Treating seborrheic dermatitis with tea tree oil is a well known and actively discussed method for directly fighting the bacteria that causes seborrheic dermatitis. This post outlines what tea tree oil is and the different methods in which people use it to combat seborrheic dermatitis.
Table of Contents
- 1 Tea Tree Oil Overview
- 2 Review of the Evidence
- 3 How To Use Tea Tree Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis
- 4 Carrier Oil Mixed With Tea Tree Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis
- 5 Shampoo Containing Tea Tree Oil Massaged Into Seborrheic Dermatitis Affect Skin
- 6 Soap Containing Tea Tree Oil Applied to Seborrheic Dermatitis
- 7 Washing Affected Skin with Anti-fungal Soap Containing Tea Tree Oil
- 8 Soothing Seborrheic Dermatitis with Tea Tree Oil Water Facial Rinse
- 9 Clay Mask Infused with Tea Tree Oil Against Seborrheic Dermatitis
- 10 My Personal Results with Using Tea Tree Oil to Combat Seborrheic Dermatitis
- 11 Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis with Tea Tree Oil Conclusion
Tea Tree Oil Overview
Tea tree oil is a popular essential oil known for it’s effective and natural ability to control fungus and bacteria. This natural remedy has been used throughout history for all sorts of skin ailments, ranging from acne to dandruff. It is believed to be beneficial due its antimicrobial properties, which it inherits from the leaves of the Narrow Leaved Paperbark tree.
Tea tree oil is available at most supermarkets and health stores. It is a fairly affordable essential oil averaging about $10 for 150ml. Additionally, it is added to many natural skincare products.
Many people believe that it is most effective if purchased separately (as a pure essential oil). This is due to additional processing that commercial products often undergo. These people recommend purchasing tea tree oil on it’s own and then diluting as required.
Update 2017: Though tea tree oil is one of most popular essentials oils used, it may not always be the best approach. My own regimen has changed over the years and currently I’ve created my own oil based formulation which is discussed here.
Review of the Evidence
Several studies examining the potential use of tea tree oil for seborrheic dermatitis appear to confirm it’s efficiency and generally support it’s use:
- A study including 120 twenty participants over the age of 14, showed a 5% tea tree oil shampoo showed a 41% improvement in overall symptoms (itchiness, redness, greasines), however, scaliness was not significantly effected (1)
- A lab study analyzing the anti-fungal ponteial of tea tree oil on various malassezia yeasts showed an average MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) of 0.25% for 90% of the yeast species (2)
How To Use Tea Tree Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis
There is a large variety of methods that can be used to implement tea tree oil into you seborrheic dermatitis fighting skin care regimen. The list below outlines each one and is in descending order of popularity. My comments on each method and how it worked for me can be found at the bottom in the “My Results” section.
Each of the methods below includes tea tree oil. Tea tree oil can strongly irritate the eyes and should never be left on the skin near the eyes. Do not get the tea tree oil in your eyes! If you experience eye irritation please get the advice of a licensed health care practitioner.
Carrier Oil Mixed With Tea Tree Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis
The most popular and most widely used method for fighting seborrheic dermatitis using tea tree oil is a simple mixture of carrier oil and tea tree oil. This method is simple and straight forward. Simply mix about 90 parts carrier oil with 10 parts tea tree oil and apply to seborrheic dermatitis affected skin.
The solution should be left on the skin for 5-10 minutes and simply washed of with a warm wash cloth. If you find that your skin is overly greasy you can use a gentle cleanser to remove the excess oil. However, cleansing after this method can take away from it’s effectiveness. If you choose not to cleanse your skin, it will likely take time to adjust to the excess oil.
Most popular carrier oils are coconut oil, sesame seed oil, or extra virgin coconut oil. The most popular specifically for seborrheic dermatitis is coconut oil, however, I do not fully agree with this (see my results below).
If you plan on using this method it is advised to start slow. At first try a smaller concentration of tea tree oil on a very small area of skin. For example, you can start with a ratio of 95 parts carrier oil to 5 parts tea tree oil and apply this solution behind you ear (or any other non-visible area of skin). This can help you gauge how your skin reacts and help decide if this method is right for you.
Shampoo Containing Tea Tree Oil Massaged Into Seborrheic Dermatitis Affect Skin
This method is likely very popular due to it’s high availability and marketing associated with these specific products. The marketing on many of the shampoos that contain tea tree oil have labelling which indicates they are to be used for hair and scalp affected by dandruff (aka seborrheic dermatitis).
Many people, however, do not just use these shampoos to fight against seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp (dandruff), but also on other parts of the body (mainly facial seborrheic dermatitis).
When using a tea tree containing shampoo please check the ingredients and try to choose one with the least number of ingredients possible. This will help ensure the purity of the shampoo and lessen the chance of allergies to other ingredients.
Just like the previous method, it is advised to start with a small non-visible area of the skin and see how you react. One such area is typically behind the ear or the scalp itself. Seeing as it is a shampoo many people go ahead and just try it as a shampoo.
