Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that most often affects the scalp, face, and neck. It can be accompanied by acne, which is a type of skin disorder characterized by the presence of blackheads and whiteheads.
Seborrheic dermatitis does not cause acne and vice versa. However, these 2 distinct conditions often afflicts the same person, and often in the same skin areas. Both conditions are aggravated by similar triggers but they cannot be treated the same way.
Let’s take a deep dive:
- What is acne?
- What is fungal acne?
- Can seborrheic dermatitis cause acne?
- Can acne cause seborrheic dermatitis?
- How is seborrheic dermatitis different from acne?
- Can you have both seborrheic dermatitis and acne?
- Are the triggers for seborrheic dermatitis and acne the same?
- Can you treat both seborrheic dermatitis and acne with the same treatment?
- To wrap up
What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition that most often affects the face. It is caused by oil and dead skin cells blocking the pores. Similar to seborrheic dermatitis, acne is often aggravated by hormones, genetics, and stress.
Symptoms of acne include blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules. Acne can cause scarring if not treated properly.
What is fungal acne?
Fungal acne is a type of infection in your skin’s hair follicles, resulting in small whiteheads and skin irritation. Unlike regular acne, fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia. This yeast causes an infection in your hair follicles causing acne-like symptoms.
Fungal acne may be more common in people who also have dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Fungal acne and seborrheic dermatitis can often appear at the same time.
Can seborrheic dermatitis cause acne?
Many people who suffer from seborrheic dermatitis also experience acne. The two skin conditions are often caused by the same things – oils in the skin.
Seborrheic dermatitis and acne can both appear in the same places on your body, such as your face, chest, or back.
Fungal acne and seborrheic dermatitis are both caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast. However, seborrheic dermatitis in itself does not cause acne.
Can acne cause seborrheic dermatitis?
Having acne also doesn’t trigger seborrheic dermatitis. Just because you have acne doesn’t mean that you will certainly get SD. However, both conditions are related to sebum overproduction and similar triggers. SD sufferers often also often have to deal with acne.
I don’t have the figures but if you have fungal acne, there’s a higher chance you also have seborrheic dermatitis.
How is seborrheic dermatitis different from acne?
While seborrheic dermatitis and acne are both skin conditions, they are quite different from each other.
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, causing whiteheads and blackheads.
Seborrheic dermatitis, on the other hand, is a complex inflammatory condition where your immune system hyper-reacts to Malassezia byproducts on the skin, causing a rash.
Fungal acne is the overlap between SD and acne in the sense that it is acne that is caused by Malassezia infection of the hair follicles.
As you can see, all 3 are distinct diseases but they are very much related to each other in many ways and often co-exist in susceptible individuals. Lucky us.
Can you have both seborrheic dermatitis and acne?
People who have acne are more likely to have dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis than those who do not have acne. This may be due to the fact that these conditions are all related to an overproduction of oils on the skin.
Sometimes the lesions pop up in the same areas but often they can be on distinct areas on your face and scalp.
Are the triggers for seborrheic dermatitis and acne the same?
There is some overlap between the triggers for seborrheic dermatitis and acne, including excess oils, stress and hormonal changes. However, there are also some key differences.
Skincare products such as retinol and benzoyl peroxide are popular and effective topical treatments for acne but they are known to be potential aggravators for seborrheic dermatitis.
Seborrheic dermatitis stems from hyper-reactivity of the immune system and therefore may be triggered by anything that causes more inflammation in the body. Acne, on the other hand, has nothing to do with immune system hyper-activity at all.
Can you treat both seborrheic dermatitis and acne with the same treatment?
Since seborrheic dermatitis and acne are often seen together and are very similar, you may be wondering if they can be treated with the same treatment. There are actually some treatments that may improve both acne and SD.
In general, treatments designed to reduce sebum production may be effective for both conditions. This includes topical salicylic acid, gentle face cleansers, certain essential oils and non-comedogenic moisturizers.
However, this is where the similarities end. Strong anti-acne treatment like benzyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinols may treat acne effectively but worsen seborrheic dermatitis. These treatments are also ineffective for fungal acne.
Topical anti-fungal creams are wonderfully effective at improving seborrheic dermatitis and fungal acne but do nothing for acne vulgaris.
Steroid creams may reduce redness for both conditions but in my humble opinion, should be used for neither as it can worsen these skin disorders when used over a longer period of time.
Also keep in mind that everyone is different. Some treatments that work well for one person may not work as well for another. It’s important to pay close attention to the effects (and side effects) of any treatment you try.
To wrap up
Acne and seborrheic dermatitis are two distinct entities that are related and commonly found in the same person. If you have both conditions, be careful about which treatments you use as they may treat one but aggravate the other.