Part 1 – Seb Derm: Know your enemy

Welcome to Part 1 of my series of posts about dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis. I’ll start with the obvious. I’m not a doctor. If you’re having any kind of problem with your skin, start by seeing your GP. If you’re unhappy with their response, see someone else or push for a referral to a dermatologist. GPs are wonderful, hard-working people but they’re not all skin experts. I’ve had some great GPs listen to my skin woes and I’ve had experiences where I’ve left the surgery feeling frustrated, upset and ignored.

Despite my mixed bag, it’s not a great idea to self-diagnose. I’ll be talking about my personal experiences over these next couple of posts and it’s true that I’ve done a lot of independent research and experimentation. However, I also checked with my GP to make sure that I was dealing with the correct problem first. Possible remedies for an allergic reaction would differ significantly from those recommended for psoriasis, for example.

It’s worth noting that ‘dermatitis’ is a catch-all term for inflammation of the skin. It’s not really a condition in itself. That inflammation could result from things like eczema, allergies, sensitivities or psoriasis. It might be evidence of a problem with your diet or a reaction to stress. It could also be completely unexplained.

Seborrheic dermatitis (Seb Derm) is a type of chronic dermatitis (‘chronic’ in this context means that it is persistent, long-lasting and, while not life-threatening, often not curable).

It’s referred to as “seborrheic” dermatitis because it affects areas of the body where the skin has a higher proportion of oil (sebaceous) glands.

Typically, Seb Derm affects the scalp (where it can be confused with scalp psoriasis, a very different condition – get thee to a GP!) but it can also affect the face, chest, upper back, lower arms and lower legs. This mapping was actually the key for me to really figuring out what was going on. For years I’d thought that I suffered from eczema on my body. It was only when reading up on typical Seb Derm patterns and noting that the inflammation on my body occurred at the same time as the bad scalp flare-ups that I realized it might all be part of the same problem.

I mentioned before that Seb Derm isn’t life threatening. It also isn’t contagious, evidence that you don’t wash properly or any other negative idea associated with skin problems. It IS frustrating, embarrassing and occasionally truly depressing. My Seb Derm resulted in greasier hair, scaling of the scalp (occasionally severe scaling), itchy inflamed patches on my body (which looked a bit like nettle rashes and occasionally, after scratching, a bright red, scabby mess) and sometimes hot, irregular red patches either side of my nose (mirroring rosacea). Those of you with similar issues will appreciate how little fun that is.

I don’t get those symptoms all the time. Sometimes I have none at all, other times I have everything with bells on.

Typically, the following symptoms are good general indicators of Seb Derm:

  • Redness or inflammation of the skin (particularly in the areas already mentioned, but also under the arms or in the groin – again, places that are rich in sebaceous glands)
  • Itching or soreness (often associated with scratching)
  • Flakes or crusting on the scalp – these patches are usually yellow/white and often greasy to the touch (unlike the silvery patches associated with scalp psoriasis)

It’s much easier to damage skin affected by Seb Derm and it’s very hard not to scratch. So I’d also add the following, which are usually caused by itching:

  • Broken or scabbed skin, particularly on the scalp where lifting the scales can quite easily cause bleeding
  • Little rough bumps on the body – I think this was caused when I scratched tops off the little itchy bumps that formed, which then scabbed over

Itching doesn’t kill you. Avoiding black clothing and not tying your hair back is a pain but it’s survivable. However, the relentless ‘urgh’ feeling accompanying this sort of problem can leave you feeling down, reclusive and like a very different person. Skin problems like Seb Derm might not threaten your life, but they really do affect it.

This series is absolutely not designed to be negative though. I’ve done the negative bit. It wasn’t a barrel of laughs but it left me with a much greater awareness of my body, my health and the priorities and choices I want to make in the way I live.

For some simple advice on Seb Derm, it’s worth checking out the following sites:

But one final thing…

If you don’t yet know what your particular skin problem is, don’t waste precious time torturing yourself online. GO TO YOUR GP! Most internet searches for health problems result in fear, stress and sleepless nights. You probably don’t have that utterly appalling and extremely rare condition. But if you read too much about it, you’ll believe you do the next time you’re awake at 4am… 🙂

Next time, a focus on products that might help Seb Derm and the commonly recommended treatments.

One thought on “Part 1 – Seb Derm: Know your enemy

  1. Pingback: Part 4: Seb Derm – Advice from the twittersphere | naturalbeautycabinet

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