The “S” Cure – Eliminating Symptoms
First and foremost, I’d like to provide some immediate steps:
- If you are putting any natural oils or butters on your face, coconut oil, jojoba oil, neem oil, tee tree oil, almond oil, lavender, oil of oregano, olive leaf oil, etc. (you’ll notice I mentioned many anti-fungals, and the list goes on)…STOP.
- If you are using a soap of any kind, natural or otherwise, STOP.
- If you are using steroid creams, cordizones, or various prescriptions with side effects too numerous to mention…for the love of God..please STOP.
- Okay, now we can move on… 🙂
So Why Is This Happening?
Well, seborrheic dermatitis is causing your skin to flare-up because of yeast; more specifically mallassezia yeast. This yeast grows on everyone’s skin and feeds off of the sebum (oil) that your body/skin produces. With seborrheic dermatitis you are producing more oil than normal in your flare-up areas, while also overproducing skin cells. The mallassezia yeast feeds on this oil (sebum), creating a yeast overgrowth in that area. This can cause skin irritation, inflamation, and flaky skin. The rapid skin cell production, rapid oil production, and yeast production, each go hand in hand with flare-ups. With seborrheic dermatitis your skin is usually dry, but it is also oily at the same time. Strange right? Well, that is called combination skin and it is what you will find with most seborrheic dermatitis cases. Combination skin is one of the more tricky aspects of curing seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. You want to reduce the oil production by cleaning/drying the skin, but not completely deplete the moisture in the skin at the same time. Tricky, but do-able. So now that you understand that info, let’s dive a little further.
Enough With The Oils!
The natural remedy world loves oils and promoting them for skincare. While oils can be great for healthy or normal skin, they are not great for skin with a compromised skin barrier and seborrheic dermatitis. Any oil you put on your face provides a feeding ground for yeast to thrive. Various natural oils, or even creams that contain natural oils, may provide you with some relief temporarily…but you are usually taking one step forward and two-three steps back!
“Well what about oils that contain anti-fungal properties to kill yeast”?
The answer is no! There are many types of oils which have anti-fungal properties that may help kill or diminish yeast. However, you are still providing food for yeast to grow. Moreover, you are providing a lot of that food! It’s more food and yeast growth than you are eliminating a majority of the time.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also usually secluded to particular areas of the body: the face, scalp, and trunk. These flare-up locations are near the sebaceous glands. Those are the areas that are overproducing oil, while the other areas of your skin are not. So when you start applying oil to areas with a flare-up, and also to areas that have otherwise healthy skin, you are actually encouraging yeast to spread to unaffected areas of the skin. For example, if you have facial seborrheic dermatitis primarily within your T-Zone, and apply oil to the entire face, you are allowing the yeast to spread outside of your T-Zone. Just know that anti-fungal oils may hurt yeast a little bit in theory, but the amount of food you are providing for the yeast almost always out weighs any decrease from the unit-fungal. When people start putting oils on their flare-ups it’s common for them to experience temporary relief and think,
“Amazing! A cure! Let me go share the real cure with the others”!
[Deep sigh] Any immediate reductions in symptoms those individuals experienced were typically due to other factors. For example, the moisturizer they replaced with the oil contained an irritant that was inflaming their skin. So when they first start applying an oil instead the moisturizer, it feels soothing and may even reduce the inflammation since the previous moisturizer is no longer irritating their skin. However, the seborrheic dermatitis still exists, and will begin spreading to previously unaffected areas. If you want to test this for yourself, try using one of the many oils (you choose) available on your seb derm for a week and see what happens. The first 1-3 days might show some improvement. By the end of the week, the seborrheic dermatitis will be worse than before.
I firmly believe that anyone who has had success “100% curing symptoms” with oils, is simply because they unknowingly solved the cause of their seborrheic dermatitis when switching to natural oil based solutions for moisturizing. Meaning, the moisturizer was actually causing their seborrheic dermatitis all together. They may have been allergic to something in their moisturizer (ingredients, fragrance, parabens), or maybe the flare-up caused them to switch detergents, diet, etc. In that case, the moisturizer or inadvertent life change was not just an irritant, but the actual cause for their seborrheic dermatitis. The “cure” was almost definitely not the oil itself.
Steroid Creams – Yikes!!!
