7 Best Face Wash for Seborrheic Dermatitis – A Comprehensive Guide

May 3, 2024

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Having dealt with seborrheic dermatitis (a common skin condition that causes red, itchy, flaky skin) on my face for years, I understand the struggle to find a gentle yet effective facial cleanser. Through extensive research and trial-and-error, I’ve discovered the best face washes for seborrheic dermatitis that calm inflammation, curb flaking, and rebalance the skin microbiome.

Root Causes and Triggers of Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis

To determine the best face washes for seborrheic dermatitis, we first need to understand what causes this frustrating skin condition in the first place:

Fungal Overgrowth

The main culprit is an overgrowth of yeast, specifically the Malassezia fungus naturally found on our skin. Those prone to seb derm produce excess sebum (oil) which allows the yeast to rapidly multiply and penetrate deeper into the skin. This triggers inflammation, redness, and flare-ups.

Genetic Predisposition

Research shows that genetics play a key role. Those with parents or siblings with seborrheic dermatitis have a greater chance of developing the condition themselves, likely connected to similar skin microbiomes and immune responses.

Winter Weather

Many find their seb derm worsens during winter’s cold, dry air which depletes the skin’s natural moisture and protective oils. The resulting micro-fissures in the skin surface allow yeast to thrive.

Emotional Stress

Studies demonstrate a clear correlation between chronic stress, related hormonal changes, and seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Times of prolonged mental, emotional or physical stress often aggravate this condition.

Additional Triggers

  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Harsh skincare products
  • Over-washing face
  • Build-up of skin cells/oil on skin surface
  • Poor diet and impaired digestion
  • Hormonal changes

How to Choose the Best Facial Cleanser

With so many factors involved, finding a truly soothing, non-irritating, and effective face wash proves vital yet remarkably challenging.

Here are the key criteria I advise when selecting a facial cleanser tailored to seborrheic dermatitis prone-skin:

Soothing Botanical Ingredients

Plant-based extracts like aloe, chamomile, calendula, gotu kola, green tea, oatmeal, and licorice root have natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and skin-healing benefits without side effects. They should feature prominently in seb derm face washes.

Hydrators and Skin-Identical Lipids

Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, squalane and jojoba oil mimic the skin’s natural moisturizing factors. They attract, bind and retain moisture in dehydrated skin plagued by seborrheic dermatitis without aggravating fungal growth.


Active botanicals like meadowsweet, cucumber, Oregon grape root, magnolia bark, witch hazel and niacinamide help reduce excess facial oil production which feeds Malassezia overgrowth.

Anti-Fungal Actives

Natural antifungals like piroctone olamine, climbazole, honey and tea tree help curb yeast overgrowth that drives seborrheic dermatitis on the face and scalp.

Soap-Free, Fragrance-Free, Essential Oil-Free

Harsh sulfates, synthetic fragrances, essential oils, alcohols and known irritants only further destroy the compromised skin barrier those with seb derm face daily, resulting in more inflammation and flare-ups.

Correct pH Level 5.5

The skin’s naturally slightly acidic pH of 5.5 makes it hostile terrain for microbes and infections. Cleansers with this pH help restore ideal skin function.

The 7 Best Face Washes for Seborrheic Dermatitis

After extensive personal testing and client feedback from those with facial seb derm, here are my top facial cleanser recommendations:

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

My current top choice! This soothing gel cleanser leverages the anti-inflammatory and sebum-regulating powers of witch hazel, meadowsweet and licorice root extracts alongside skin-replenishing aloe juice, vegetable glycerin and glyceryl glucoside. Its fragrance-free, essential oil-free, non-foaming formula respects the delicate skin mantle while keeping oil production in check.

Key Features:

  • Soap-free, sulfate-free, fragrance-free, essential oil-free
  • Skin-soothing botanical extracts
  • Sebum-regulators
  • Hydrating humectants
  • pH 5.5

Omiana Balancing Facial Wash

Omiana Balancing Facial Wash

Omiana Balancing Facial Wash

Containing clinically-proven climbazole to curb Malassezia overgrowth, this creamy cleanser leverages the anti-fungal and healing powers of manuka honey alongside soothing oat kernel extract. Skin-identical ceramide NP combined with moisture-binding sodium hyaluronate ensures the lipid barrier remains strong while keeping inflammation and dehydration at bay.

Key Features:

  • 1% climbazole (anti-fungal)
  • Manuka honey
  • Ceramides
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Soothing colloidal oatmeal
  • Fragrance-free, essential oil-free
  • pH 5.5

DermaHarmony 2% Pyrithione Zinc Face Wash

DermaHarmony 2 Pyrithione Zinc Face Wash

DermaHarmony 2% Pyrithione Zinc Face Wash

Harnessing the proven anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties of 2% pyrithione zinc, this soap-free facial gel prevents overgrowth of Malassezia fungus while calming redness and irritation. Skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil and shea butter ensure optimal hydration during use. Its gentle sudsing effectively cleanses without stripping.

Key Features:

  • 2% pyrithione zinc
  • Hydrating botanicals
  • Non-foaming gel
  • Fragrance-free, dye-free
  • Gentle enough for daily use

Tree To Tub Gentle Cream Face Wash

Tree To Tub Gentle Cream Face Wash

Tree To Tub Gentle Cream Face Wash

Using the time-tested anti-microbial powers of soapberry and healing antioxidants from wild Soapnut trees, this gentle gel cleanser soothes irritation and redness from seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups while restoring the acid mantle. Natural moisturizing factors like aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E prevent dryness. Its subtle lavender aroma comes from pure essential oils.

