a bowl of sea salt

Q. I am a 54-year-old man and I’ve had seborrheic dermatitis since my early 20s. The steroid skin creams that have been prescribed to deal with this cause other skin problems.

I’ve been washing my face with sea salt in warm water and using the salt to exfoliate periodically. I buy sea salt without iodine at the grocery store.

I haven’t had to use the steroids since I started doing this, and all traces of dermatitis are gone.

A. Thank you for this story. Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin inflammation causing red itchy spots and flaking on the face or scalp. It is similar to dandruff, and may be caused or exacerbated by yeast called Malassezia that live on the skin. People with seborrheic dermatitis seem to react to this type of yeast with inflammation.

We could find nothing in the medical literature about salt water as a treatment, but readers have found salt water helpful for other skin problems, from acne to warts.

Deanna reported:

“I have had really bad acne for a while. My skin was oily and just gross. I never thought that salt water would work until I came back from the beach.Within a couple of days the acne started to clear up, so I mixed water and salt in a spray bottle and use it twice to three times daily. It really helps.”

LR reminisced:

“When we were children (over 70 years ago) we were fortunate enough to grow up in a small seaside town on the east coast of Florida. Any time anything happened to us kids-poison ivy, rashes, ant bites, bee stings-our mom would drive us over to the ocean to swim a while. That always worked.”

Rosacea, nail fungus and plantar warts are other skin conditions that seem to clear up when people are in the ocean or using salt water solutions.

photo credit: Happy Krissy cc cropped

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  1. Chris

    I tried listerine, head and shoulders, and Nizoral for my seborrheic dermatitis and nothing worked. Eventually, I used a combination of MetroGel and Desonate to keep it at bay, although I wasn’t fond of the frequent use of the steroid gel, Desonate. This simple and cheap remedy worked wonderfully and quickly, within 3 days the seborrheic dermatitis was better than it has ever been. Thank you!

  2. lmend

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have tried for years to treat flaking under my eyebrows and earlobes. Just tried this yesterday with sea salt and a little water and flaking is gone. Why my dermatologist (who did not prescribe any medication, but suggested dandruff shampoo and corticosteriod cream) did not let me in on this secret. crazy.

  3. Elizabeth B.
    Raleigh, NC

    I was so excited to see your readers’ comments on Seborrheic Dermatitis recently and would like to know what amount of sea salt is added to the water–say if I measured a quart of water, what would be the amount of sea salt to add. I have had this condition on my scalp, forehead, ears and neck for several years and with all the prescription shampoos, scalp oil, etc., nothing seems to help the itching. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Lamont

    Using baking soda as an exfolliant has worked for me.

  5. Donnie

    I’ll have to give sea salt a try for my skin conditions. I already use non-iodized sea salt for eating, cooking, and making homemade saline nasal spray.

  6. Corinne

    Do you think the salt water would work on getting rid of skin tags?

  7. Helen M
    Modesto, CA

    Age has taken away the seborrheic dermatitis; however, over 50 years ago, I used witch hazel for both my face and scalp problems. I put it on my hair after washing it, and on nights when I didn’t wash it, before putting my hair up. It also helped to hold the set. I put it on my face twice a day and left it on. Later, when I began to use Selsun Blue on my hair, it kept my face cleared up too.

  8. J. David A.
    Springfield, MO, USA

    Salt scrubs provide temporary relief as do detergents or steroids. For longer lasting relief or cure, you need to attack the yeast in effective ways and prevent reinfection.

    The effective method I have seen work well is to apply as second shampoo, 2 or 2.5% Selenium shampoo to scalp, face and upper body(this is a prescription) weekly or twice weekly for an hour each time – put it on and go read Time magazine or a big newspaper before rinsing. On another day or two each week apply Nizoral 2% shampoo and keep this up for at least a month.

    Use your microwave as a sterilizer. Put a cold cup of water in so the microwave doesn’t cook itself. Then put in pillow covers, washcloths, stocking caps, hats without metal parts, combs, brushes – anything which might have picked up the yeast and you don’t want to replace after 2 weeks of using shampoos. Richard Glass DDS at Oklahoma U. proved sterility at 8 minutes in the 700 watt microwave units in the 70’s but this length of time will cause lots of problems – especially for the more powerful units today. I suggest wetting and wringing out cloth items or treating them between washer and dryer use for 3 minutes with cooling time in between or they will burn. In treating underwear for yeast, usually 2 pair was the limit so use that as a guide for amount treated at a time – one damp pillow case and don’t forget the cup of water which will be boiling at the end of three minutes. For plastic items the time and conditions for microwaving need to be controlled, unless you have my invention, so treating them like metal items is better for most people – Chlorox or isopropyl alcohol soaks, and short steaming exposure so they don’t melt. Then there is the exposure to other people with the yeast who may not be allergic to it so are asymptomatic. 4 – 6 weeks of effort usually pays off.

  9. mary lou b.
    Hillsborough., NC

    I have seborrhea on my scalp but lately I have been taking turmeric pills twice a day which seems to be lessening the itching.

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