Many of the shampoos are most effective if left on the skin for about 5 minutes. This gives time for the tea tree oil to do its job. Once the time is up, simply rinse and wash off.
If you plan on using this method to control seborrheic dermatitis on the face. It is recommended to actually use conditioner instead as it is more moisturising than shampoo.
Soap Containing Tea Tree Oil Applied to Seborrheic Dermatitis
This method is similar to the shampoo method above. Simply lather the tea tee oil infused soap on the skin affected with seborrheic dermatitis, leave it on for a few minutes and rinse off.
Once again, it is advised to go for soaps which contain a simple and short list of ingredients. This helps to minimize adverse reactions and improve effectiveness.
The reason why this method ranks below the shampoo one is that most soaps are very drying. Especially if left to soak into the skin. As most people already know dry skin will greatly accelerate the flaking caused by seborrheic dermatitis.
Then why not rinse off immediately? Well, it’s because the tea tree oil needs time to successfully kill the bacteria which is causing the seborrheic dermatitis. Thus I believe a tea tree oil infused soap is not the best for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
Washing Affected Skin with Anti-fungal Soap Containing Tea Tree Oil
There are also specialty anti-fungal soaps on the market. Many of which contain tea tree as one of the key anti-fungals. These soaps typically also include things such as neem oil, peppermint oil and other popular anti-fungal essential oils.
The biggest problem with this particular method is that the combination of strong anti-fungal essential oils is often far too strong for seborrheic dermatitis affected skin. In addition, this wide assortment of anti-fungal ingredients increases the chance of an adverse reaction.
If you plan on using this method please follow the instructions included on the packaging of your particular soap. Once again, it’s recommended to test the soap on a small patch of skin not easily visible. Also it’s advised, that you try diluting your first lather with extra water.
Update 2017: From further research, it is my opinion that if you facing seborrheic dermatitis, soap usage should be minimized. The damage it causes to the natural moisture barrier may be preventing your skin from healing. You can find my most recent findings organized in the Seborrheic Dermatitis – The Owner’s Manual.
Soothing Seborrheic Dermatitis with Tea Tree Oil Water Facial Rinse
This method is the least likely of the above to have adverse effects. Simply mix a few drops of pure tea tree oil in about a half cup of purified water (purified either through boiling or through reverse osmosis). Then simply take this solution and gently apply it to the skin using your finger.
Do not overly massage it into the skin, just simply dab it on. Try to thoroughly cover the skin affected by seborrheic dermatitis. Once you have used up all of the solution, you can either rinse the skin with cold water (less effective) or leave it on to air dry (more effective). Rinsing off, however, will help minimize any adverse effects you may have.
Clay Mask Infused with Tea Tree Oil Against Seborrheic Dermatitis
Another method for fighting seborrheic dermatitis with tea tree oil is in the form of a clay mask. For this method you will need to purchase a clay mask product (betonite clay masks are very popular) and a small bottle of tea tree oil.
Prepare the clay mask according to the instructions listed on the packaging and simply add a few drops of tea tree oil. Once the tea tree oil is mixed in, simply continue with the directions provided on the clay mask packaging.
Please note, that applying tea tree oil to the clay mask will likely increase it’s drying affect, thus it’s recommended that you apply the mask for a shorter amount of time than specified.
This method has the benefit of allowing the tea tree oil to deeply penetrate the seborrheic dermatitis affected skin. In turn this allows its anti-fungal properties to really do their job.
My Personal Results with Using Tea Tree Oil to Combat Seborrheic Dermatitis
Personally after trying all the solutions outlined above, tea tree oil did not prove to be a lasting solution for my seborrheic dermatitis problem.
The most effective method of application was the carrier oil one. It worked wonderfully for a short period of time (roughly about two weeks). After the first application, I was truly amazed and thought my seborrheic dermatitis problems will be a thing of the past. However, as time went by, this method lost its effectiveness and actually started to irritate my skin.
After the initial success of the carrier oil method, I went on to try all the other methods outlined above. None of them were any more successful then the carrier oil method. Many actually did solve the flaking and dryness issues, but in turn, they left my skin red and inflamed.
Perhaps, I overused the tea tree oils and my skin started to treat tea tree oil as an allergen. Perhaps, it did something to my natural skin biology and the anti-fungal effect was just too strong for regular application. To this day I am unsure why it abruptly stopped working and instead started to agitate my skin.
Update 2017: My current skin care regimen (since August 2015) is outlined in the My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0 post. It relies on a formulation designed after a year of success with my previous regimen.
Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis with Tea Tree Oil Conclusion
Since tea tree oil did work tremendously well (for me) during the first weeks of use, I recommend that anyone suffering with seborrheic dermatitis gives it a try. Additionally, there are many other people online which highly recommend it specifically for seborrheic dermatitis and some even claim that it has cured their seborrheic dermatitis for good.
Maybe tea tree oil is exactly what your skin needs in its fight against seborrheic dermatitis. Feel free to give a try. If it works for your skin, make sure to leave some details in the comments below for other readers who plan on treating seborrheic dermatitis with tea tree oil.