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Skincare Routine for Seborrheic Dermatitis (a.k.a Face Dandruff)
Do you suffer from having dry, scaly patches of inflamed skin on your face, sides of the nose, or behind your ears? You’re not alone. In the United States, around 11% of the population is diagnosed with a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. This disease is characterized by inflamed skin and scaly patches in the head and oil-producing parts of the face. The epidermis appears reddish and flaky on affected areas, usually because of too many oils produced by the skin.
While data shows that more men get diagnosed with seb derm than women, this tricky skin condition isn’t exclusive to one group. It’s also a lot more common in infants and middle-aged people. However, it’s perfectly normal for young adults to contract this skin disease. In fact, there are plenty of people of different age groups who suffer from it.
If you’ve noticed that your face tends to break out in oil-like flakes, then you might have seborrheic dermatitis. That’s the bad news. But the good news is — you don’t have to suffer! In this guide, we tell you how to craft the perfect skincare routine for seborrheic dermatitis. But first, let’s define what seborrheic dermatitis is and what it isn’t.
What is seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrhea, is a form of chronic inflammation of the skin/epidermis and scalp that usually shows up in the form of red, scaly, and/or itchy dry patches. Most people only suffer mild cases, but an unlucky few can have terrible side effects, including hair loss.
This condition is quite similar to eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. The two ailments have plenty of things in common, including inflamed patches of skin, scaliness, rash, and itchiness in the scalp or areas on the face.
However, seborrheic dermatitis occurs more often in oil-producing parts of the face and on parts where hair is grown. Ever noticed dandruff-like flakes on the scalp in your eyebrows? Yep, it’s probably seb derm. Red, itchy flakes in your t-zone (the area of the epidermis on your face that produces the most oils) are also most likely to be symptoms of seborrhea.
Another common sign is redness or a rash on the sides of the nose that feel oily to the touch. However, people of any skin type can develop seb derm. It’s not limited to those whose skin produces more oils than others.
Seborrhea is also possibly a reaction to the oils/yeast found in one’s skin. There’s a thing called Malassezia yeast found in the skin microbiome, or the part of the skin that houses all the bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This yeast found in the oil-producing parts of the face is naturally tolerated by the skin since it colonizes at an early age. However, overgrowth of the Malassezia yeast/oils causes the immune system to overreact, hence the inflammation.
Malassezia yeast, along with environmental and genetic factors, all contribute to this chronic inflammatory skin disease. However, the recommended maintenance is quite simple: maintaining good hygiene. If you’re constantly cleaning your face and removing all the oil and gunk that accumulates, then you’re less likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis. Finding the right cleanser for your skin type is essential, as frequent cleaning will remove all the nasty oils and flakes where the seborrhea is often triggered.
Is seborrhea the same thing as psoriasis?
Seb derm is quite similar to another skin condition called psoriasis. However, the two vary in plenty of ways. For one thing, seborrhea flakes are more oil-like and greasy. They tend to feel that way when scratched off.
On the other hand, psoriasis appears in the form of reddish patches of skin which are often silvery. You can get psoriasis on any part of the body, including the face and scalp. Psoriasis isn’t limited to just the oil-producing parts of the face. Psoriasis is similarly a chronic skin condition that can affect someone their whole life. Even then, it’s still manageable with proper habits, skincare products, and prescribed creams.
Oh, and it’s also possible for people to have both seborrhea and psoriasis at the same time.
Seborrhea is also a chronic disease, but easily treatable with over-the-counter creams, products, and the right skincare routine. More on that in a bit.
Who can get seborrheic dermatitis?
In babies, seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis occurs in the form of cradle cap: small, oil-like flakes found in the scalp. But seborrhea also happens to teenagers, young adults, and people of all genders no matter their age.
Infant seborrheic dermatitis often just goes away on its own. It’s the seborrhea that occurs when you’re a little older that is kind of hard to manage. It doesn’t really help that anyone, no matter their skin type, can get it.
So how exactly can one build a consistent skincare routine that gets rid of seborrhea among all the other common problems? We outline a simple and effective skincare routine that’s going to keep your skin barrier healthy and your face flake-free. Let’s get into it!
Face and SkinCare Routine for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Since seborrhea is a chronic inflammatory condition, treatment can only manage it, but not completely cure it. However, several rounds of treatment can be super effective in getting rid of symptoms fast. If you want to get rid of those seb derm flakes the right way, listen up!
Your skincare regimen plays a gigantic role in helping you maintain a seb derm-free face. All the products, creams, lotions, and other skincare items you put on your face matter. While treating it isn’t always necessary because it just sometimes goes away on its own, it helps to be consistent in your routine to prevent further inflammation.
Step 1: Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse
Remember when we said frequent cleansing is super important in getting rid of facial dandruff? It’s true. Sometimes, it takes something as simple as a mild cleanser to put the flakes to rest. You can get an over-the-counter one for mild cases or consult your doctor and get a prescription cleanser. Just make sure you’re using something that is compatible with your skin type.
If you have oil-prone skin, get a cleanser suited for oil-prone skin. If you have dry skin, find a product that is also suited for dry skin. The key here is to simply think of the needs of your skin first, and the seborrheic dermatitis will take care of itself. And never, ever try to just scratch it off with your bare hands. You don’t want to irritate your skin further.
Step 2: Moisturize
Follow up with a moisturizer after the cleanser. This step ensures that your skin isn’t too dried out as this can lead to the overproduction of sebum, worsening your seborrhea. Instead, find a moisturizer that is also compatible with your skin type.
