What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition which causes an itching scalp and facial dryness. It is a fairly common complaint affecting an estimated 6 million people in the U.S. Its symptoms are fairly similar to other conditions like psoriasis and other types of eczema meaning it is not always easily diagnosed.
Fortunately, there are plenty of home treatments that can help ease your symptoms as well as certain dietary and lifestyle changes.
What is Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic and recurrent inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by flaking skin and erythema. The condition is a type of eczema that causes many similar symptoms to other forms of eczema like itching and dryness of the skin.
The symptoms tend to appear in parts of the body with higher concentrations of sebaceous glands. It typically presents on the face, forehead and scalp but can occur elsewhere on the body including the ears, chest, back and neck.
Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis
People with seborrheic dermatitis can experience a range of symptoms including the following:
- Scaly patches or dandruff on the scalp.
- Red patches of skin that can be sensitive and extremely dry.
- Flaking skin especially in areas of the skin with folds that contain a lot of oil. These include the chin, forehead, back and chest.
- Erythema or skin peeling.
- Cradle cap in babies
Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis
The precise cause of seborrheic dermatitis are still unknown but it seems to be linked to the secretions of the sebaceous glands.
The surface of the skin contains sebum which produces oils or lipids that help keep your skin properly hydrated. This normally prevents skin dryness and research suggests those with dermatitis tend to have normal sebaceous gland activities. However, changes in skin surface composition and overly active immune systems are thought to trigger an abnormal skin response.
The body’s immune response increases due to the proliferation of microorganisms like Malezzia yeasts which. These yeasts are present in oily areas of the skin and for most people cause no problem. However in those with seborrheic dermatitis, they are produced in higher levels and appear to cause inflammation and irritation.
Research has found that those with other immune response disorders are more likely to suffer from seborrheic dermatitis.
Other Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis Include:
- Genetic factors
- Certain medications
- Autoimmune disorders such as HIV
- Dry, cool weather
There is no cure for seborrheic dermatitis but it is very treatable. Conventional treatments include the following:
- Topical skin treatments like ketoconazole cream
- Anti-fungal dandruff shampoos
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Prescription medications are not always effective and they also contain powerful chemicals that can end up causing greater irritation. Fortunately however, there are plenty of tried and tested home remedies that you can try to treat your condition at home.
Home Remedies for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Paying attention to your diet can help keep flare ups under control.
- Try eating plenty of anti-inflammatory produce including ginger, garlic, turmeric, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar. You should also add more healthy fruit and vegetables to your diet like apples, berries and avocados.
- Fish oil helps to suppress dermatitis flare-ups. It is full of excellent nutrition such as healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Fish oil from fresh fish or supplementary sources can also help boost the immune system and protect heart health.
- Avoid eating too many processed foods that are known to cause inflammation and make immune responses worse. Cut down significantly on processed foods, sugar, snacks and sweetened drinks. Try to cut back on processed oil and fried foods.
Keeping your body well-hydrated is essential to your overall health and vital for your skin. Make sure that you drink plenty of fresh water throughout he course of your day. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and caffeine as they will leave your body dehydrated. Salty food can also have an adverse effect.
If it is difficult for you to get through too much water, try replacing your regular coffee and soda with healthy herbal teas, green tea, coconut water and home made juice.
Skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis can often flare up or become worse during periods of stress. It is important therefore to try treating this cause by trying to alleviate feelings of stress. Here are a few tips that you may find extremely useful:
- Get plenty of sleep if possible.
- Get plenty of exercise. It is not only good for your body but also helps reduce stress. Your exercise need not be overly vigorous at first but try to do something each day.
- Consider an activity that helps relieve stress such as meditation, yoga or prayer.
- Use stress busting essential oils. Massaging an essential oil into your temples or inhaling your oils with a diffuser can have a very positive effect on your stress levels.
- Chamomile tea is well known for its ability to calm the nerves so drink up as often as you like.
Aloe vera is one of the best natural remedies for a wide range of skin conditions including seborrheic dermatitis. It has outstanding anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin and ease irritation. You can either use a fresh aloe leaf and extract its gel or apply some ready made gel to your skin to help treat the condition.
Probiotics are often recommended to treat various chronic skin conditions including seborrheic dermatitis. While there is little research into their effects on the condition specifically, probiotics are known to relieve inflammation throughout the body and positively effect digestive health.
You can take probiotics in supplementary form or try adding probiotic food to your diet. Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and yogurt are the best sources of dietary probiotics.
