fully go away. There might also be instances when the condition can return. However, the Mayo Clinic points out that flare-ups can be managed through recognition of seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and by practicing self-care steps and taking certain medications.1
Natural Treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis
The following may work as homemade and natural remedies for seborrheic dermatitis:2,3
• Aloe vera: The anti-inflammatory properties of this plant can help reduce the severity of flare-ups that occur, and assist in cooling the scalp and relieving itchiness and irritation. Studies have revealed that aloe vera extract can be effective in treating this condition, while supplements containing the extract or aloe vera gel may help suppress flare-ups.
• Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Seborrheic dermatitis patients can use ACV to their advantage, as it loosens the scales on the scalp, and can lessen inflammation in the affected area/s too.
• Raw honey:4 Its antibacterial and antifungal properties may eliminate the microbes causing the condition and the dandruff that goes with it. Furthermore, raw honey draws moisture to the skin and locks it in, allowing the skin to remain supple.
• Krill oil supplement: Usually, fish oil supplements are recommended to help with subduing flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis that are caused by allergies. It might be advantageous to skip fish oil supplements and use krill oil instead, since the latter:
Also contains beneficial omega-3 fats that can improve health
Tends to be more potent than fish oil
Has phospholipids that serve as carriers for the omega-3 fats and can be readily absorbed by the body
Contains phosphatidylcholine that can benefit the brain and liver, because it's composed partly of choline, the precursor for the important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine
Can positively influence genetic expression and metabolism, as proven by various studies
Can resist oxidation
Is contaminant-free and environmentally sustainable
Helps regulate the mitochondrial respiratory chain; fish oil does not
• High-quality probiotics: In some instances, probiotics may be recommended for dermatitis cases, especially among children. Probiotic strains like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are known to boost the immune system and control allergies.5
However, there isn't much research expounding on the link between probiotics and potential effects on seborrheic dermatitis. There's no harm in adding high-quality probiotic supplements or other sources to your routine, though, since they can promote better digestive health and help reduce inflammatory issues throughout the body. These oils can be useful as natural cures for seborrheic dermatitis, too:6,7
• Olive oil:8 Applying some of this oil onto the scalp can soften it and allow you to easily get rid of the crusts or flakes by using a comb.
• Coconut oil: Dandruff is common among people with seborrheic dermatitis. Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid that possesses antiviral, antibacterial, analgesic and antifungal properties that can help alleviate the condition.
• Tea tree oil: For seborrheic dermatitis patients, this essential oil can be helpful in alleviating the condition because of its antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory capabilities. However, because tea tree oil is strong, diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil is a must.
• Primrose, black currant seed and borage oils: These oils may have properties that can assist with decreasing seborrheic dermatitis-caused flare-ups and reduce itching and redness. Just like with tea tree oil, combine these with a carrier oil before applying on the affected area/s.
If you're thinking about using any of the essential oils mentioned above, consult a physician or health expert first and take an allergen patch test to determine if your skin is sensitive to your chosen essential oil.
Conventional Treatment Methods for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Ideally, any of the natural remedies mentioned should be considered first when treating this condition, instead of conventional "cures" for seborrheic dermatitis that include medicated shampoos, creams and lotions. If natural treatments don't work, consult a dermatologist or a physician about trying conventional treatments. Just remember that there are drawbacks linked to them, as detailed below, so tread with caution:9
✓ Creams, shampoos or ointments that control inflammation: Corticosteroids like prescription-strength hydrocortisone, fluocinolone or desonide (Desowen or Desonide) may be prescribed.
Unfortunately, if you use any of these for many weeks or months without a break, side effects can include thinning of the skin or appearance of streaks or lines.
Corticosteroids in general can prompt complications like ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding, higher risk for heart disease and infections and reduced bone density, to name a few.10
✓ Antifungal shampoo that's alternated with stronger medication: This refers to the combination of ketoconazole shampoo alongside a clobetasol scalp product (Temovate) that may be used twice a week.
However, the antifungal ingredient ketoconazole may actually irritate the scalp when used for more than twice a week.
A study also discovered that using shampoos containing this ingredient resulted in hair that's harder to comb, is less smooth and is frizzier.11
Some of the side effects linked to clobetasol include itching, tightness of the scalp, headaches, folliculitis, burning sensations and scalp pustules.12
Antifungal medication in pill form: Your physician may recommend terbinafine (Lamisil), an antifungal medicine. However, this isn't used often because it can trigger allergic reactions and liver problems.
Medicines that affect the immune system: Some physicians might suggest that patients apply creams or lotions containing calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus (Proptopic) and pimecrolimus (Elide).
Sadly, these aren't first-choice treatments because they cost more and may actually lead to a higher cancer risk.
Bacteria-fighting creams or gels: Metronidazole, either in cream or gel form, may be recommended for seborrheic dermatitis patients.
But this is actually an antibiotic that can prompt allergic reactions like hives, breathing difficulties or swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, and possibly even lead to worse complications if used more frequently.13
Light therapy with medication: This involves a combination of psoralen and photochemotherapy, or light therapy. The patient first takes the psoralen orally or applies it onto affected skin, and the skin is then exposed to ultraviolet light.
This treatment isn't recommended for people with thick hair.