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By Cynthia Bailey MD.

Also called dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis is a rash of unknown cause.

symptoms and signs of facial seborrheic dermatitisWhat do the symptoms and signs of seborrheic dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff) of the face look like?

  • Facial seborrhea looks like dry, flakey and irritated skin.
  • It typically causes redness and scale on the mid-face along the eyebrows, sides, and creases of the nose that will run down the sides of the mouth to the chin.
  • Men with facial hair may have beardruff - red irritated and flakey skin in their beard and mustache.

Many people with seborrhea think that they have a problem with dry skin, even though their skin may also be oily. While the skin may look flakey and dry, dryness is not the problem -- seborrhea is actually a rash.

What causes facial dandruff?

No one knows. Many people have it, though. In adolescence, facial dandruff may appear as greasy redness along the nose creases and between the brows. In adult years, the problem looks more like dry white flakes in the eyebrows, between your brows, running down the sides of the nose to the chin. It may be itchy. In severe cases, the rash spreads to the cheeks. The skin along the hairline can also show dandruff. Men with beards find it on the skin between the hairs. It can worsen in the winter and during times of stress.

Unchecked, the scale and redness of facial seborrheic dermatitis can be hard to cover up. It tends to look better in the morning after you’ve washed your face, and then it worsens as the day wears on.facial redness and flaking of seborrheic dermatitis

Facial skin suffering from seborrhea is sensitive!

The rash of seborrhea causes the skin barrier to weaken. This makes the skin sensitive. Just like with rosacea, skin suffering from seborrhea is easily irritated. It turns redder if your skin is exposed to harsh soaps or anti-aging products with glycolic acid, vitamin C, or Retin A, or even harsh weather. My skin care routine for seborrhea-prone skin is based on gentle products that are highly effective against the rash. I recommend that you avoid using harsh products if you have facial dandruff.

best skin care routine to heal facial seborrheaWhat are the best skin care products to control facial dandruff (seborrhea)?

Over my years of dermatology practice, I’ve found practical remedies and skin care that work to control facial seborrheic dermatitis. I’ve tried many products on my own skin too because I have facial seborrhea and rosacea. Remember, you always get the best results with Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine to control seborrhea. This involves using compatible products for each of the 4 essential skin care steps:


Your skin will be stronger and better able to resist seborrhea if you create a Dr. Bailey Complete Skin Care Routine for it. 

Here’s the strategy I use in my dermatology practice to control facial dandruff:

best skin cleansers to heal facial seborrheabest foaming cleanser for facial seborrhea on hairy skinCLEANSE: Wash facial skin with Calming Zinc ™ Soap once or twice a day. For oily skin or the hairy beard area, Foaming Zinc Cleanser  is a good alternative. Both of these products contain the highest allowed amount of pyrithione zinc, which is 2%. Pyrithione zinc is my favorite medicated ingredient for facial seborrhea because it's a powerful medicine to treat the skin yeast called pityrosporum, which plays a role in dandruff. If you have a lot of dry scale build-up on your skin, you can very gently exfoliate while cleansing by using an Exfoliating Facial Sponge. This can be irritating, so go easy. I recommend you use Calming Zinc ™ soap with the Exfoliating 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. You can use Bamboo and Clay Thermal Exfoliating Scrub instead, if you want a creamy product to gently exfoliate scale.   

best skin care routine to heal facial seborrheaCORRECT: I’ve found that the best, most effective non-medicated ingredients to control the inflammation of seborrhea are green tea antioxidants. The combination of Calming Zinc ™ Soap and my Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy is so huge when it comes to soothing dandruff prone facial skin that it is the basis for my Redness Relief Kit. It’s a magical combination! My kit is unique because of the effectiveness of both of these products for the most common causes of facial redness, seborrhea, and rosacea. Know that if you have one of these conditions you often also have a propensity for the other, and the kit addresses them both. 

best skin care routine to heal facial seborrheic dermatitis

best skin moisturizers to heal facial seborrheic dermatitisHYDRATE: Apply a facial moisturizer matched to your skin type. Some of the best options include my Daily Face Cream (pick the one for your skin type), Natural Face and Body Lotion and Natural Face and Body Butter Cream. Sometimes boosting hydration with a few drops of one of my Face Booster Oils mixed with your moisturizing cream at bedtime really helps to soothe facial seborrhea. To see a number of my facial moisturizers click here.

best sunscreens for facial seborrheic dermatitisPROTECT: Use a mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. Zinc oxide gives the best sun protection in my opinion, and is non-irritating as compared to other, non-mineral sunscreen blockers. To see my mineral zinc oxide facial sunscreens  click here.

best skin care to treat facial redness from rosacea and seborrheaMy Rosacea Skin Care Kit works well for facial seborrhea and includes compatible products for each of these steps. Rosacea and seborrhea often occur at the same time for people. The good news is that the skin care routine that heals one condition will often address the other as well.

We don’t know the cause of seborrhea, but we do have skin care that helps you control the skin problem. If you would like more information on seborrhea, see my seborrheic dermatitis information on my skin care advice pages.

"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