Prescribing steroid creams tends to be the “go-to” solution for medical professionals treating a seborrheic dermatitis diagnosis. The same usually applies for eczema and rosacea. While steroid creams can do a good job fighting inflammation and redness, they can also be very problematic. Steroid creams can weaken and thin the skin (especially with long term use). This can ultimately compromise the protective barrier of the skin and cause a vicious cycle of dependency. It is very common to see people use a steroid cream, have excellent results eliminating their seborrheic dermatitis, and then experience a massive rebound effect after they stop using it. With long term use, it is also common to see steroid creams lose their effectiveness and require stronger and stronger steroid creams to be prescribed. It is truly a horrible cycle. Steroid creams can be effective, but if the underlying cause for the seborrheic dermatitis is not addressed, the cycle begins. Another problem I see quite often is false hope resulting in no changes to lifestyle or further investigation. Meaning, many people using steroid creams see results in the beginning and start to view the cream as their solution. So the cause of their seborrheic dermatitis is never addressed and they usually don’t change anything else in their routine or lifestyle. They develop a dependency on a cream that will eventually become ineffective, while simultaneously weakening their skin’s ability to combat the skin condition without it.
I am not going to recommend or advise anyone to not listen to their medical professional if they have been prescribed a medication. However, I will say that personally I feel very strongly against the use of steroid creams. If you must use a steroid cream, please be careful, do your research, and ask a lot of questions.
Why Soaps Are No Good
Soaps are extremely drying and harsh on the skin. They also tend to clog pores and leave a residue. Have you ever heard of soap scum? Well, I encourage you to research “soap scum and hard water” and see what you find. Soap binds to the mineral deposits in hard water creating what is commonly called soap scum. It is basically a residue that builds up in most bathtubs and showers. And guess what…that residue is also on your skin and it’s a common irritant. No bueno!
Soaps are also made up of lipids, which is another food source for yeast. So when washing with soap, not only are your drying out and damaging your skin, but you also leave a layer of food for yeast. So soaps and oils (especially combined) can really have disastrous results for seborrheic dermatitis. So to cleanse the skin you want something that has no oils, no soap or lipids, no chemicals, fragrances, irritants, etc., that can still clean your skin and decrease yeast. For now, forget about soaps or shampoos that contain pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or other ingredients. Yes, they have good anti-fungal properties that can certainly be effective. But the products they are in also have other properties and chemicals that will not work for many people, and can actually be causing or adding to the problem. Moreover, using shampoos on your face, or tar soaps, etc., can damage and strip facial skin regardless of whether you have seborrheic dermatitis or not.
It’s important to note that some seborrhiec dermatitis flare-ups are much worse simply because of irritation to the skin. When you have a flare-up, your skin is like an open wound and the protective layer of your skin has been compromised. If exposed to harsh chemicals or ingredients, chlorine, etc., you can be further damaging its protective layer and contributing to more intense outbreaks. So what do you use then, right? Don’t worry, there is a solution…
That solution…is sea salt.
Step #1 – Checking Your Water
Before we go into the sea salt solution, I’d like to discuss the foundation you have in your home. That foundation is the water you bath in. Most people don’t realize that there are many skin irritants in their tap water. The wide array of minerals and deposits found in hard water that end up binding with soaps, and the presence of chlorine/chloramines, are common causes for seborrheic dermatitis. They can both leave you with dry, flaky, itchy skin. They can also cause an itchy scalp, dandruff, dry brittle hair, and hair loss. If you would like more details read my post How Tap Water Can Effect Seborrheic Dermatitis. If you do have chlorine/chloramines and hard water, removing them can make a drastic difference for your skin and overall health. Have you ever noticed people with seborrheic dermatitis say,
”Hmmm, I went on vacation and my seb derm went away! It must have been the pool, or fruits I was eating, etc.”
Probably not the case. This is especially true if they went to a resort. There is a very good chance that their seborrheic dermatitis cleared up because the hotel had a water filtration system. So the chlorine and hard water from home was no longer irritating their skin. I see the vacation story a lot, and I believe the reason most seborrheic dermatitis clears is due to combinations of low stress, bathing in clean water, and/or swimming in the ocean. So it’s a good idea to check the water in your home and make sure the foundation you have for washing your skin isn’t causing you to fail from the start. If you’re not sure how to check your water you can use my How To Check Your Water article as a guide. And if you want to know how I soften my water and remove chlorine/chloramines you can check out my post on How To Soften Your Water And Filter Chlorine & Chloramines.
