8 Best Facial Cleansers for Seborrheic Dermatitis [2020]
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8 Best Facial Cleansers for Seborrheic Dermatitis

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best facial cleanser seborrheic dermatitis
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE, ORGANIC ZELEN Life Cleanser
BEST FOR UNCOMPLICATED SKINCARE Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser
BEST FOR COMBINATION SKIN DDF Sensitive Skin Cleansing Gel

 

As a dermatologist, seborrheic dermatitis is one of the most frequent conditions I see and talk about in my office.

One of the most common questions that pop up is the ideal skincare routine for seborrheic dermatitis, which may sound like a complicated term, but it affects around 1 in every 20 persons worldwide.(1)

One of the most important aspects of healthy skin is optimum cleansing. So I will talk about the best facial cleansers for seborrheic dermatitis for balanced cleansing and maintenance of the skin’s ecosystem, which is skewed in facial eczemas like seborrheic dermatitis.

It is important to handle it very gently while cleansing it thoroughly at the same time because uncleansed skin is also irritation inducing on the skin.

In this article, I will discuss what to keep in mind while selecting a facial wash for seborrheic dermatitis, common mistakes to avoid, and then some of the best products that we recommend.

I will also talk about the pros and cons of the products and who would benefit the most out of it.

Let us begin by talking about the considerations while buying a cleanser for seborrheic dermatitis.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Cleanser
  • Gentle yet powerful cleanse, suitable for sensitive skin
  • Contains soothing and hydrating Aloe Vera, Jojoba and Sunflower
  • Balances pH and calms inflammation
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bb2-table__imageDermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser
  • Soothes and helps inflammation
  • Easy to use formula, no water needed
  • Reduces itchiness
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bb2-table__imageDDF Sensitive Skin Cleansing Gel
  • Gentle foaming action
  • Strong cleanser, anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant formula
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bb2-table__imageMurad Clarifying Cream Cleanser
  • Contains tea tree oil, antifungal
  • Salicylic acid helps flaking skin
  • Also suitable for oily, acne-prone skin
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bb2-table__imageMalin + Goetz Face Cleanser, Grapefruit
  • Has mild surfactants for a gentle cleanse
  • pH balanced and mantains moisture
  • Helps skin repair
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bb2-table__imageCaudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk
  • Nourishing action, can be left on skin
  • Packed with antioxidants
  • Suitable as a makeup remover
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bb2-table__imageUriage D.S. Regulating Foaming Gel
  • All-in-one cleanser - face, hair and body
  • pH balancing
  • Repairs skin barrier and antifungal
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bb2-table__imageCerave Hydrating Cleanser
  • Uncomplicated all-purpose cleanser
  • Gentle and hydrating
  • Strengthens skin barrier, contains ceramides
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Before you buy: 6 Things to keep in mind when choosing a facial cleanser for seborrheic dermatitis

1. Understand which factors play a role in causing seborrheic dermatitis

Even though it is not 100% clear what directly causes seborrheic dermatitis, we know the factors that contribute to it.

The most common association has been established with the fungus Malassezia furfur. M.furfur is a resident of our skin. Its overactivity in sebaceous areas (like around the nose, between the eyebrows, mustache area in males, etc.) is thought to be one of the prime reasons for seborrheic dermatitis.(2)

Now, everyone has M.furfur on their skin, but why do only some people get affected by seborrheic dermatitis?

The reason behind this is local immunity. Some react to the fungus more strongly, causing inflammation, redness, and flakiness. Others just let the fungus hang around without paying much attention and thus show no signs of irritation.(3)

With the inflammation and the fungal overgrowth, the skin barrier is compromised. Leading to itching and dryness, which eventually demands a treatment.

2. Look for soothing ingredients to calm down the inflammation

Calming ingredients are a great addition to the cleansing routine. Usually, cleansing is one of the harshest steps of skincare.

If you could bring in some moisturizing ingredients and some soothing ones, you could neutralize the negative effect of cleansing on the irritated skin.

3. Use a pH balanced cleanser

This is non-negotiable. The gentleness of a cleanser is determined by its detergents and its pH. An alkaline pH (>7) harms the skin barrier and fuels the inflammation.