Key Features:

  • Soapberry extract
  • Aloe, shea butter
  • Wild-harvested, natural ingredients
  • Subtle lavender essential oil fragrance
  • Cruelty-free, vegan

Gloryfeel Calming Facial Cleanser

Gloryfeel Calming Facial Cleanser

Gloryfeel Calming Facial Cleanser

Specially formulated for even the most sensitive, acne-prone skin, this soap-free creamy cleanser leverages Meadowsweet extract’s natural astringent, anti-inflammatory and sebum-regulating actions to calm seb derm redness and flare-ups. Skin-healing ceramides, plant oils and rosewater provide lasting hydration while restoring skin’s protective barrier function.

Key Features:

  • Meadowsweet extract
  • Soothing rosewater
  • Ceramides
  • Plant-based oils
  • Essential oil-free

Eco Beyond Face and Body Wash

Eco Beyond Face and Body Wash

Eco Beyond Face and Body Wash

Using the clinically-proven anti-fungal powers of piroctone olamine alongside antibacterial neem oil, this foaming cleanser helps curb irritation-provoking yeast and bacteria overgrowth in those with seborrheic dermatitis. Its soap-free formula cleanses thoroughly while plant oils, aloe vera and vitamin E replenish moisture and reinforce skin’s protective lipid barrier.

Key Features:

  • 0.5% piroctone olamine
  • Neem oil
  • Aloe vera
  • Vitamin E
  • Soap-free, SLS-free
  • Unscented

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser 1

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

This dermatologist-developed, minimal-ingredient face wash soothes and calms sensitive, irritated skin prone to seborrheic dermatitis and related conditions like rosacea. Using a gentle surfactant system free of common irritants and allergens, it effortlessly removes dirt, oil and debris without redness or stinging. The rich, creamy texture leaves skin soft, not tight.

Key Features:

  • Fewer than 10 ingredients
  • Free of dyes, fragrance, lanolin
  • Non-irritating, gentle surfactant system
  • Clinically-tested for sensitive skin
  • Dermatologist-tested

DIY Natural Face Wash for Seborrheic Dermatitis

For those wanting a natural, preservative-free alternative, try this easy DIY facial cleanser leveraging the anti-inflammatory and antifungal powers of raw honey, apple cider vinegar and essential oils:


  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap or hydrating gel cleanser base
  • 5-8 drops tea tree essential oil
  • Filtered water as needed

Method: Mix ingredients in a small glass bottle. Shake before use. Apply a quarter-size amount to damp skin and massage gently over face and neck before rinsing. Make fresh weekly. Store at room temperature away from heat and sunlight.

FAQs about Face Washes for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Still have questions about finding the ideal facial cleanser to help alleviate seb derm symptoms? Here I answer some frequently asked questions:

Can I just use a dandruff shampoo as a face wash for seborrheic dermatitis?

While anti-dandruff shampoos contain anti-fungal ingredients that may help curb facial seb derm too, I advise caution. Most tend to be quite harsh, irritating and drying with sulfates and fragrances. With the delicate facial skin barrier already compromised, inflammation can worsen.

However, using a sulfate-free anti-dandruff shampoo a few times a week likely won’t cause issues as long as you moisturize adequately after. Perform a patch test first.

If my seborrheic dermatitis worsens from using a new face wash, what should I do?

Discontinue use immediately if a new face wash causes increased redness, dry patches, stinging, itching or flaking. This indicates the formula is too harsh or irritating for your sensitized skin. Allow a few days for skin to recover then try introducing a gentler, soap-free cream or oil-based cleanser instead.

Can I use a face wash containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide if I have seborrheic dermatitis?

As powerful acne medications, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide help eliminate congestion, oil and bacteria inside pores. However, they also can severely dry out and irritate skin.

While those with acne-prone skin have success using them sparingly a few times a week, with seborrheic dermatitis I recommend avoiding – the compromised skin barrier simply cannot handle exfoliating acids or peroxides.

Will using a face wash with pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole cure my seborrheic dermatitis?

Unfortunately, no topical face wash can permanently “cure” this genetically-influenced condition. However, leveraging the anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties of ingredients like pyrithione zinc and ketoconazole can help mitigate symptoms like redness, flaking and itching.

Regular yet gentle cleansing alongside antifungal treatment helps prevent recurring flare-ups and minimize outbreak severity and duration when they do happen.

Can I just use a foaming cleanser to treat seborrheic dermatitis?

Many conventional foaming cleansers contain harsh sulfates and fragrances that further irritate sensitized skin prone to seborrheic dermatitis. However, some specialized foam face washes without common irritants exist.

I prefer gentler cream or gel-based cleansers without foaming agents for facial seb derm, yet a sulfate-free foam wash with soothing botanicals may suit some. Always patch test first.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Dealing with the frustrating symptoms of facial seborrheic dermatitis means finding a gentle yet effective face wash proves vital – yet extremely difficult. However, by understanding the underlying causes and selecting non-irritating cleansers with evidence-backed anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and skin-healing ingredients, relief is possible.

The main takeaways are:

  • Opt for soap-free, fragrance-free formulas without essential oils or known irritants
  • Incorporate ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and plant oils to heal and hydrate skin
  • Leverage botanical extracts like aloe, green tea, chamomile, oatmeal and licorice root to calm inflammation
  • Use antifungals like pyrithione zinc, sulfur, honey and tea tree oil to curb yeast overgrowth
  • Always patch test new products and stop using immediately if irritation flares
  • Complement cleansing with proper anti-fungal treatment, moisture barriers and lifestyle adjustments for best results

By understanding the unique needs of seborrheic dermatitis-prone skin and taking a gentle, holistic approach, you can minimize frustrating symptoms and start reclaiming a comfortable, confident complexion.

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