Don’t be Flaky! Natural Alternatives for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on May 8, 2013 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Topical corticosteroids are very effective at reducing inflammation in conditions such as eczema and seborrheic dermatitis (via suppressing the immune response), but chronic use can cause thinning of the epidermal layer of the skin, including the scalp. This makes the epidermis much more vulnerable to damage and infection, and reduces the protection that it provides us. When the topical steroid is discontinued, many users experience a ‘rebound’ effect of extremely worsened symptoms. As well, both the seborrheic dermatitis and damage from the corticosteroids, can lead to or worsen hair loss. It really becomes a vicious cycle!
A soothing and healing natural alternative to topical steroids? Massaging your scalp several times a week with a 50:50 blend of certified organic coconut oil and neem oil (leave in overnight to maximize benefit). Neem oil smells quite ‘medicinal,’ but it’s excellent for flaky-type skin & scalp issues (worth the smell – really!). Both coconut and neem oils are anti-inflammatory and moisturizing, helping to soothe and repair damaged skin.
Add a few drops of essentials oils for additional therapeutic benefit, such as lavender, helichrysum (aka everlasting, immortelle), chamomile, tea tree oil, and rosemary (verbenone ct only). Use 1 drop of each essential oil (5 drops total in a blend) per 1 Tablespoon of coconut/neem oil. Apply a couple of drops of the blend of oils on a small area of your forearm first (leave on for 20 minutes) before applying to your scalp, to make sure you don’t have a sensitivity to any of them. If you experience redness or discomfort on your arm, wash off with soap & water. These particular essential oils are very well-tolerated and are especially healing, anti-inflammatory and rejuvenative (repairing) to damaged cells.
I recommend to use certified organic essential oils and pressed oils, inasmuch as possible, including for topical application. Chemicals including pesticides and herbicides from conventional crop-growing methods, as well as solvent residues from commercial processing, are fat-soluble and easily concentrated in oils. These can not only further irritate inflamed scalp tissue, but also enter into the body and end up having internal effects, as well.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan