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7 Best Moisturizers for Seborrheic Dermatitis on the Body

Medically reviewed by Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D.
Posted on July 8, 2024

Seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema that causes an itchy and uncomfortable rash, usually on the scalp, head, and face. But the condition can also affect other parts of the body that have oily skin, like the chest, upper back, armpits, groin, and under the breasts. Sometimes the affected areas also get inflamed, crust over, or cause flakes that look like dandruff.

Finding the right skin care routine can help control seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. But if you’ve spent any time shopping around for body lotions and moisturizing creams, you know there are almost too many to choose from. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the skin care aisle.

Moisturizers have different ingredients that can help or hurt your seborrheic dermatitis. Although everyone’s skin reacts to moisturizers differently, some products are more likely than others to help your skin. Here are some products to keep in mind the next time you go shopping or to ask your doctor or dermatologist about.

1. Antifungals

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an overgrowth of yeast. Everyone has some yeast on their skin, but some people are more likely to have an inflammatory reaction to it. Doctors and researchers believe that genetics and environmental factors are partly to blame.

To treat seborrheic dermatitis, your dermatologist may recommend antifungal skin care products. These usually have ingredients like ciclopirox or ketoconazole, which kill fungus. Just because you find antifungals in body lotions sold over the counter doesn’t mean they’re without risks. It’s important to follow the label instructions.

For example, you should apply an antifungal only on areas affected by seborrheic dermatitis. Wash your hands afterward, and be careful not to get the cream in your eyes or mouth.

2. Hydrocortisone

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition. Topical corticosteroids, like hydrocortisone, applied to the skin can help calm flare-ups. Low-dose hydrocortisone products are available over the counter, but your dermatologist may recommend a prescription-strength corticosteroid cream if your symptoms are severe. “Due to the severity of my flare-ups, steroids have become the only option,” a MySebDermTeam member said. “It always clears up fast after that.”

Apply topical steroids within three minutes of bathing or showering (when your skin is still damp) for better absorption. If seborrheic dermatitis affects hard-to-reach areas like your back, you can use a body-lotion applicator.

Keep a few important points in mind when using hydrocortisone. You shouldn’t cover the skin with a wrap or bandage after applying the product unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Although you might be eager to get your skin under control, don’t use more than directed. Be sure to tell your health care provider about any medicated skin care products you’re using.

3. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has earned a reputation for soothing the skin. This natural plant extract is often added to skin care products, including moisturizers. One member of MySebDermTeam said, “Aloe works great. It makes your skin beautiful, too.” Another wrote, “I have used aloe vera cream. To a point, it helps, but like everything else, only until it absorbs.”

Some research suggests that aloe could benefit people with seborrheic dermatitis. In one study, 46 people with seborrheic dermatitis used a skin care product containing 30 percent aloe vera. Dermatologists reported that after six weeks, the participants’ skin was 58 percent better. The people using the aloe treatment were happy with the results and said they thought it led to a 62 percent improvement.

Aloe vera can help reduce itching and inflammation. However, some people are allergic to it, so it’s a good idea to try a patch test before using it on large areas of skin. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests testing a new product by applying to the same small spot of skin twice a day for seven to 10 days. If your skin doesn’t get discolored, itchy, or swollen, the product is likely safe for you to use.

4. Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is another popular ingredient in moisturizing lotions and other skin care products. This plant-based oil has proven anti-inflammatory effects and helps repair the skin barrier. These qualities can make it a good choice for people with seborrheic dermatitis and other types of eczema. Jojoba oil, which can also be used alone, has a waxy consistency that can help your skin absorb topical medications better.

5. Minerals That Block Ultraviolet Light

A sunburn is just about the last thing someone with seborrheic dermatitis needs, especially because the sun and heat can trigger flare-ups for some people. If you’re applying moisturizer to skin before sun exposure, a lotion with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can provide that extra layer of protection from ultraviolet radiation. These mineral sunscreens are less irritating than chemical sunscreens.

6. Lotions Free of Alcohol and Fragrances

You may not expect to find alcohol in a product that’s meant to moisturize the skin. However, it’s a good idea to scan labels for alcohol, which can be drying and irritating to sensitive skin that’s prone to seborrheic dermatitis.

In addition, many moisturizers have fragrances to make them more appealing to customers. Even those that don’t have a strong scent may contain perfumes that can irritate your skin. If you have seborrheic dermatitis, it’s crucial to choose skin care products labeled “fragrance-free.”

7. Creams Prescribed by Your Doctor

Your doctor or dermatologist may prescribe a topical preparation to help treat your particular case of seborrheic dermatitis. These preparations might contain ingredients such as an antifungal, light coal tar (which fights inflammation), and a corticosteroid.

Suggestions From MySebDermTeam

Members of MySebDermTeam have shared their opinions on different moisturizers. “I’ve tried Gold Bond cream for eczema and dermatitis. It was helping, I think, but not enough,” one member shared.

Another wrote, “You can use coconut oil to help with the flakes, and it helps the itch subside, too.”

Others have reported using brands like Eucerin and La Roche-Posay or skin creams that are meant for people with diabetes.

Not everyone gets the same results when using the same skin care products for seborrheic dermatitis. It’s always best to talk to your dermatologist about your specific situation. Ask how different moisturizers may interact with any prescription treatments you’re using and how to add new products to your current routine safely.

Your local pharmacy likely carries a wide variety of moisturizers, even some that contain medications. Ask the pharmacist about different products and potential side effects before you make a purchase.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MySebDermTeam is the social network for people with seborrheic dermatitis and their loved ones. On MySebDermTeam, more than 12,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with seborrheic dermatitis.

Have you found a hydrating body or face moisturizer that works well for your skin type? Tell us about it in the comments below or post a comment on your Activities page.

    Posted on July 8, 2024
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    Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D. received his medical degree and completed residency training in dermatology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Learn more about him here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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