A pH value of 4-5.5 is the ideal range to minimize skin damage during cleansing.(4)

4. Don’t use face washes with strong detergents

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, you don’t need a deep cleanse to get rid of seborrheic dermatitis. Even though oily areas are more prone to seborrheic dermatitis, cleansers can not differentiate between sebum (extra oil) and the skin’s natural fat layer, which prevents water loss.

Thus, using cleansers with strong detergents damages the skin’s natural lipid layer. Worsening water loss making it drier and more inflamed. For an angry skin type, always cleanse gently (as a matter of fact all skin types and conditions can benefit from gentle cleansing).

5. Instead of using one harsh cleanser, use double cleansing

For those who need to remove stubborn makeup or oil-based skincare products (like sunscreen), for the first round, use a cotton pad soaked with micellar water to remove the makeup and stubborn skincare products.

Make sure that you do this step gently without aggressive rubbing.

Follow that up with a gentle water-based cleanser to wash off the micellar water and last bits of dirt and grime from the facial skin. This is a better way for a thorough cleanse rather than harsh cleansers and makeup wipes.

6. If you are using medical-grade products, do not use a face wash with many strong, active ingredients

Using a lot of actives in the routine could do more harm than good. Using a cleanser with a lot of ingredients against seborrheic dermatitis like antifungals, sulfur, salicylic acid with a medical-grade treatment could potentially irritate your skin further.

You could combine a medical grade product with a cleanser containing soothing ingredients, though.

In short, the goals of cleansing in seborrheic dermatitis patients are to remove extra oil, dirt and product residue, flaky skin, unwanted organisms without damaging the skin barrier.

The 8 best facial cleansers and face washes for seborrheic dermatitis in 2020

1. ZELEN Life Cleanser

cleanser zelen life

Best features:

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Soothing ingredients like Aloe Vera
  • Antifungal properties

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Clean skincare enthusiasts of both the genders.

Overview:

The ZELEN Life Cleanser is a pH-balanced product packed with the choicest of botanical ingredients. It cleanses, soothes, and balances the skin without disturbing the skin barrier. It has much to offer when it comes to seborrheic dermatitis.

It contains jojoba oil, which is anti-inflammatory and controls sebum production (remember how seborrheic dermatitis only affects ‘sebaceous’ areas).(5)

Dermatologists have traditionally advised sunflower oil for children suffering from eczemas because it repairs the skin barrier and imparts moisture to the skin while cleansing.(6)

Aloe Vera extract has been proven to be beneficial in seborrheic dermatitis.(7) It is mainly because of its soothing effect, and to top it all off; it also has antifungal activity.(8)

Main Ingredients:

Aloe Vera, Sunflower, and Jojoba.

The good:

  • pH balanced cleanser
  • Ingredients with antifungal and soothing action extremely beneficial for seborrheic dermatitis
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Would suit all skin types

Things to think about:

  • The product is formulated as hypoallergenic, but a mix of plant extracts could sometimes cause sensitization. People who are prone to multiple contact allergies from botanical ingredients should exercise caution

Bottom line:

A mild natural cleanser for men and women, which would come in handy in phases of seborrheic dermatitis as well as when your skin is behaving well to cleanse and comfort your skin at the same time.

2. Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser

Best features:

  • Specially designed to work against inflammation
  • Can be washed off or removed with a cotton pad

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

People on the go. Doesn’t require running water to wash it off.

Overview:

The Dermalogica Cleanser is not a ‘natural’ product but contains several very beneficial ingredients. Bisabolol(9) and ginger extract function as anti-inflammatory agents, and cucumber soothes and reduces the swelling of aggrieved skin.(10)

Oat kernel extract reduces the itch associated with seborrheic dermatitis.(11)

It is very convenient to use when you don’t have access to running water as it can be directly massaged on the skin and then removed from the skin with a cotton pad. It may not be enough to remove makeup residues from the skin though.

Main Ingredients:

Bisabolol, Ginger Root Extract, Radish Root, Glycerin, Oat Kernel Extract, Cucumis Sativus Cucumber Fruit Extract, Lemon Fruit Extract, Fumaria Officinalis Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Raspberry Fruit Extract, Lavender Flower Extract.

