The post will look at the most popular methods used to treat seborrheic dermatitis in the ears, on the ears and behind the ears. Both commercial and natural/holistic seborrheic dermatitis treatments are covered.
More specifically, this article is a thorough review of the seborrheic dermatitis treatment approaches that have proven most effective for others across the web. It is to be used as a general reference point and attempts to cover a wide variety of approaches.
My experience with each of the treatments is also provided. The treatment method that worked best for me (discussed towards the bottom) is also outlined in more detail in a different post, found here: My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0.
This article is quite long and you may not have enough patience to read through the whole thing. Out of all treatments discussed, I suggest you at-least have a look at apple cider vinegar, my own custom formulation, restoraderm, nystatin, and honey.
Table of Contents
- 1 My History with Seborrheic Dermatitis in the Ears
- 2 Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 Tea Tree Oil
- 4 Dietary Changes – Avoiding Certain Foods
- 5 Anti-Fungal Shampoos
- 6 Anti-Fungal Creams, Lotions, and Soaps
- 7 Topical Vitamin C Serum
- 8 Topical Arginine
- 9 Cleansing Inside and Behind the Ear With Raw Honey
- 10 My Own Custom Formulation
- 11 Cetaphil Restoraderm Products
- 12 Conclusion to Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis in Ears
My History with Seborrheic Dermatitis in the Ears
Initially my seborrheic dermatitis started on my scalp. This was long before I knew that it was even called seborrheic dermatitis. At that time I simply thought it’s name was dandruff (which technically is seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp). Then one day I noticed a strange irritation on the inside of my nasal folds.
Long story short, this irritation spread and spread. Dermatologist prescribed anti-biotic and anti-fungal creams did little to stop the spreading. It’s not that they didn’t work, it’s just that they either worked only initially or were not suitable for long term use. About a year later I had a real problem on my hands. My facial skin was splotchy, inflamed, and covered in flaky patches.
Fast forward 3 years and countless hours of researching seborrheic dermatitis, I now have things under control. At-least, for the most part. The area which has kind of stuck around, lingering in the back, has been my ears. However, the seborrheic dermatitis in my ears now, is different. It’s much milder and the skin doesn’t appear to be damaged. The only real issue is that flaking sometimes still occurs inside the ear. Luckily it’s not overly noticeable.
Somewhere along the way, I had also decided to start summarizing and documenting my research. The original plan was to write a book and sell it on Amazon. But something deep inside just wanted to give it away. As a result, plans changed and the complete book is now available online for free for everyone.
Apple Cider Vinegar
One of the most popular natural treatments for seborrheic dermatitis in the ears is apple cider vinegar. From my research it seems that the main constituent responsible for this is the malic acid. Malic has been been shown to control bacteria and create and environment unfriendly to their reproduction.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar In and Behind the Ears
To use apple cider vinegar for the ears simply mix it with water using a 1 to 1 ratio. Once mixed, use a cotton cloth-pad to wipe and cleanse the ears with this mixture. It’s typically recommended to leave the apple cider vinegar on the skin for a 10-15 minutes. This allows it to really soak in and do it’s job.
When first starting out, it’s a good idea to try with a small area of skin and see how it reacts. Another thing you can do is start with a small concentration. Once your skin adapts, gradually increase the concentration to a more desirable one.
Some people swear by using pure apple cider vinegar without diluting it. This is especially a good option for the ears as the skin is typically less sensitive. However, pure apple cider vinegar tends to be quite strong, especially, if you skin is not yet use to the acidity. Again it’s probably a good idea to start off slow and build up to using it pure.
For a more in-depth analysis of the apple cider vinegar check out my post dedicated to it.
Tea Tree Oil
One of the most famous essential oils out there. A quick peek through the natural beauty care section at the supermarket will uncover a wide variety of tea tree based anti-dandruff shampoos. Clearly this method has some weight behind it.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the arrow-leaved paperbark tree. The oil has been show to have diverse antimicrobial properties. The reason why it has been shown to help with seborrheic dermatitis, is that it can destroy the bacteria which is believe to cause it.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil
The tea tree oil alone is quite strong and can easily irritate the skin. The most common method to use tea tree oil is mixing it with a carrier oil. A carrier oil basically dilutes the tea tree oil, making it suitable for topical application. The most popular carrier oils are coconut oil, olive oil, and hemp seed oil. A concentration of about 5 drops of tea tree oil per teaspoon of carrier oil is the most common. However, I’ve found this number to vary from person to person.
Once you have mixed up a tea tree oil solution, simply dab it on the effect skin on your ears. Leave this mixture on and allow to soak in for maximal effectiveness. Some people prefer to wash it off, while others leave it on.
For a more detailed analysis of tea tree oil for seborrheic dermatitis you can see my previous post here.
Dietary Changes – Avoiding Certain Foods
This specific seborrheic dermatitis treatment approach has quite a large number of variables. This makes it really hard to pin-point any specific foods that can cause seborrheic dermatitis.
Everyones genetics are different. People from different parts of the world grow up on different diets. From my point of view, the biggest mistake people make is believing many of the myths going around the internet.
