A seborrheic dermatitis skincare routine that actually works

Have you tried all sorts of creams and found that all they did was irritate your skin further and made your seb derm flare up even more?

It’s not your fault for getting so confused. Now a days, every brand has a  line for sensitive skin. People  on Reddit and Quora are spruiking what worked miracles for them.

But you try all these things and they never work for you.

What gives?

In this article, I’ll unpack a skin care routine for seborrheic dermatitis. Not by telling you what product to buy, but by teaching you the principles of what to choose so you get a personalized routine going.

Let’s do it:

Seb Derm Skincare Golden Rules

Golden Rule 1

Thou shall only use products that does not irritate thy skin

Golden Rule 2

Thou shall use products that reduces Malassezia growth

Golden Rule 3

Keep it simple Sally (KISS) (the last S actually stood for stupid but I didn’t really want to call you that)

Obviously skincare is a little bit more complicated than 3 little rules. You also need to choose products that are suitable for your skin type, for the environment that you live in, etc. But if you remember these three rules, you will not go wrong with your seb derm.

Gentle cleanser

Cleansers might not stay on your skin for long but they can sure do a lot of stripping. A harsh cleanser can remove your natural skin oils (sebum) and even scrub away the top layer of your skin (your skin barrier is of utmost importance to keep seb derm at bay).

My favorites are:

Moogoo Natural Milk Wash

MooGoo Face and Body Milk Wash - A gentle, non-irritating cleanser formula for dry, sensitive skin - Perfect for all ages (baby to adult) and skin types - A phthalate free cleanser for men and womenCheck it out on Amazon  

Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser | Moisturizing Non-Foaming Face Wash with Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides and Glycerin | Fragrance Free Paraben Free | 16 Fluid OunceCheck it out on Amazon

These two brands are affordable and does the job. Before you buy any new ones, look at the ones you have at home. If you don’t think they are part of the problem, keep using them. You don’t need expensive cleansers, just gentle ones that don’t rub your skin the wrong way when they take away the grime.

You can use a gentle chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid (read about salicylic acid and seb derm) once a week or so but don’t use exfoliants daily. No matter how much you exfoliate the scales, it will come back because you’re starting the seb derm flare cyle all over again.

Repair Serum

A serum is optional in any skincare routine but I’m such a huge fan of serums because they pack so much punch. I’ve found hyaluronic acid, niacimide and bakuchiol serums (not all at once) a wonderful addition to my skincare regimen. These serums focus on repair and replenish, always good when your skin is inflammed.

The ones I’ve used and liked are:

The Ordinary Niacimide 10% and Zinc 1%

The New Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% - Large 60mL - 2FLozCheck it out on Amazon  

Gaia Bakuchiol Serum

Gaia Body Care 5% Bakuchiol Serum Organic - (1oz) - Anti Aging, Antiwrinkle, Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spot Remover Bakuchiol Oil - Best Retinol Alternative Facial SerumCheck it out on Amazon

You know how retinol always dries your skin out and make it crawl? Bakuchiol is the gentle, natural alternative to retinol for those of us with seb derm and aging skin. Hallelujah!

Antifungal cream

I like to joke that the only people who would have antifungal cream in their skincare routine are seb derm sufferers but it’s woefully true. No one else needs to put antifungal cream on their face, except people with fungal acne. Who also tends to have seb derm.

Your antifungal cream is the holy grail and a must-have for everyone with seb derm. During a flare, apply antifungal cream twice a day for 2 weeks. Then, use it as needed whenever you can feel a flare starting.

Hands down my favorite antifungal cream is clotrimazole because it’s over-the-counter and it works:

(5 pack) Globe Clotrimazole Antifungal Cream 1% (1 oz) Relieves the itching, burning, cracking and scaling associated with fungal infections | Compare to the Name Brand Active IngredientCheck it out on Amazon

If you want a comparison of all the antifungal creams available, like ketoconazole, miconazole, etc. check out What is the best antifungal cream for seborrheic dermatitis?

Natural Moisturizer

Your choice of moisturizer is where a lot of people get tripped up. Many moisturizers contain ingredients that can irritate the skin, encourage Malassezia growth and is either too light or too heavy for you, causing oily skin.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to do this by trial and error. There is no one magic moisturizer that suits all skin. Some principles to live by when you’re choosing your moisturizer include:

  • choose moisturizers with natural ingredients, devoid of parabens, synthetic preservatives and the like.
  • if it contains skin-loving ingredients like ceramides, niacimide and hyaluronic acid, even better.
  • choose ones that don’t contain large amounts of oils that fuel Malassezia growth (the list here)

Chances are you already have a load of moisturizers at home. Look at their ingredient list and pull out the ones you think are ‘safe’ to use. Try them out and really notice how your skin feels after an application. If a moisturizer makes your skin crawl, itch, or burn, give it away. If it leaves your skin oily and heavy, that’s a no-go too.

