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My Story: Seborrheic Dermatitis

Sugarpuffish Seborrheic Dermatitis

The official diagnosis for my ugly boob rash is seborrhoeic dermatitis (SD). I had been treating it as Atopic eczema (as instructed by my GP) and getting nowhere fast. I think I have been moaning about this patch of skin for a couple of years if not longer. I am currently researching SD and wanted to share my findings and thoughts on treatment. It is early days and I am using my blog as a sounding board for formulating a plan of action. 

What is seborrhoeic dermatitis
Key points from a leaflet provided to me by my Dermatologist (PDF online at British Association for Dermatologists http://www.bad.org.uk

‘Dermatitis’ means an inflammation of the skin; ‘seborrhoeic’ simply means that the rash commonly comes up in areas rich in sebaceous (grease) glands such as the face, scalp and centre of the chest. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is very common, affecting between 3 and 5% of the global population.

This is not fully understood, although yeast called Malassezia that lives on the skin plays a part in causing it.

Tiredness and stress can sometimes trigger a flare of seborrhoeic dermatitis. It is more common in cold than in warm weather, and it is not related to diet.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis does best with treatments that attack the yeasts that live on the surface of everyone’s skin. They are not the same as the yeasts that cause thrush or those that are present in foods.

What does the internet say?
I do feel there is conflicting information from what I read online and that provided by my Dermatologist. The online community suggests following a free from diet to combat an overgrowth of yeast (Candida) in the digestive system. Eliminating dairy and gluten seems to be a recurring theme. 

My thoughts on this advice
Scary to write this but come 2016 I will have been dairy free for 30 years, yikes I am getting old. That of course rules out dairy for contributing to my seborrheic dermatitis. As for going gluten free, unless you have coeliac disease I would not advocate excluding it from your diet. The media and public have made gluten out to be this evil ingredient we all need to avoid and I disagree. An elimination diet should not be taken lightly and may cause long term health issues if not managed correctly. Processed gluten free foods are a double edge sword as they tend to be higher in fat and sugar. My theory is most people who have eliminated gluten are feeling better about themselves because they are no longer eating junk foods on a regular basis. Unless you are having a sneaky McDonalds and cheating at your diet, you are probably eating healthier and have more awareness for your food intake. 

I advocate a balanced diet and I am not totally against reducing my intake of certain food groups. I am a lover of sweet things and need to take control of my sugar intake. I ditched fizzy drinks a few years ago but I have a weakness for other sweet treats. I am going to consider taking supplements following advice from the Dietitian (given prior to SD diagnosis). I have taken multi vitamins most of my life but in recent years I got out of the habit. I was not sure if supplements were making a difference but it has now crossed my mind that perhaps there is a correlation.

Natural Topical Treatments
I am keen to find natural skincare that can help treat the SD externally. I have been looking at essential oils with anti fungal properties. Tea Tree is a popular choice but unfortunately I am sensitive to this ingredient. Manuka (honey or oil) has always been my chosen replacement for tea tree and other essential oils to consider would be Clove, Neem, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Lavender, Rosemary, Oregano, Peppermint and Eucalyptus. I will probably look for skincare incorporating these oils but I am considering a DIY project. Essential oils would need to be mixed with carrier oil before applying to the skin and I am going to have to watch my exposure to linalool. 

Next Step
I will be monitoring what I eat and trying to make better choices for the future. I plan to make changes to my skincare routine but I will do this slowly as I know my skin will have a hissy fit if I mess around with too many products at once. I previously mentioned, it was suggested to move away from balms and oils (insert sad face) so I'm reducing the amount I use and will gradually incorporate creams/lotions.

Sarah x

Disclaimer - The information provided is for guidance and is not a substitute for medical advice.


  1. Really interesting post, thanks for sharing. I was particularly struck by your thoughts about elimination diets and both the physiological and emotional reasons they may or may not work. No pun intended but good food for thought.

    1. I'm pleased you found this interesting, I do believe we need a balanced lifestyle too many of us are worrying about what we shouldn't eat

  2. Sarah - my heart went out to you reading this. I've had Seb Derm for years, mostly affecting my scalp, chest and upper back. Just recently it's been branching out a bit too... I've never hit on a miracle treatment (and I've messed around with many) but one change I made recently made a difference for me. On the advice of my GP I stopped using shower gel, soap or body washes. Now I put a thin layer of oil all over (usually cold-pressed sunflower or coconut oil, which I get from Quinessence very reasonably) and in the shower I gently buff it off with a flannel or muslin. My skin isn't trouble free but I have noticed my chest and back is a bit less itchy and prone to flare-ups or cracking. I wasn't convinced when my GP suggested it and tried the whole 'oh well I only use very gentle ones without SLS', but he said with very sensitive skin any kind of detergent can trigger dryness and cause the sebaceous glands to overcompensate a little and get inflamed. The other thing I've been doing is washing my hair over the bath or basin to stop shampoo/conditioner running down my body. Both things mean I take a bit longer to get ready in the mornings but despite the faff I've considered it worth perservering with for about 3.5 months now. I really hope you find something that helps a bit for you. Faye x

    1. Thanks Faye for the advice it is appreciated. I remember reading your post about washing with oil and I need to try that, at the moment I am using no products in the shower only my konjac sponge, my chest has improved. I think the hard part is maintaining a recovery as it does seem to reoccur. I think that last episode was triggered by a product it just pushed my skin over the edge, good job that coincided with my appointments :D For as long as I can remember I always wash my hair over the bath, I realised years ago that shampoos were triggering irritation on my body, its a good tip and one I also recommend, makes a world of difference to me when I was managing the Atopic eczema.