Seborrheic dermatitis is an extremely common skin condition — there are more than 3 million cases per year in the U.S. — and it can be extremely embarrassing. It causes dandruff and rashes, usually on the face, and it's often chronic, which means as soon as you think it's gone ... it rears its ugly head again.
As a holistic practitioner, however, I find it to be one of the most satisfying conditions to treat. It responds very well to herbal medicine and natural remedies, and can easily be defeated with the right know-how.
One thing to keep in mind is that seborrheic dermatitis happens when the microbiome of the skin is out of balance. Just like the gut, the skin has its own microbiome: a miniature ecosystem with all sorts of microorganisms living there naturally. Seborrheic dermatitis has been linked specifically to a proliferation of fungi belonging to the genus Malassezia, which starts to overwhelm that tiny ecosystem in your skin.
Here are some of my favorite home remedies for keeping Malassezia in check, and to heal the skin and scalp:
Flaky Scalp Fixes
1. Apple Cider Vinegar Soak
Make a 50/50 tincture of organic apple cider vinegar and water (one part apple cider vinegar to one part water). Apply to the scalp 20 minutes before a shower. Wash hair with a high-quality natural shampoo.
Apple cider vinegar contains mallic acid, which reduces itchiness and is strongly anti-fungal. In addition, the enzymes in apple cider vinegar open the skin's pores, helping to release and dislodge the flakes, making this an ideal pre-shampoo treatment.
2. Coconut Cleanse
Apply pure coconut oil directly to your scalp before bed. Cover your hair with a shower cap and your pillow with a towel, and climb into bed. The next morning, wash hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner.
The fatty acids in coconut oil have natural anti-fungal properties that help eradicate excess Malassezia. Because coconut oil is nice and thick, it penetrates deeply into hair follicles, which is precisely where the bad fungi proliferate.
3. Overnight Oils
For a more active overnight treatment, mix five drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of neem oil. Work the oil blend into the scalp, cover with a shower cap, and go to bed. The next morning, wash out with a gentle shampoo.
Neem oil is well-known in Ayurvedic medicine for treating dandruff and benefiting the scalp. Rich in antioxidants, neem also has anti-fungal properties. When paired with tea tree oil, the fungus-killing benefits are enhanced, creating a powerful duo to clear flakes and stop dandruff in its tracks.
Face Rash Remedies
4. Jojoba & Lavender Soother
Mix 2 teaspoons jojoba with 3 drops lavender oil. Apply directly to the face two to three times per day.
Jojoba "oil" isn't actually an oil at all but a waxy substance that's much like the body’s sebum, which means it doesn’t clog pores or increase oiliness. Additionally, it has its own anti-inflammatory properties, is chock-full of vitamins, and is gentle on sensitive skin. Together with lavender, it creates an effective remedy to calm the skin, reduce inflammation, and restore health and vitality to the cells of the skin.
5. Manuka Mask
Warm up 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Mix in 1 teaspoon of manuka honey. Apply the mixture as a mask. Allow the ingredients to soak into the face for 5 to 10 minutes twice per week before washing off with warm water.
Manuka honey is considered an “active” honey with strong antibacterial, anti-fungal, and probiotic properties. It not only eliminates facial redness but also leaves the skin nourished and hydrated for an all-around healthy glow.
In addition to the treatments above, it’s a good idea to also avoid fungus-promoting foods such as sugar, alcohol, dried fruit, cheese, and yeast. Include such foods as garlic, onion, lemon, lime, ginger, and coconut oil for their therapeutic benefits.
*When starting any topical treatment, make sure to spot test a small area before applying fully to the face or scalp.
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