Seborrheic dermatitis can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. While it may not be entirely possible to prevent seborrheic dermatitis, there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk and manage symptoms effectively.
To prevent seborrheic dermatitis, you need to understand the factors that contribute to its development. There are 5 elements that contribute to the development of seb derm in an individual:
- Malassezia yeast overgrowth
- Skin microbiome imbalance
- Sebaceous gland activity and lipid composition
- Impaired skin barrier
- Hyperactive immune response to Malassezia
I take a deep dive into these issues in this article: Why do I have seborrheic dermatitis (and not them)?
By being aware of these factors, it becomes easier for you to take preventive measures and tackle seborrheic dermatitis effectively. I’ll go through how you can prevent each of the issues below but many of the strategies will improve your general health and tackle a few triggers at the same time:
Prevent malassezia yeast overgrowth
My ultimate weapon against Malassezia yeast is the humble over-the-counter clotrimazole cream. There are a few other antifungal cream options out there but my choice is clotrimazole. The brand doesn’t matter. Apply antifungal cream over all affected areas twice a day for 2 weeks, even after the inflammation and scales have gone away.
This keeps the yeast population in check for a while but you may need to repeat the regimen every few weeks, especially at the beginning of your treatment.
Another very important thing you can do to prevent Malassezia overgrowth is to avoid using oils with long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) as LCFAs are food for Malassezia, encouraging its growth. These are the common oils to avoid.
Keep your skin microbiome in balance
A consistent skincare routine with gentle products is important. You can read about my skincare regimen in this article. Make sure all your skincare products are pH balanced so you maintain a slightly acidic environment with a pH of around 5.0.
Drink plenty of water and keep your skin hydrated to promote a healthy microbiome. I’m not convinced that topical application of probiotics work but oral probiotics will improve your gut microbiome (which will regulate your immune system) and is thought to balance your skin microbiome as well.
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Regulate sebaceous gland activity and improve lipid composition
There are so many causes of overactive sebum production. Some, like hormonal cycles, are out of our control. Others, like stress and diet, can be managed.
Sebum production and lipid composition can be regulated through a combination of lifestyle changes and skincare practices. Here are some tips:
- Keep your skin clean: Use a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities from your skin. Avoid using harsh soaps or scrubs that can strip your skin of its natural oils.
- Moisturize regularly: Use a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated without clogging your pores (these are my recommendations for the best moisturizers)
- Avoid using heavy makeup: Heavy makeup can clog your pores and contribute to excess oil production.
- Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help to regulate sebum production and improve the overall health of your skin.
- Manage stress: Stress can contribute to excess oil production, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress in your life. Try practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to help reduce stress levels.
By following these tips, you can help regulate sebum production and maintain a healthy lipid composition for your skin.
Repair and maintain your skin barrier
Cleanse your face and body gently using a mild soap or cleanser appropriate for your skin type rather than an abrasive one, even it it has anti-fungal properties. Don’t over-scrub, as over-washing can strip away natural skin oils, damage your skin barrier further, cause sebum overproduction and ultimately aggravate seb derm.
Preferably your cleanser should be pH balanced, contain as little chemicals as possible and not leave your face feeling tight and dry. One way to check this is to smile after you wash your face. If you can feel the tightness in your face when you smile, your cleanser is too drying.
I use a few cleansers depending on how my skin is doing but at the moment, my favorite one is The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser:
I always moisturize after cleansing even though I have oily skin. The moisturizer keeps my skin hydrated and prevent sebum overproduction. If you have oily skin too and tend to get congested pores, use a lightweight moisturizer rather than a rich one.
A good gentle and natural face moisturizer is Derma E Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin:
Make sure you get enough essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, which can help maintain skin health. Also pay attention to your intake of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B complex, zinc, and selenium, which are essential for a healthy skin barrier.
I make sure to include sources of these nutrients in my diet by consuming foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Generally, a diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support overall skin health and help prevent seb derm flares.
If like me, you don’t always get round to eating healthy, a whole-foods multivitamin like GOL Vitamin Code can help:
Further reading: Impaired skin barrier in seborrheic dermatitis
Regulate your immune response to Malassezia
Stress can be a significant trigger for seb derm. Chronic stress not only causes your immune system to malfunction, it also increases sebum production and reduces the integrity of your skin barrier.
Unfortunately, stress seems to be part and parcel of modern life. All is not lost. There are plenty of ways to stop stress from taking over your life. Some of my go-to methods include:
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Regular physical exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
Eat a balanced whole-foods diet that is low in sugar and other processed food. This will help regulate your immune system and improve your health in general.
Have you thought of trying turmeric? A turmeric face mask and a golden latte can both reduce skin inflammation and soothe your angry skin. Read more about turmeric: Is Turmeric Good For Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Preventing seborrheic dermatitis is simple. It involves a combination of good skin care, a balanced diet and heathy lifestyle choices. As someone who has fallen of the horse multiple times myself, I agree it’s hard to do but as long as you’re making small incremental improvements, that’s a good start on the right track.
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