If you have skin prone to overproduction of oil, a light moisturizer will be enough to prevent water loss and keep your skin barrier healthy without that greasy feeling. Avoid smearing your face with thick oils if you have oily skin. People in this group should steer clear of coconut oil or olive oil, which is high in oleic acid, because that can only worsen your skin condition.
However, if you’re certain the oils that you’re already using are good for your skin, then go ahead — just don’t forget to wash them off. Coconut oil is recommended by some experts as a remedy for those of drier skin types.
Step 3: Treatment
Is your seb derm getting out of hand? It might be a sign to consult a professional about the state of your skin. Your doctor will be able to provide medicated creams, oils, or other treatment solutions that specifically target seborrheic dermatitis. You may also try purchasing over-the-counter creams such as antifungal or anti-yeast creams for your seborrhea. The latter ensures the naturally-occuring yeast does not overgrow, avoiding inflammation.
Aside from these, there are plenty of natural home remedies that can help lessen the irritation on your epidermis. Mayo Clinic suggests the following:
- Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a great antimicrobial oil that’s often found in anti-acne products. Diluted with your carrier oil of choice (ie. coconut oil and olive oil), tea tree oil can be a powerful antifungal and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Aloe vera gel. This powerhouse ingredient is practically one of the longest natural remedies for treating inflamed skin. Next time you experience a flare-up, try cutting up an aloe vera leaf and dabbing the gel on the affected area.
- Fish oil supplements. The omega-3 acids found in fish oil provide wonderful health benefits to the body, and one of them is suppressing dermatitis flare-ups brought about by too much Malassezia yeast on the face.
- Coconut oil. Dury’s out on this one, but it’s said that coconut oil can help soften the rash or scaliness on the face. Do try this out only if you’re confident that your skin won’t break out. Healthline advises this as one of the better solutions for people with dry skin.
These methods are ideal for the people who prefer all-natural solutions as opposed to pharmacological solutions.
Step 4: Exfoliate
One important step in your skincare routine is exfoliation. No matter your skin type, exfoliation through chemical or physical means is a great way to remove dead skin cells. In turn, you get to unclog your pores, remove excess sebum, and keep other skin problems like blackheads, whiteheads, and acne at bay.
Exfoliation is best done only once or twice a week, and it’s crucial to choose products that are compatible with your skin type to avoid irritating it further. You can choose between physical exfoliation, which involves a scrub to remove dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your face, or chemical exfoliators that melt away deep-seated dirt.
The most popular chemical exfoliating products include ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid. To learn more about which ingredients are compatible for your skin type, read our guide to exfoliating acids here.
Healthy sun exposure plus sufficient outdoor physical activity is great at preventing the buildup of seborrhea or seb derm flare-ups. So, go and have your fun in the sun! Just make sure you’re applying enough sunscreen to minimize harmful exposure. Go for a non-irritating product with zinc oxide and make sure it’s compatible with your skin type.
Now that you know how to build the perfect skincare routine for seborrhea, the next step is to make a few lifestyle changes in order to prevent future flare-ups. Remember that this takes commitment! Paired with the right skincare routine, you’ll be on your way to a rash-free life.
1. Do Exercise Regularly
Staying physically fit has plenty of obvious benefits, but one way it helps is by promoting better overall skin health. This is because regular movement encourages your body to produce natural antioxidants, which can protect your skin cells and prevent oxidative stress. The latter occurs when your body is unable to repair the damage caused by free radicals, which cause early signs of aging and skin stress.
2. Don’t Stress It
Speaking of stress, did you know it’s a huge factor that can damage your skin and cause seborrhea/seb derm flares? Yep. The next time you’re up worrying about your future or feeling burnt out from work, remember to sit back, relax, and pop on a mask or two! No matter what it is you’re stressing out about, it can’t possibly be more important than having great skin.
3. Do Maintain a Healthy Diet
This piece of advice is one that you’ve probably heard a million times, but it bears repeating: a healthy diet not only helps important body systems function at optimal levels, but it’s one of the best solutions to chronic inflammatory skin diseases such as seb derm, too.
Food intake plays such a vital role that there’s even an anti-inflammatory diet recommended for people with these chronic conditions. The main idea is to eat anti-inflammatory foods as opposed to inflammatory ones. This basically means you should be eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods; maintaining a healthy balance of nutrients, protein, carbs and fat; and meeting the basic vitamin, mineral, and hydration needs of your body.
4. Do Shower Regularly
Seborrheic dermatitis affects not just our face but our scalp, too — hair care is just as important as skin care. It’s not just your epidermis that needs looking after, so make sure you’re cleaning your scalp regularly to avoid buildup of oil and flakiness. Any regular shampoo that your scalp likes is good enough. If you don’t notice any improvements, though, you might want to get a medicated dandruff shampoo. Do make sure that your hair products are effective in cleansing your head and don’t add to the damage.
5. Try Natural Treatments
The yeast causing seb derm that lives on your scalp isn’t going to go away on its own. To further prevent a nasty rash on different areas of your head, try the following home remedies:
- Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV on the scalp is a great way to get rid of excessive oils and buildup of dirt and dandruff. Simply apply a small amount, diluted with water, all over your scalp. Rinse it off afterwards.
- Olive oil. Yes, you heard it right. One effective way to get rid of unwanted oils is to remove them — with more oil. Coating your hair with olive oil right before shampooing can lock in some vital nutrients that get rid of unwanted oils in the first place. All you have to do is cover your scalp and strands with olive oil and leave it on for an hour. Rinse the oil off then proceed to shower and shampoo your hair as usual!
We hope this article has given you some valuable information and insight into this tricky condition. Remember that no matter how difficult it gets, never lose hope that you’ll one day be able to suppress those flare-ups once and for all.
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Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.