Unlike rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema, there are no celebrities with seborrheic dermatitis. There is no website, no fund raising events , no online support group for people dealing with seborrheic derrmatitis. Yet this type of sensitive skin affects an estimated 10 million men and women in the US.
Seborrheic dermatitis, often considered a form of eczema, is a red splotchy rash that pops up the face, hands, scalp and chest. When it appears along the smile lines and around the mouth its also known as perioricular dermatitis. (That’s latin for around the mouth).
The red splotches are the end result of a series of events that starts with over production of oil in the skin. This oil provokes the overgrowth of a yeast that is actually a natural organism in the skin. This yeast produces a toxin and the overgrowth of yeast produces high levels of this toxin. The result? It creates an inflammation which we see as red, raised, itchy areas on the skin.
Over-active oil glands are a rite of passage of normal teenage years. But past age 40 over-active glands are often the result of stress, exhaustion, lack of sleep, and poor health. The link between stress and seborrheic dermatis is so strong that it sometimes is called “Wall Street Dermatitis”. After the crash of 1928, many of the ruined financiers developed seborrheic dermatitis, obviously distressed at the destruction of their wealth.
Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis
Getting seborrheic dermatitis under control starts by cooling off the oil glands. Soaps and cleansers compounded with different forms of sulfur encourage the oil glands to calm down. To jump start control, mild steroid creams and/or anti microbial gels are used for 1-3 weeks . If seborrheic dermatitis is especially persistant, antibiotics, or even oral anti-fungal medications can be added to the treatment plan.
Seborrheic dermatitis reacts badly to many types of personal care products. Even water-based foundations and moisturizers may trigger an outbreak. Needed sunscreens can be extremely tricky. While titanium and zinc oxide sunscreens are generally less irritating then chemical sunscreens, even oil free formulations can provoke a shower of red spots. To avoid wasting your money and irritating your skin, shop for beauty care products in stores like Sephora and CVS with consumer-friendly return policies.
According to NYC dermatologist Dr Albert Lefkovits, a low fat diet will help keep seborrheic dermatis under control. This means eliminating high fat foods like fried chicken, doughnuts and potato chips which aren’t healthy for anyone.
Seborrheic dermatis poses some problems for anti-aging programs. Moisturizers, even those enriched with goodies like anti-oxidants and ceramides seem to provok eruptions. While retinoids like Retin A can decrease oil production, they can be especially irritating. Dr Lefkovits prefers using glycolic acid cleansers and peels to improve seborrheic dermatitis as well as stimulate cell growth and healtheir elastin and collagen.