Ultimately, whether you have seborrheic dermatitis or not, there’s really no downside to filtering your water. Nicer skin, softer healthier hair, and no (or less) residue from soap on your skin or built up in your shower. Moreover, you are no longer breathing in chlorine vapors that can cause additional health issues. So check your water, and determine if it’s a potential problem.
Step #2 – Sea Salt Cleansing
I recommend washing/soaking seborrheic dermatitis in a sea salt solution as a first step. It cleans and heals the skin similar to the effect that swimming in the ocean has on an open wound. The sea salt you want to use should be unrefined, no fragrances, pure sea salt with trace minerals. Generally the more trace minerals that are in the salt, the better. I like using Minera Dead Sea Salt which I purchase from Amazon. Dead Sea Salt has been known for ages to have miraculous effects on the skin and body, curing all types of ailments. While Dead Sea Salt is petty amazing, I also use natural sea salt sometimes that you can purchase from the local supermarket or natural foods store. I get asked a lot about other brands, especially sea salts that people may already have in their home and want to test out. The main two that people ask about are Himalayan Pink Salt and Real Salt. I have used both on occasion, and they seem to work fine. The goal is to mimic natural ocean water at home, so keep that in mind and feel free to experiment.
Once you have your sea salt, mix the sea salt with fresh water and create a solution that will be as close to ocean water as possible. The general measurement for recreating ocean water is 1/2 cup per gallon of water. While that will be the the measurement a majority of the time, there are some particular salts I’ve come across that can have different measurements. So just be sure to check the packaging of the brand you buy, and make sure you have the right measurement. When in doubt the 1/2 cup per gallon is a safe bet, and also happens to be the general measurement for creating a salt water fish tank. So if it’s good enough for the fish, it’s good enough for me! 🙂
After you have your salt water solution, you want to soak your seborrheic dermatitis with it for a few minutes. Note, that if you have a flare-up, or your skin’s protective layer is compromised, this will sting. Don’t worry. The stinging will subside shortly, and as the skin heals there will be no more stinging (just like the rest of your normal skin!). Do not immediately start scrubbing and trying to wash your skin. This is a common mistake people make in skin care, regardless of regimen. You always want to allow your skin some time to soften up in the water. This way any dead skin can be more easily, and gently removed. If you begin rubbing or trying to exfoliate flaky skin immediately, it will result in irritation. Moreover, you will not be able to remove very much dead skin (resulting in “stubborn” areas) or clean the area very well. So always try and give your skin at least 5 minutes to soften with the water before any kind of rubbing or exfoliating. Once your skin has softened, you can gently rub any dead skin away with your fingers as you wash the area. Once you finish washing with the sea salt solution, make sure your rinse well with fresh water. Then pat the area dry with a clean soft towel.
Most people will see a dramatic reduction in flare ups within 24 hours, and many within just minutes or hours! While this is great, be careful not to get too carried away once you start seeing results. Too often people get excited that their seborrheic dermatitis is disappearing, and they start dumping more and more sea salt into their salt water mixture, or washing too many times a day. If you add too much sea salt to the water you will dry out your skin, which is not good. Your skin should be about as dry as it would be after going for a swim in the ocean and rinsing your face with fresh water. Keep in mind that if you have been washing your face with soap and cleansers prior to the sea salt regimen, it can take a day or two for your skin to feel less dry or tight. That is simply because your skin is already stripped from other products, and there may also be a residue on the skin. So it will take a few days to balance itself out.
Please also note, that this sea salt routine should be done with water that is free of chloramines and chlorine. If you happen to have chloramines or chlorine in your water, you should use bottled water for the entire regimen.
Okay, so once you are finished with the sea salt regimen it’s time to move on to step #3.
Step #3 – The No Moisturizers Goal
Moisturizing is great for the skin, but there are so many ingredients in them that tend to be problematic for seborrheic dermatitis. Moreover, any one of these ingredients could be the cause alone for your seborrheic dermatitis. So ideally the goal of this principle would be to not use moisturizer at all. For those with facial seborrheic dermatitis the initial thought to not using a moisturizer is,
“Are you crazy!? I can’t not use moisturizer. My face will fall off!”