For the longest period of time I was convinced that gluten was the cause of my seborrheic dermatitis. After attempting to go gluten free for almost a whole year, I came to the conclusion that it definitely was not the cause of my issues. Additionally, I found it a huge struggle to avoid products containing gluten.
Commonly Discussed Items – Everybody is Different!
The experiences of people all over the internet do point to a few key dietary irritants that keep coming up. These are dairy, gluten, fruit, and night-shades. However, I really believe that specifically outlined foods like this can lead to issues.
The best thing to do, is simply keep a log book. Stop trying to over-think things. Listen to your body and see what it’s telling you and not what others on the people are telling you. Perhaps by learning to listen to your body you will also get rid of that pesky seborrheic dermatitis in your ears.
My experience in this area is quite complex and will be discussed in a later post. Once that post is up, I’ll make sure to link it here.
Shampoos are meant for the head, however, this hasn’t kept people from using them elsewhere. I’ve even been recommended to use head and shoulders on my face by a dermatologist (to control facial seborrheic dermatitis).
To use an anti-dandruff shampoo or conditioner for the seborrheic dermatitis in your ears, simply apply a pea sized amount to the ear. Once applied, leave it on for 3-5 minutes and rinse off with water. Simple as that.
Common Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoos
The most commonly used shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis are:
- Head and Shoulders (zinc pyrithione)
- Neutrogena T-Gel (coal tar)
- Nizoral (ketoconazole)
- Selsun Blue (selenium sulfide)
- JASON Natural Dandruff Relief (sulfur + salicylic acid)
For me, I’ve found that anti-dandruff conditioners works much better for fighting the seborrheic dermatitis in the ears. Typically, conditioners are more moisturizing then shampoos. Since your not really aiming to clean your ear, but simply to control the seborrheic dermatitis, this seems to be good alternative.
My experience with using anti-fungal shampoos has been very positive, especially, for the ears. It seems that the skin inside the ear is much less sensitive then regular facial skin. Using anti-fungal shampoos or conditioners on my facial skin would often leave it feeling unhealthy and overly bare. However, inside and behind the ears, this was not a problem. Though with time, I decided to steer away from all the commercial anti-fungal products. My opinion is that symbiosis is the way to go.
Anti-Fungal Creams, Lotions, and Soaps
There are products currently on the market that contain the same active ingredients discussed in the shampoo section above. However, these products come in the form of creams, lotions, or sprays aimed at other areas of the body. The directions for each cream should be listed on the packaging.
Most Common Anti-Fungal Products
Here are the most popular products available (most of which, I’ve personally tried):
- Noble Formula Zinc Cream (zinc pyrithione) – tried this
- DermaZinc Cream (zinc pyrithione)
- Noble Formula Bar Soap (zinc pyrithione) – tried this
- DermaZinc Soap (zinc pyrithione)
- SAL3 Cleansing Bar (sulfur + salicylic acid) – tried this
- MG217 Medicated Tar (coal tar)
- Soap Works Coal Tar Bar Soap (coal tar)
In addition to this list, people have reported using jock itch creams. Plus, there are also many prescription anti-fungal creams available. For these, simply talk your doctor.
My experience with many of these products has been the same as with the anti-fungal shampoos. Overall they worked really well for controlling the seborrheic dermatitis in the ears.
The biggest benefit was that they were designed for general use (as compared to shampoos). The creams and lotions were much more suited for applying and leaving on. However, some products were far to greasy for my liking. In the end I just didn’t feel like this category of products was a good long term solution for me.
Nystain – Anti-fungal Cream
True, this technically does apply to the section above. However, this specific anti-fungal was brought to my attention by one of the readers (Joakim) here on the site. He has been using a nystatin based cream to treat his seborrheic dermatitis with great success.
His method has been confirmed by several other readers as well. So it’s definitely worth taking a look at.
In most countries nystatin is available only through prescription. It is a well documented and widely used anti-fungal agent.
Topical Vitamin C Serum
There actually isn’t too much information out there about this approach. Originally I found it while looking through stuff on curezone. One guy basically said that by both supplementing with vitamin c and applying a homemade vitamin c serum topically, he was able to get rid of his seborrheic dermatitis issues. You can find that original thread here.
When looking around the web for other input on this approach, the information available is quite sparse. Vitamin C serum is, however, quite popular in the skin care community. It’s most common use is to help fight wrinkles, blemishes and other small imperfections.
How to Make a Simple Vitamin C Serum
To make a simple Vitamin C serum all you need is a bit of water and some pure ascorbic acid. The most common ratio to make the serum is 1 part ascorbic acid to 4 parts water. This is roughly 1/2 a teaspoon of ascorbic acid per 1 tablespoon of water. It is recommended to use distilled water for maximum results. However, I found it made no difference. Make sure to thoroughly mix the two and simply apply the solution to your seborrheic dermatitis effected ears. Rinsing of is optional, but I found that it can make the skin sticky.
Vitamin C serum is best when it is freshly mixed. When exposed to water, ascorbic acid, begins to quickly loose it anti-oxidant potential.
