Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes a red, scaly rash. It often affects the scalp, face, and chest. No one can explain why it affects certain areas in some people but not in others. While the nose and the area surrounding it is not the most commonly affected part of the face, seborrheic dermatitis can actually affect the nose, and only the nose.
Let’s take a deep dive:
- Most common areas affected by seborrheic dermatitis
- Can you get seborrheic dermatitis only around the nose?
- What causes seborrheic dermatitis of the nose?
- How does seborrheic dermatitis around the nose look like?
- How do you treat seborrheic dermatitis of the nose?
- Differences in treating seborrheic dermatitis around the nose and elsewhere on your face
- To wrap up
Most common areas affected by seborrheic dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) can occur on any part of the skin that has oil glands, like the face, scalp, ears, back and upper chest. In fact, SD can even affect the groin, armpits and the outer part of your ear canals.
However, the rash has a predilection for the scalp (dandruff is a mild form of scalp seborrheic dermatitis), the hairline, eyebrows, your nasolabial folds (the creases in your skin extending from both sides of your nose to the corners of your mouth), and the melolabial folds (the fold between the cheeks and the lips).
Further reading: What characterizes seborrheic dermatitis?
Can you get seborrheic dermatitis only around the nose?
No one knows for sure why seborrheic dermatitis affects some people but not others. To add to the complexity, the rash can even affect different areas of the skin on one person versus another. You may even get SD flares that affects different areas of your skin.
When I first started having SD, it affected my cheeks. Then, it seemed to spread to my forehead and the rest of my face and neck. Surprisingly, my SD flares have so far spared my nose (even though my nasolabial folds and the area surrounding my nose was severely affected). I don’t know why it happened that way and I’ve given up trying to predict where my SD will flare up next.
However, I know of people who only have SD of the eyelids. Plenty of people only get a seborrheic dermatitis rash on their nose or in their nasolabial folds and nowhere else.
So yes, SD can only affect your nose. And only your nose.
What causes seborrheic dermatitis of the nose?
Why seborrheic dermatitis affects some people but not others is thought to be due to a constellation of factors existing at the same time:
- increased sebaceous gland activity
- leading to an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast
- impaired skin barrier
- and a hyperactive immune response to Malassezia by-products.
Further reading: Why do I have seborrheic dermatitis (and not them)?
Why seborrheic dermatitis would only affect the nose in some people has never been exclusively studied. However, I hypothesize that:
- your nose is the oiliest part of your face ( T-zone) with the highest sebaceous gland activity
- you may be applying a cosmetic product that doesn’t allow your nose or nasolabial area to breathe as well, for example, sunscreen, thick foundation, natural plant oils that feed Malassezia
- you touch your nose and its surroundings fairly often with your hands, introducing bacteria and dirt. While not a direct cause of SD, it can alter the skin microbiome in the area and help SD along.
This is just my personal opinion based on the knowledge I have and my observations. Let me know in the comments if you agree. Or do you have a different opinion about why seborrheic dermatitis only affects your nose?
How does seborrheic dermatitis around the nose look like?
An SD rash around and on the nose looks very similiar to SD rash elsewhere on the face. It can start off with redness, itchiness and maybe even mild swelling. SD rashes on the nose tend to be quite ‘dry’ whereas rash in the nasolabial folds tend to get a bit more weepy. After the initial inflammed phase, you get dry skin, scaling and peeling. This is then followed by healing with formation of new skin.
How do you treat seborrheic dermatitis of the nose?
The principles of treating seborrheic dermatitis of the nose is the same as you would treat SD elsewhere on your face.
In the inflammed phase, you would apply an anti-fungal cream twice a day and use a gentle moisturizer that doesn’t burn (I use Moo Goo Scalp Cream – it’s awesome).
Further reading: The 6 Best Face Moisturizers For Seborrheic Dermatitis
When the redness and burning resolves, you’ll find yourself in the scaling phase. The skin on your nose will be flaky and dry. Continue using the anti-fungal cream (you should use it for 2 weeks to properly control Malassezia) and keep your nose moisturized. You can continue using your gentle moisturizer or use one with ceramides, collagen or hyaluronic acid like Dr Lewinn’s Ultra R4 Collagen Surge Plumping Gel (read my review here) to promote healing. I also often use NIOD Hydration Vaccine (check out my 2-year review) on top to protect from moisture loss while my skin repairs.
Further reading: What is the best antifungal cream for seborrheic dermatitis?
Or if you are looking for a bird’s eye view, read The Ultimate Guide to Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment
Differences in treating seborrheic dermatitis around the nose and elsewhere on your face
Your nose may have larger pores than the rest of your face and is therefore more oily. When you’re applying antifungal cream, use a light hand rather than slather it on. And make sure you let it absorb fully before applying moisturizer. You may even be able to skip the moisturizer if applying moisturizer makes your nose oilier.
The same goes for the nasolabial folds and behind the nostrils. Those areas tend to be oilier and more humid, conditions that encourage Malassezia growth and reduce skin healing. Keep those areas dry, clean and exfoliated by using a salicylic acid toner.
To wrap up
Seborrheic dermatitis very commonly affects the nose and nasolabial folds. In some people, those are the only areas affected. The principles of treatment is similar to elsewhere on the face. Just make sure you keep the oil away.