The good:

  • Can be removed without running water when you are on the go
  • Soothing ingredients like cucumber, ginger extract, and bisabolol
  • Anti-itch function

Things to think about:

  • Higher price tag
  • Not ideal for rosacea skin
  • Natural essence from lemon and lavender can be irritating on skin allergic to fragrance

Bottom line:

Dermalogica’s Cleanser has a lot going on for it in terms of ease of use and ingredients targeted for soothing seborrheic dermatitis. However, you may want to avoid it if you are rosacea-prone or have a fragrance allergy.

3. DDF Sensitive Skin Cleansing Gel

Best features:

  • Mild surfactants
  • Gentle ‘foaming cleanser’
  • Antioxidants

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Combination skin with a tendency for seborrheic dermatitis.

Overview:

DDF is a dermatologist-developed brand, and this cleanser is specially developed for dry and sensitive skin types. The surfactants (detergents) in this cleanser are really mild- the ones used for baby skin cleansers.

Glycerin and Panthenol(12) make sure that your skin’s hydration is taken care of during cleansing, and allantoin(13) with aloe vera soothes the irritation and helps the skin to heal quicker after a rough phase.

Main Ingredients:

Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Panthenol, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract

The good:

  • Moisturizing and anti-inflammatory ingredients
  • Has antioxidants like vitamin E to offer some anti-aging support
  • It is a potent cleanser that can ever remove makeup to a good extent

Things to think about:

  • Some consumers have complained that their skin felt a little too ‘squeaky’ clean and tight after use. Not ideal in winter.

Bottom line:

The DDF Cleanser is perfect for those who like their cleanser to get the work done in one step without involving harsh surfactants. It may sometimes leave the skin feeling a little tight so keep your moisturizer handy after the cleanse.

4. Murad Clarifying Cream Cleanser

Best features:

  • Designed for oily skin- controls shine without overdrying
  • Ideal for those fighting with seborrheic dermatitis and acne

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Oily, acne-prone skin.

Overview:

Seborrheic dermatitis affects all types of skin, but the ones with oily skin are often hit worse. Most of the cleansers for eczema skin are hydrating and not mattifying enough for oily skin.

The ones for oily skin often leave the skin drier, flaring up the inflammation from seborrheic dermatitis. Murad clarifying cream cleanser strikes a delicate balance between the two by giving a cleanser with salicylic acid to clarify the pores as well as hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin.

Salicylic acid also helps in reducing the flaking associated with seborrheic dermatitis.(16) Tea tree oil also acts as an antimicrobial and antifungal.

Main Ingredients:

Salicylic acid 0.5%, hyaluronic acid, sesame oil, tea tree oil.

The good:

  • Can be used on oily and acne-prone skin
  • Salicylic acid provides relief from flaking
  • Tea tree oil with dual action- anti-fungal as well as anti-acne

Things to think about:

  • Even though it is a ‘creamy cleanser,’ it does dry out the face a little. So not meant for dry skin
  • Users with sensitive skin all over the face have reported rashes with it

Bottom line:

Recommended if you have oily acne-prone skin with seborrheic dermatitis by virtue of tea tree and salicylic acid in it. Not a great fit if you have very sensitive skin though.

5. Malin + Goetz Face Cleanser, Grapefruit

Best features:

  • Mild surfactants which are coconut-based for a robust yet mild cleaning
  • Grapefruit oil is a natural antioxidant and brightening agent
  • Amino acids improve skin health

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Oily to combination skin with a love for a little foam.

Overview:

Malin and Goetz is a luxury product line that caters to minimalistic and uncomplicated skincare lovers.

This face cleanser has mild surfactants with an array of amino acids, which are building blocks that repair the damaged skin and restore skin health. Grapefruit oil is a natural antimicrobial, antioxidant that helps in reversing the signs of skin aging.(18)

The cleanser is pH balanced and contains glycerin, which is a humectant and attracts moisture.

However, it has come to our attention that even though most with sensitive skin reported this product as non-drying and even revitalizing, some of the users said after the wash, the skin felt on the drier side. Hence it is not recommended for dry skin.

The good:

  • Works well for oily skin
  • Mild surfactants for a gentle cleansing
  • Antioxidant
  • Skin repair ingredient for dermatitis relief

Things to think about:

  • Impractical packaging. You always end up squeezing out way more product than you need
  • Could dry out the skin
  • Citrus (grapefruit) oil doesn’t suit everyone’s skin

Bottom line:

Malin and Goetz is a luxury cleanser for you if you like feeling pampered even while washing your skin and like a ‘squeaky clean’ feel after the wash and at the same time not hurt your skin health.

6. Caudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk

Best features:

  • Mild makeup remover for seborrheic dermatitis skin

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Makeup users with seborrheic dermatitis and/or dry skin and aging skin.

Overview:

Who says that you can’t fight some of those free radicals while cleansing the skin.

If you suffer from seborrheic eczema and dive into two-step cleansing for removing water-resistant makeup or sunscreen, Caudalie cleansing milk is a great addition. It is rich in some of the best natural antioxidants like grapeseed and polyphenols.(14)

In addition, it has shea butter to leave the skin hydrated and plump after the cleansing process.

It makes me sad to see fragrance listed so high in the ingredient list. If you don’t mind it, and your skin doesn’t too- it is a gentle and effective makeup removing tool.

Main Ingredients:

Grapeseed oil, shea butter, polyphenols, cornflower extract, fragrance.

The good:

  • Gentle makeup remover that leaves the skin feeling nourished and soft
  • Filled with antioxidants. Has a commendable ingredient list
  • Can be left on without washing on the skin to let it bask in the antioxidant goodness

Things to think about:

  • Contains fragrances

Bottom line:

Bustling with antioxidants, Caudalie’s Gentle Cleansing Milk is a perfect addition to your anti-aging skincare routine if you have seborrheic dermatitis prone skin and love to play with makeup.

7. Uriage D.S. Regulating Foaming Gel

Best features:

  • Specially designed to regulate the receptors causing inflammation with the patented TLR2 regul technology
  • Has piroctone olamine, which acts as an antifungal and helps against seborrheic dermatitis

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

People looking for an all-in-one product- Shampoo, face, and body cleanser.

Overview:

Uriage DS regulating foaming gel is a unique product that could be your best companion if you like to travel light.

Thanks to its potent but not aggressive surfactants, anti-fungal ingredient piroctone olamine, conditioning, and repairing agents like phytosphingosine and centella asiatica extract (asiaticoside),(17) it can be used not just for the face but for hair and body too.

Since seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp and chest too, it is a practical and effective solution to all your eczema woes.

Main Ingredients:

Thermal spring water, Piroctone olamine, phytosphingosine, asiaticoside.

The good:

  • One product to treat multiple body areas with seborrheic dermatitis
  • Antifungal and barrier repairing ingredient
  • pH balanced

Things to think about:

  • Even though it is formulated with non-harsh sulfates, the formula can still be a little too strong for dry skin

Bottom line:

Uriage D.S. Regulating Foaming Cleanser with its patented anti-inflammatory technology is for you if you love a multitasking product, which is pocket, travel, and skin-friendly.

8. Cerave Hydrating Cleanser

Best features:

  • No fluff all-purpose cleanser
  • Contains multiple ceramides to repair the skin barrier

Best facial cleanser/wash for:

Combination skin with medical-grade treatment and problem skin having intolerance/allergies.

Overview:

Cerave is perhaps a one size fits all, one of the most prescribed cleansers by dermatologists for all skin woes. It contains mild and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.

Like all other products of the Cerave range, it also boasts ceramides in the ingredient list, which strengthens the lipid barrier of the skin.

As we discussed above, in seborrheic dermatitis, the lipid buried is disturbed, and a better barrier means less water loss, less dryness, and eventually less irritation.

That is why ceramides are proven to improve seborrheic dermatitis and increase the absorption of other medications.(15)

Main Ingredients:

Ceramides, glycerin, Sodium hyaluronate.

The good:

  • Very gentle and hydrating on the skin
  • Improve the skin barrier strength
  • No irritating ingredients

Things to think about:

  • Doesn’t contain any ‘treatment’ actives against seborrheic dermatitis
  • Not very effective in removing makeup

Bottom line:

It is a great everyday cleanser if your skin does not tolerate a lot of actives or if you are already being treated for seborrheic dermatitis. This is a safe play zone.


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How we chose these products

Our way of shortlisting products relies heavily on our understanding of the needs of the user (as users ourselves and as experts), analyzing the product, and also bringing the real-world experience of not just one person but a plethora of users into play.

We also understand that good quality is just as important as the names of the ingredients, so we only consider the brands that we trust.

