Dr. Cynthia Bailey’s Tips for Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis Control
Facial seborrheic dermatitis control has some good news! Simple changes in your skin care regimen will help you control your dry flaky skin on your face from facial seborrheic dermatitis (aka, facial dandruff).
In additional to using skin care that controls your facial seborrhea, you also want to avoid things that will flare up your facial seborrhea. In this article, I give you tips to keep your facial skin clear and free from dry flaky skin from dandruff.
Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis Control
Is seborrhea of the face curable?
Know that seborrhea is not curable. Even once clear, it can return. When this chronic dry flaky skin starts to act up in spite of your best efforts, you need tools to treat it fast before it really gets going and makes an embarrassing mess out of your face. I created my Facial Flaking and Redness Solution Kit for my patients with facial seborrheic dermatitis. It includes 'the right tools' to control this vexing skin problem.
Here's what I tell my patients:
Washing with medicated soap is the best skin care trick to control dry flaky skin from seborrheic dermatitis.
Pyrithione zinc is my favorite medicated ingredient for facial seborrhea because it:
- Acts as a powerful medicine for dry, flaky skin;
- Is rare for someone to become allergic to pyrithione zinc; and
- Works really well in my dermatology practice.
You need to pick the right product for your skin, and dandruff shampoos are too harsh for facial skin. People with facial dandruff and who have sensitive skin that is normal, dry or oily respond really well to my Calming Zinc® soap. It’s a natural soap, which means the glycerin was not removed when the oils were turned into soap. This also means it is hydrating and won’t dry out your sensitive, dandruff-prone skin.
Calming Zinc contains the maximum allowed amount of pyrithione zinc, which is 2%, and some natural ingredients to soothe inflammation (redness).
If you're going to choose just one treatment product for your facial dandruff, Calming Zinc Soap is it!
To help remove the buildup of facial flaking and scale, I recommend you use Calming Zinc soap with an Exfoliating Facial Sponge in the morning. Gently lather your skin, and then rinse well. This helps exfoliate the loose scale to give your skin a clean look. The soap leaves a layer of medicated pyrithione zinc on your skin to help combat the Pityrosporum yeast, which lives in your pores and plays an unknown, but integral role, in seborrhea flare-ups.
When your seborrhea is a big problem, use your medicated soap twice a day especially around the nose and nostrils. When things are pretty quiet, you can get away with using the soap just once a day.
Seborrhea may flare up even with diligent use of your medicated soap. If this occurs, you can treat the flare-up by applying over-the-counter medicated creams to the affected areas of your skin.
The best topical medicated creams to help control dry flaky skin on your face from seborrhea:
Lotrimin Cream (the generic ingredient name is clotrimazole) should be applied to the rash of seborrhea twice a day until two weeks after the rash abates.
Stopping too soon will result in a rapid recurrence of the rash. With seborrhea, you need to ensure that it have been completely treated because it’s a tenacious face rash.
If Lotrimin alone doesn’t clear the problem after about two weeks, I have my patients try adding 1% hydrocortisone cream on top of the Lotrimin for a few days.
This can help jump start the Lotrimin by quieting the inflammation of the rash. But be aware that hydrocortisone is CORTISONE and will thin your skin and damage your eyes if you use it for long periods of time. It is usually OK to use it for a few days, but if things don’t clear up, you need to see your doctor to supervise your treatment.
Applying cortisone cream to your face has side effects that can be serious.
Also, don’t use it on kids without your doctor’s supervision. Remember, never self-treat yourself by using prescription cortisone on your face without your doctor’s supervision. Many prescription cortisones are much stronger than the over-the-counter cortisone, even if the names sound similar, and will cause big problems on your facial skin!)
A natural remedy for dry flaky skin on the face that I have seen yield remarkable results is oil of oregano.
I don’t know why it works, and it smells a little like a Greek salad, but I had one patient with severe, disfiguring seborrhea who failed to clear with all the biggest, strongest prescription treatments available. She completely cleared up with oil of oregano applied twice a day.
Topical oil of oregano is available in health food stores. Another natural skin care remedy for seborrheic dermatitis is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an anti-microbial, natural medicine and has the potential to kill the Pityrosporum yeast that I mentioned above. However, products containing tea tree oil are irritating so I typically don’t recommend using them on facial skin.
Avoid coming into contact with irritants on your dandruff-prone skin to control the dry flaky skin!
Seborrhea is a rash that makes your skin more porous, meaning the barrier integrity of your skin is weakened. Things get into your skin faster when you have an active rash because the barrier power of the skin is weaker. That means that substances that your healthy facial skin can tolerate may now be too irritating for your seborrhea rash zones. Adding irritation to seborrhea makes for more red scaly skin.