Keep in mind that you may need to use different moisturizers depending on the seb derm phase you’re in. For example, I use Moogoo Scalp Cream (it’s amazing for the face I swear) when my face is red and inflammed because it’s the only one that doesn’t sting. Once the flare is over, I often use a ‘repair and replenish’ moisturizer for maintenance.

MooGoo Natural Scalp Cream - 120g - For relief of dry skin around the scalp, ears, hairline, eyes, and along the side of the noseCheck it out on Amazon

Check out the 9 Best Face Moisturizers For Seborrheic Dermatitis.

You can also mix in a few drops of essential oil to your moisturizer for more skin love. I have a whole list of essential oils that can help seb derm, either my reducing Malassezia or by calming the inflammation.

Broad-spectrum Sunscreen

A broad spectrum sun-screen is super important, not just for seb derm sufferers but for everyone. I’m not going to go through all the benefits of sunscreen. You’ve heard it enough.

One thing I will say though. I bet you’ve heard that the sun is good for seb derm. It’s true, but not for reasons you may think. I learnt this the hard way by going out into the sun without sunscreen during a flare with the hopes that the sun will kill all the Malassezia on my face. It obviously didn’t work and made my face burn even more because I had a bad sunburn on top of a bad flare.

Check out The 5 Best Sunscreens for Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Calming Makeup Remover

Whether or not you wear makeup during a flare is up to you. I did, then I didn’t. Read Makeup for seborrheic dermatitis if you’re interested.

If you do wear makeup, make sure you use a gentle makeup remover. My favorites are:

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser (50mL/1.7oz)Check it out on Amazon  

Desert Essence Cucumber & Aloe Micellar Water

Desert Essence Facial Water - Cucumber & Aloe Micellar w/Tea Tree Oil - 8 Fl Oz - Micellar Cleansing - Calms Irritated Skin - Revitalized & RefreshedCheck it out on Amazon

Powerful Overnight Masks

I love face masks but end up never using them because I’m so busy during the day. When I discovered overnight masks, my life changed! What an awesome way to help your skin repair while you sleep! To be clear, just because you have seb derm doesn’t mean you need to use masks. BUT THEY ARE SO GOOD!

My all time faves:

NIOD Voicemail Masque

NIOD Voicemail MasqueCheck it out on Amazon

Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask

Clinique 14820680401 Moisture Surge Overnight Mask - 100ml-3. 4ozCheck it out on Amazon

These are my current favorites but I have a few. I’m sure you have your faves too. Let me know in the comments so we can all try them too!

Skincare is important in preventing seb derm but there are other factors you need to address. Check out this article next: How To Prevent Seborrheic Dermatitis

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13 thoughts on “A seborrheic dermatitis skincare routine that actually works”

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  2. Moogoo Scalp Cream contains olive oil and coconut oil, which you explained feeds the yeast that causes SD. The Amazon link shoes the ingredients on the tube.

    1. Hi Jeanne, that’s true. It’s plainly written on the tube. I wondered that myself when I first tried it. On reviewing the ingredients, it only contains a small amount of olive oil and coconut oil and also has rosemary oil, tea tree oil, aloe vera, squalane, piroctone olamine and a bunch of other beneficial compounds. Maybe I should make that clear in my article. I can personally vouch that it doesn’t trigger seb derm but if you’re worried about using it, you can try the Cerave moisturizer instead.

        1. I don’t actually recommend Tsal. The Tsal article was a review on Tsal and my conclusion was that coal tar and salicylic acid was not as effective as ketoconazole or ciclopirox shampoos. Nizoral (https://amzn.to/3NbB4nu) is a good over-the-counter ketoconazole shampoo. I generally only use a medicated shampoo for the short term if my dandruff/itch is really playing up. It’s so drying for the hair!!! In between I use a gentle shampoo and sometimes add 1-2 drops of tea tree oil into it.

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  8. thank you for creating this space. just wondering if you can pinpoint your 24 hours skin treatment of your current skincare. I just mean with that which products you currently are using of all those products you highlighted. Thank you big time!

    1. Hi Jo, I like to alternate my skincare products because I want to reap the various benefits without layering too many products on at the same time. At the moment, this is what I generally use on my face in a day:

      CeraVe Cleanser
      The Ordinary Niacimide and Zn
      EltaMD Face Cream
      Bobbi Brown Foundation
      MooGoo Zn Sunscreen

      The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser to take the sunscreen and makeup off
      MooGoo Night Restoration Cream or Moogoo Backuchiol serum followed by Clinique Overnight Mask.

      I generally find less is more and gentle is best 🙂

      When I had Seb Derm flares, I used a Clotrimazole cream twice a day before my moisturizer and didn’t use any serums so I wouldn’t irritate my skin further. Hope this helps!

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