Sensitive Skin- Sebhorreic Dermatitis

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.

19 thoughts on “Sensitive Skin- Sebhorreic Dermatitis

  1. Wow, I went to your blog as we have just begun our beauty blog. I was looking for inspiration and instead found what has plagued me personally for 8 years. My doctor’s and facialist have been stumped. This is exactly what I have been living with. Thanks so very much for thin information.

    • THank you so much. This is why I started the blog. There is too little accurate info out there on the causes and correct treatment of so many real problems. Next week I will share the diagnosis of my sensitive skin and post before and after pix. I hope it will be helpful.

    • I conquered it by washing with ‘Purpose’ gentle cleansing wash, and using ‘cereve’ moisturizing lotion, cheap fix too!

  2. Thank you, I wonder if this is what I have? At first I thought it was food allergies, but when I get stressed at work I seem to develop red blotches or if I don’t sleep well because of worry/nerves I seem to get one or two the next day. The other day a co-worker came into my office all upset over something and I was feeling stressed. When she left my office I checked my mirror and sure enough a bright red spot on my cheeck! LOL,but arg…

    Your blog is very imformative and I enjoy it very much.

  3. Thanks for the great post! I have atopic dermatitis which is slightly different (it is usually linked with very dry and flaky skin, so it’s kind of the opposite of the over production of oil you mention). However the causes seem to be similar! For me, a change of diet, reduction of stress, and use of non-irritating soap and skin creams helped a lot.

    I especially liked your comment about sun screens, I have always had troubles with those! In the end I stopped using sunscreen altogether, as I haven’t been able to find one that doesn’t irritate my skin more than the sun could.

    • Yes, sensitive skin problems take a lot of time and experimentation to control. I’m so glad you have been successful Can you share what diet changes worked for you? Did you go gluten free?
      And regarding sunscreens, I have been using mineral make-up with great success. The SPF is much lower, but I reapply several times a day so I feel I’m getting at least some protection. I’m road testing several powdered sunscreens that provide between 30-50 SPF– and I’ll repost on the results at the end of the summer.

  4. What worked best for me was to eliminate dairy products from my diet. My skin literally cleared up within about 2 weeks. I tried gluten free as well, but that didn’t make much difference to my condition.

    Going dairy free improved my condition by about 80-90%. I’m currently planning to try eliminating sugar and yeast for a while to get rid of the remaining symptoms.

    I’m sharing what I learned on my web site in more detail, currently it’s still in the early stages but there will be more soon 🙂

    • hi, thnx 4 info. on ur vauable expirement..but plz tell me if eliminating dairuy products can help sebb. dermatitis easing out then how to make up 4 defficiency caused by not taking dairy products.

      • I did a quiz on eyes; shape ,colour, deep set or not, lashes/ thick or sparse, complexion/ fair, medium, dark
        warm or cool. Something happened and the quiz disappeared.
        Isobel Pirie

  5. I have some sebhorric dermatitis here in southern california in Escondido and I got it under control with over the counter anti fungal cream, but I am pretty sure its the water here that causes it. I was in the Netherlands for a month and didnt have it, i was on a cruise ship in the meditterean for two weeks and didnt have it, I was in Florida for 5 days didnt have it. Everything else the same but the water.

    • What an interestng story. I actually first developed sebhorric dermatitis on a trip to Amsterdam! Anti-fungal medication was very helpful for me too.

  6. I use prescription antifungal and cortisone when it gets out of control but I found using retin-A (started slowly with small concentration and worked myself to 0.5% over a year) really helped maintaining my face, neck and behind the ears clear and hairline clear. For my scalp I use head and shoulders. Mine seems to get worst in the winter (very dry environment causes my skin to produce more oil I guess) instead of the humidity during the summer which I was surprised about since I live in the south. I noticed, as long as I keep up my routine of washing with mild soap then Reting A then nourishing moisturizer, I don’t have as many problems.

  7. For many, many years I had a “permanent” rash on my forehead but once I started my green smoothie routine (I have it for breakfast 5 days per week) it went away and only comes back if I use a very irritating skin product (sunscreen with “helioplex”, anything with retinol). My smoothie (a 60 oz blender that I make for the entire week) is made up of 3C spinach, 12 oz water (blend on high to a green liquid), 4-5 scoops of whey protein powder (chocolate), 2T Tumeric powder, 2-3 T virgin, unrefined coconut oil, 1 bag frozen berry/cherry mix and 1C almond milk. It tastes like a berry-ish almond joy. Roughly 18-20 calories per oz.

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