Things to avoid that will irritate facial seborrheic dermatitis include:
- Harsh soaps;
- Anti-aging products with glycolic acid, Retin A or Renova and Retinol, vitamin C, salicylic acid, etc.;
- Chemical sunscreens (mineral zinc oxide sunscreens are your best choice because they give great protection and are non-irritating);
- Harsh weather;
- An environment with harsh chemicals in the air, including paint fumes, new carpet, spray cleaning products, etc.; and
- Additional harsh things can make your seborrhea flare. For me, excessive facial sweat sometimes irritates my seborrhea and causes a flare-up.
Use only general skin care products that don’t irritate your seborrhea-prone skin.
Irritation of your seborrhea zones may be your first indication that your seborrhea is about to flare up. At Dr. Bailey Skin Care, I have products that are gentle and safe for most sensitive skin types including the seborrhea-prone areas of your face. Products for sensitive skin are noted with a blue band on the label.
All of my sunscreens Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50 sunscreens and all of my sunscreens are zinc oxide based making them gentle for skin suffering from seborrheic dermatitis.
Click here to see the sunscreens I recommend for my dermatology patients with seborrheic dermatitis sensitive skin.
Use only soothing and non-irritating products on your sensitive, dandruff-prone facial skin.
My favorite products to support healing of dry flaky skin from seborrhea include:
Facial Flaking and Redness Relief Kit
This kit includes Calming Zinc, Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy to replenish skin antioxidants that fight inflammation and a barrier repair moisturizer for daily use.
Add my Omega Enriched Face Booster Oil
This natural face oil is fortified with sea buckthorn to heal damaged skin barrier and fight yeast, bacteria and facial demodex mites, all of which can inflame red facial skin. Use alone after the Green Tea or add a few drops to the Daily Face Moisturizer to boost barrier healing. It also works well to help control beardruff which is seborrhea under a man's facial hair.
Add one of my Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF 50+ Sunscreens
This last product will give you all the tools for control of facial seborrhea.
These products are well tolerated by the facial skin of my seborrhea-prone patients and my own seborrhea-prone facial skin. Remember, if a product stings your seborrhea-prone skin, it is too irritating, so don’t use it!
Can you use retinol, anti-aging or anti-acne skin care products when you have facial seborrhea?
Yes, when your seborrheic dermatitis is in remission, you may be able to tolerate some of the more difficult-to-use skin care products, like anti-aging products. But, it's important to discontinue their use the minute you see a little irritation develop.
I, for example, can only occasionally treat the skin around my nose with Retin A or retinol cream, whereas the rest of my face gets treated almost every night with a retinoid because they are powerful, but potentially irritating, anti-aging creams.
Use the right skin cream to control your dry flaky skin from seborrhea.
This is big and important! The most successful skin cream I've found for controlling facial seborrheic dermatitis is Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. This is one of my absolute favorite skin-care product, bar none!
The amount of green tea antioxidants is so high (the equivalent of 500 cups of brewed tea's antioxidant polyphenols per ounce of cream) that you just can't compare Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy to any other green tea-containing product - or even any skin care product - when it comes to soothing facial redness.
Other products may list green tea as an ingredient, but in comparison, it is just a "fairy dusting" of green tea ingredients for the benefit of the label. The Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy also contains caffeine and hyaluronic acid which, with the polyphenols, create a magic combination to control the inflammation of seborrhea.
Facial seborrhea is so soothed by the combination of Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy and Calming Zinc® soap that I combined the two products to make my Redness Relief Kit. This combination is our most popular product duo, and many people pack it with them whenever they travel because the impact is that huge for controlling problems with facial redness.
These two products work so well together for both facial dandruff and rosacea (another facial rash that causes redness).
"...my skin just continues to get better!"
"I would just like to say that I have struggled with terrible skin conditions for the past few years and it was progressively getting worse. Upon finding Dr. Bailey’s website and reading her many blog posts, I realized what I had was a combination of rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis (facial dandruff), which were causing the redness, facial flushing, and clogged pores. I immediately ordered the redness relief kit & my skin just continues to get better!
I have since ordered many other products including her new mineral makeup! Thank you Dr. Bailey!" Angie C, Wichita Kansas
Are there procedures that can help stubborn facial seborrheic dermatitis?
I've seen Intense Pulsed Light treatments take the edge off of really stubborn facial seborrheic dermatitis. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments can help with rosacea, which often coexists with seborrheic dermatitis. Patients with both conditions (like me) struggle with a double whammy of facial inflammation and extremely sensitive skin. IPL isn't a cure for either of these conditions, but in my practice, I've found it really helpful.
IPL seems to quiet down the inflammation of seborrhea and rosacea, allowing longer periods of remission between flares. It also helps patients tolerate some of the anti-aging products that can aggravate both rosacea and seborrhea, but that keep skin looking nice as we age.
Facial seborrheic dermatitis is annoying and is a chronic issue for those of us who are prone to it. There’s no cure for seborrhea BUT with carefully selected skin care products and quick treatment of flare-ups, it's possible for you to have healthy and attractive skin almost year-round.
Want to learn more about facial seborrheic dermatitis?
Click here for my full Dermatologist's Advice Pages on Seborrheic Dermatitis - a common and vexing skin problem!