SEBORREHIC DERMATITIS: MY PERSONAL TIPS ON HOW TO MINIMIZE RECURRENCE
I used to have terrible seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups from time to time, about 3-5x a year. After trying out these few simple things below, I manage to reduce the frequency of flareups to 0-1x a year!
What is seborrheic dermatitis?
So if you don’t know what seborrheic dermatitis is – it’s basically red scaly patches mainly on oily parts of your face (around the nose, eyes, or lips) and sometimes, on the upper chest or back. It is similar to dandruff on the scalp. Does this mean people with oily skin are more likely to develop this condition? NO, it’s actually not that simple. A study actually found no difference in sebum production in patients and healthy control subjects, but, note that it is more common in men and in people with poorer immune system.
When I get a flareup, it usually starts with red patches around my nose, my left eye and my lips. My right eye very rarely gets affected. Sometimes, I get it on my lower neck, extending to the chest area as well.
What is the cause of seborrheic dermatitis?
The cause of this skin condition is actually unknown, but it has famously been linked to the Malassezia yeast, the same type of yeast that causes dandruff. Don’t be alarmed, this is one of the most abundant yeasts on human skin! Malasezzia changes the composition of your natural oils on the skin by breaking down the saturated fatty acids and releasing unsaturated fatty acids and other metabolites. These can penetrate into our skin and potentially cause inflammation. However, details on how this yeast causes inflammation in some of us remain poorly understood. There are also data showing that lipid compositions of seborrheic dermatitis patient are changed – i.e. reduced squalene and triglycerides. These overall changes in skin barrier composition can cause patches of dryness and therefore, flakiness on our skin.
Other factors, such as sun exposure, stress, nutrition, and genetics, also appear to contribute to this condition.
How do I treat it at home?
You should always consult your physician when it comes to proper diagnoses and treatments. I finally visited a dermatologist last year and I was given prescription medication, Daktacort, that works by reducing the proliferation of the yeast and inflammation. This clears up my skin within 3-5 days. However, note that some skin conditions may look similar, so when in doubt, ask your dermatologist.
Though Daktacort really helps clearing up the flareup, it does not minimize its frequency. Over the years, I have attempted many things to reduce the frequency of the flareup and I have finally figured out a few things I should and shouldn't use for or do to my skin. Of course, the underlying trigger of sebderm may be different for you, but I hope these tips will help.
1. Avoiding harsh ingredients in my daily skincare products.
I stick to gentle, but active skincare products most of the time. These days I am testing various skincare products, so at times, avoiding things like fragrances and essential oils is not possible, BUT I never try multiple new products at the same time. So when my skin reacts, I can narrow down the possible cause. For cleansers and moisturizers, I always stick to gentle, fragrance-free products without fail. If you find products that really work for your skin, stick to them!
2. Dedicated skincare products during flareup
When I feel signs of flareups on my skin (usually itchiness or red patches), I stop using ALL skincare products, except for 2 products that I know really help my skin. These are Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser and Diprobase Cream Emollient, alongside my prescription Daktacort.
Courtesy of brand
Extremely Gentle Cleanser
Courtesy of brand
3. Minimize physical scrubbing
I noticed that my skin flares up after microdermabrasion treatment or after using a facial scrub. For these reasons, I stop any form of physical scrubbing and only use chemical exfoliants, such as glycolic, salicylic, and other acids. I find chemical exfoliant to be much more effective than physical exfoliation and is less irritating. Check out some of my current favourite chemical exfoliants here.
4. Avoid face oils
Malassezia yeast thrives in oily condition. I only found out about this about a year ago and have since stopped using facial oils, except for oily cleanser. I have not experienced a flareup since then. Indeed, using a physical exfoliant then applying face oil gave me the worst flareup I have ever experienced! So I advise you not to do this!
I hope these simple tips help you if you're suffering from this skin condition. Check out my video above for more info :)
The Skin Press