You can purchase ascorbic acid in the health and supplements section of almost any supermarket, by visiting a health food store, or by ordering it on-line from Amazon.
Most of the Vitamin C on the market seems to be extracted from corn or synthesized in a lab. Some people have concerns with this. However, if you think about it, our body synthesis many of its own requirements. So the ability for specialists to synthesis vitamin C in a lab environment does not necessarily mean there is something artificial about it.
This method isn’t really discussed on any of the on-line skin care communities/forums. However, much of the medical literature suggests that it could be quite effective for treating seborrheic dermatitis in the ears.
Currently arginine based creams are mainly marketed to improving circulation for arthritis and moisturizing skin in people with diabetes. My hypothesis, however, is that it can be quite effective in restoring the skins own natural defenses by improving/normalize circulation in the area.
This is Not a Tested Method
As of this writing, I have not yet tried this method. Mainly because I have gotten my seborrheic dermatitis under control. However, I plan on making my own home made serum and seeing how it works out on the rare seborrheic dermatitis that pops up in/around my ears.
For reference here are some studies which look at it’s topical effectiveness:
This method is highlighted here mainly for discussion purposes. However, here is an interesting product I’ve found that contains Arginine, Hyaluronic Acid, and Vitamin C all in one. Perhaps it’s something worth looking into.
Cleansing Inside and Behind the Ear With Raw Honey
Raw honey is one of the most powerful natural methods to combat seborrheic dermatitis. It has been discussed in great detail in a previous article, but here I’m discussing it’s use specifically for seborrheic dermatitis in the ears and behind the ears.
How to Use Raw Honey for the Ears
The most common way to use raw honey to fight seborrheic dermatitis is by mixing with equal parts water. This mixture is then applied to the skin, left to do its thing for ~3 hours, and then rinsed off with water.
For me it wasn’t really a workable approach for the ears. I found that I often forget about the honey and would sticky up my phone. So instead I would just wash the ears with the honey and simply rinse off right away. If I was having a shower, I’d apply it beforehand and rinse off towards the end of the shower.
Overall I felt like this was quite a effective solution. However, I haven’t used this method for quite a while simply because the method I go over next, has been easier.
My Own Custom Formulation
After about a year or so using Restoraderm products to successfully manage my seborrheic dermatitis, they ceased to stop working.
At about the same time (based on this research I had been collecting for the ebook) experimentation began trying to make my own solution.
Formulation after formulation nothing seemed to be producing much results. Then towards the end of August (2015), one of the formulas cleared my skin within days. I was blown away. At first I thought maybe my results were just a rare occurrence.
However, as I continued to use the solution, my results stuck and my skin remained clear.
Based on this, I decided to offer the formula out to community members of this website (to see how it worked for larger number of people). As the feedback came in, other users were reporting results similar to mine.
At that moment, I knew I was on to something. I decided to call the formulation BIOM8 and have made it available for everyone around the world who wishes to give it a try.
The details of my approach and how I use the formulation can be found here:
Be sure to checkout the comments section and the reviews for a ton of supplementary information.
Cetaphil Restoraderm Products
Throughout my whole time looking for a solution for seborrheic dermatitis, this product never came up. When I realized that seborrheic dermatitis and eczema are very similar, I started trying all the eczema products out on the market. This product came up with highly favorable reviews, but no one mentioned using it for seborrheic dermatitis.
Unfortunately, at at first I decided to go for the Cerave products instead, which didn’t work. After the Cerave came a long list of other eczema products, which also didn’t seem to do much. After a certain amount of time, I scrapped this approach and went back on the forums looking for the “root cause” of the seborrheic dermatitis. Fast forward about a year and a sample of pack the Restoraderm fell into my hands (wash and moisturizer).
These products worked really well at keeping my skin clean and seborrheic dermatitis free for about a year. Sometimes the skin would remain sensitive, but overall they worked better then practically everything I tried before. Yet after about a year or so (about the same time my samples ran our and I finally purchased my first bottle), it ceased to stop working.
Coincidentally, the gap between when this product stopped working and when I created was only a few weeks.
How To Use Restoraderm in the Ears
For the seborrheic dermatitis in my ears, I used to simply wash the ears with the body wash each time I am in the shower. Once I’m out of the shower, I would let me skin air dry a bit and apply the moisturizer. Since I didn’t use this product to actually wash my body, it would last for quite a long time.
You can find details on this whole regimen outlined the original: My Seborrheic Dermatitis Regimen. There are some small details, which have been left out to keep things super simple and straightforward.
Conclusion to Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis in Ears
As you can probably now tell, there is quite a lot of options for treating the seborrheic dermatitis in the ears. Some of them are more natural and appealing then others.
The BIOM8, Restoraderm, apple cider vinegar, and raw honey were my favorite out of the ones mentioned in this post.
If you want more details on the my own approach check out this post: My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0. If you want to learn everything I’ve discovered about seborrheic dermatitis so far, have a look at the Seborrheic Dermatitis – The Owner’s Manual.
If you have any questions, want to discuss seborrheic dermatitis ear treatments further (or share your own approach) drop a comment below.
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)