Listen, I get it. That is understandable. For years, I felt that same way. I used to wash my face with Head & Shoulders shampoo and would slather on layer upon layer of Cetaphil lotion until my face felt comfortable. If I didn’t slop on huge amounts of moisturizer, my skin felt like it was so tight and painful that it was about to crack into pieces and fall off my face. So I understand your fear. However, the reason your face feels tight or burns when getting out of the shower is usually because it’s been so over stripped by harsh soaps/cleansers, or from over washing. If you have hard water the soap residue left on your face is also adding to the tightness. Once the residue is removed, and your skin balances itself a bit with a normal level of natural oils and moisture, you will not feel the same tightness and necessity to use moisturizers. Over time your skin will regain it’s moisture level and natural oil level.
That said, some people (especially depending on your environment) might need moisturizer at times. Also, if you are treating a flare up and first starting the sea salt regimen you may need a moisturizer that can provide relief. If you live in a very dry climate like myself, some form of moisturizer may be needed to prevent your skin from drying out. So choosing the right one is very important. This can be difficult because almost all the moisturizers out there contain oils (even Cetaphil), fragrances, parabens, lanolin, and a multitude of chemicals that are known skin irritants. Moreover, a lot of moisturizers help feed yeast. The moisturizer that I personally use on occasion and recommend is Aveeno. I stick to their traditional green bottle moisturizer (this is my “go-to” I primarily use), and their Eczema Therapy Moisturizer. They are both very good, and I like them for a number of reasons. They are unique in composition in that they are oatmeal based, which tends to be very soothing on the skin. If you have a flare up or itchy burning skin, Aveeno does an amazing job at providing relief. Even during an extreme flare up, these can really take away any burning or itchy sensations. They don’t have the same creamy consistency (from oil usually) that 99% of moisturizers do, and they don’t leave a shine on your skin. Aveeno has more of a matte finish, so you won’t have a greasy looking face, and it acts to retain moisture while protecting your skin from the elements. These are simply the best options I have found yet for seborrheic dermatitis, and I have tried pretty much every moisturizer there is on the market.
When you apply the Aveeno be sure to take it easy. To often people go crazy and start slopping on multiple layers at once. I understand the temptation, because it can be very soothing. But just slow your roll a bit, and apply one layer at a time. See how you feel, and then apply another additional thin layer if necessary. Repeat this until you feel comfortable.
My personal routine with the sea salt regimen is the following:
I wash my face with sea salt in the evening prior to going to bed, and apply a layer of Aveeno. I may add a second layer if the weather in Los Angeles is extremely dry that day/night to help my skin retain moisture. When I wake up in the morning, I take a shower in fresh water, and don’t wash my face with anything. More often than not, I then apply a light layer of Aveeno and leave the house. That’s it, and my skin is 100% clear of any visible signs of seborrheic dermatitis. The reason I might add a light layer of Aveeno in the morning is mainly due to the poor air quality in Los Angeles. The Aveeno helps add a protective barrier to protect my skin from the elements here. If I am in Miami for example, where there is a lot of humidity and the air is much cleaner, I don’t add any Aveeno.
Easy Way To Get Started With A Simple Test
Pick up a small container of unrefined natural sea salt from your local grocery store or natural foods store, and some bottled spring water (enough to fill a sink twice). If you live in the US, Aveeno is quite easy to find, even at the general grocery store. So you can pick up the small 2.5oz tube (great for traveling by the way) quite easily. Use the bottled water to mix your salt water mixture in the sink. By doing this you are ensuring that the water you are using does not have chlorine or many other common tap water compounds that can be problematic. Once you have washed your face, empty the sink and add fresh bottled water again to rinse with. Rinse your face with the fresh water, gently pat dry, and add a light layer of Aveeno if needed.
If you find that this works for you, then maybe look at purchasing some additional items to make life a bit easier with this regimen. It’s always good to test things first before you go running out and spending money on a more permanent regimen. So I encourage you to test away, and see if it works for you.
Ready For The “C” Cure
If you have questions that arise when following the “S” cure regimen, just remember one thing: the principles here are more important than the regimen or products used. You may come up with a better regimen that falls in line with the same principles. Or maybe you live in a country where there’s a better product that still fits the same criteria. If you understand the priciples, you can tailor a regimen that works particularly for you and your situation. It might be just as effective, or maybe even more effective! Everyone is different, including their environment, so tinker away with testing and share with the rest of us! 🙂 – Check out some Testimonials
The next step is to review the information in The “C” (cause) Cure. It expands on many of the points made here, and takes a deeper look at causes for seborrheic dermatitis.