If you are familiar with this site, you will know that we hold essential oils in very high regard. Many of these wonderful plant oils can help treat a host of skin conditions including seborrheic dermatitis.
Most essential oils have been well studied and many are known to contain the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties suitable for treating chronic skin complaints. Some of the best for seborrheic dermatitis include tea tree oil, lavender and borage but there are many more to choose from.
An essential oil like tea tree oil must be diluted before you apply it to your scalp or skin. Virgin coconut oil and olive oil make great carrier oils for the purpose. Not only do they help dilute your essential oil but they have plenty of outstanding health properties in their own right.
To treat dandruff, you can add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to your regular shampoo and massage it well into your scalp. Alternatively, you can simply massage the essential oil diluted with a carrier oil directly into your hair and scalp.
Massaging virgin coconut oil into the affected areas of your skin can have a soothing effect on your condition. It also helps keep your skin soft and moisturized. Coconut oil contains powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are ideal for your skin.
Coconut oil whether used alone or in combination with an essential oil is also a great remedy for dandruff . As an added bonus it will help keep your hair looking shiny and healthy.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Soaking your hair and scalp in apple cider vinegar may not sound like the most attractive idea but it can have a very positive effect on your scalp and helps to relieve inflammation.
Wash your hair as normal then add your apple cider vinegar diluted with water to your hair and scalp. Let the vinegar solution sit in pace for ten minutes or so before rinsing it away thoroughly. Repeat the treatment several times a week.
Boost Your Immune System
Poor immune function is one of the main causes of many skin conditions. Irritations to the skin tend to be caused or made even worse by depression, stress, anxiety and chronic fatigue. You can boost your immune system’s performance with some lifestyle and dietary changes like the following :
- Exercise on a regular basis to keep stress in check.
- Try sleeping a minimum of seven or eight hours a night.
- Try spending time outside in the sun every day,
- Hobbies or relationships can help relax your mind.
- Other natural ways to reduce stress include yoga, meditation or prayer.
- Certain herbs have adaptogenic properties that can help relieve stress and reduce cortisol levels.
- Certain supplements like probitiotics and fish oil can help boost the immune system.
- Anti-inflammatory food such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, flaxseed, coconut oil and avocado can also help.
Many people are deficient in zinc to some extent. Two of the most common signs and symptoms of a zinc deficiency are skin irritation and rashes. Dermatologists will often test a person for a zinc deficiency when they present with a rash or skin irritation.
Supplementing with a good quality zinc supplement may help treat the root cause of the issue. Zinc is actually included in a number of topical creams and ointments used for seborrheic dermatitis.
Quick Facts About Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis is fairly common. It affects up to 5% of the population of the U.S.
- A form of dermatitis called ‘cradle cap’ affects up to 70% of infants during the first few months after birth.
- The symptoms of the condition usually develop in adults between the age of 30 and 50.
- The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis are most common on the face and the scalp. Around 88% of people with the condition develop symptoms on the face and around 70% develop them on their scalp. Only a small percentage of people develop the symptoms on their legs and arms.
- Dandruff is considered to be a mild form of the condition.
- In the USA alone, over $200 million dollars a year is spent on treatment for seborrheic dermatitis.
- People who suffer from other immune system disorders are more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best treatment for seborrheic dermatitis?
Apart from the natural remedies we have mentioned, there are a number of more conventional treatments. The treatment for the condition focuses on reducing inflammation, soothing the itch and loosening scales. Topical antifungal creams and medicated shamppos like ketoconazole, coal tar and selenium sulfide may help to control the symptoms.
What is causing my seborrheic dermatitis?
The precise causes of the condition remain poorly understood. It may be linked to oily skin since the condition occurs primarily in areas with a lot of sebum production. It may also be linked to immune health, stress and genetics.
What vitamin deficiency causes seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis may be symptomatic of zinc and vitamin B6 deficiency.
Can seborrheic dermatitis be cured permanently?
Seborrheic dermatitis cannot be completely cured so treatment focuses on minimizing the symptoms. Treating the condition is focused on reducing the itch and alleviating swelling.
Despite having no cure, there are plenty of natural ways to keep your condition under control and ease your symptoms.
- Boosting the immune system and avoiding triggers like stress can help keep your symptoms under control.
- You should also avoid inflammatory foods and chemical skin and hair products.
- There are a number of potential home remedies including essential oils, dietary changes and exercise.
- Coconut oil and aloe vera can also help treat your symptoms.
We hope that some of the remedies and tips offered will be of some help to you. Good luck and let us know if any of these remedies worked for you.