We try to find something for every budget and age bracket because love for perfect skin knows no age and bank balance limits.

We shortlisted the gentle calming cleansers for seborrheic dermatitis and performed an ingredient analysis to find out what would work the best on inflamed, irritated, and damaged skin.

We kept in mind various requirements. From makeup remover to a foaming cleanser so that you don’t have to compromise on your preferences.

And then, finally, it came down to the user feedback. We checked various fora for reliable reviews. Both according to volume and source and noted positive as well as negative feedback to bring forward an all-round picture to you.

We aimed to find an ideal cleanser for everyone suffering from seborrheic dermatitis, and I hope you found yours.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know that I have seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is inflamed itchy skin on ‘seborrheic’ areas like the scalp, around the nose, between the eyebrows, chest, and sometimes genital areas.

This is also often associated with scaling, which means you would notice dry, flaky skin on the affected areas.

Is seborrheic dermatitis curable?

Unfortunately, it is not. If you have a predisposition to get seborrheic dermatitis, you may get flares every once in a while, especially in stressful situations and sickness.

However, it is possible to effectively control it with a combination of right skincare, controlling the stress levels, and medical treatment during bad phases.

Would deep cleansers be better for seborrheic dermatitis since they occur in areas with the highest oil production?

No, seborrheic dermatitis is different from seborrhea/oily skin. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin (derm: skin, -itis: inflammation). It is important to understand that when dealing with seborrheic dermatitis, the skin is damaged and needs repair and not deep cleansing.

Deep cleansing could irritate the skin further by drying it out. In fact, as a feedback mechanism, it could even stimulate the production of more oil, leading to worsening of seborrheic dermatitis. Always prefer a gentle skin cleanser if your skin is eczema-prone.

How should I cleanse the face during a seborrheic dermatitis flare?

Ideally, once or maximum twice a day with just a gentle cleanser using lukewarm water. Avoid layering a lot of makeup or skincare during a flare so that a single gentle cleanse suffices for removing everything.

I am doing everything right in my skincare routine, and I am still itching in the seborrheic areas. Am I missing something?

When you are treating seborrheic dermatitis on the face, it is advisable to treat the scalp concomitantly too. Very often, scalp skin does not itch a lot, and since it is not visible, the inflammation goes unnoticed too.

Suppose you suffer from frequent flares on the face. In that case, you should consider adding an antifungal shampoo with ingredients like ketoconazole, ciclopirox, or selenium sulfide to your hair care routine once a week.

Use it under the shower, keep it on for 2-3 minutes before washing it off. You can also apply the shampoo foam on other seborrheic dermatitis affected areas on the face and chest for a minute before washing.

Conclusion

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition which not only irritates the skin, makes it look red and flaky but also damages the skin barrier in the long term.

With necessary medical care during bad phases, it is also important to craft a skincare routine that is compatible with your skin type, needs and also does not flare up seborrheic dermatitis.

We try to help you to take the first step towards that and hope that we were helpful.

Do you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis? What cleansers have helped you to keep the flares at bay? Let us know in the comments.

Know someone who is struggling to build a skincare routine with seborrheic dermatitis?

Share this article and make them, and us, happy.

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References

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8. Mendy, T. K., Misran, A., Mahmud, T. M. ., & Ismail, S. . (2019). Antifungal properties of Aloe vera through in vitro and in vivo screening against postharvest pathogens of papaya fruit. Scientia Horticulturae, 257, 108767. doi:10.1016/j.scienta.2019.108767

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About The Author

Dr. Rashmi Singh DDVL
Dr. Rashmi Singh DDVL

Dr. Singh studied dermatology from one of the most prestigious medical colleges of India – Stanley Medical College, Chennai. After finishing her post-graduation she went on to work as a consultant dermatologist in one of the largest cosmetology clinic chains in India – Kaya skin clinic. Working alongside expert aesthetic dermatologists of India, she worked extensively with customized skincare as well as lasers and injectables. Alongside, training under famous hair transplant surgeon – Dr. Venkataram Mysore, she learnt the nitty gritties of hair treatments. After doing two traveling fellowships in dermatology in Germany, she decided to settle there. Currently dividing her time between practicing dermatology and aesthetic medicine, she finds immense joy in educating people about the science behind skincare and haircare.

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