A few years ago I noticed a white spot on my chin. That white spot turned into two and like any rational person I turned to Google. After searching the internet and scaring myself I realized the best thing to do was consult my dermatologist. I was diagnosed with Seborrheic Dermatitis, a chronic condition I would never fully get rid of.
After the initial diagnosis and treatment, the spots went away. Fast forward to 2020 and the spots are back along with huge greasy flakes that were now on my face and scalp. To be honest I had forgotten all about my dermatitis, but the stress of living in a pandemic, and then subsequently starting a new job that I was not in love with had taken over, causing it to flare more often than I would like. Since then, I’ve been trying to manage it through medicated shampoos, ointments, YouTube (finding others with the same condition has been extremely helpful) and therapy to address the stress.
Though being diagnosed with Seborrheic Dermatitis wasn’t this huge life altering event, for someone living in this digital age, it was hard knowing that my skin, and how I looked, was somewhat out of my control. My skin had basically decided that my occasional feelings of extreme stress wasn’t something I could keep to myself, granted, I am not someone who can hide their feelings very well to begin with. The difference, however, was that a skin condition surely wasn’t going to be fixed with a simple reminder to fix my face, you know the phrase you tell yourself when your facial expression gives away those feelings of sadness, disappointment and/or disdain you thought you were doing your best to hide.
Ultimately, these flares weren’t a reminder to fix my face, but a reminder to take care of myself. It was as if mirror me (with all the flakes and redness) was asking if I forgot all the tools my therapist suggested I use when I was feeling overwhelmed— think Issa’s Mirror Bitch with less sass. Truthfully, I hadn’t forgotten, I just decided that I was too stressed and feeling sorry for myself was easier than doing the work. The flakes however, were so itchy and unbearable it pushed me to “get it together”, well at least make an attempt.
Right now, I am finally getting over my most recent flare, possibly because I’ve finally started to address one of my biggest stressors— work, and by addressing it, I mean acknowledging that the job that I am currently in, is just that, a job that gives me a check so I can take care of myself and pay my bills (See Asya’s “I Love that I Don’t Love my Job” piece for GROWN to deep-dive there). Thinking of my job in this way has truly allowed me to move on from a lot of the things that would normally take me forever to get over. It has also allowed me to leave work at work, whether virtually or in person.
Shifting my mindset has allowed me to manage my stress in ways that I didn’t think was possible, which has done wonders for me both mentally and physically. And for that reason, I encourage you to explore and deepen your self-care, your relationship with yourself, and your relationship with every other aspect of your life.
Tips Specific to Seborrheic Dermatitis:
If you think you may have Seborrheic Dermatitis, I got you covered— to personalize your treatment and care please consult your physician; I asked Dr. Michelle Henry (@drmichellehenry), of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, all the questions I’ve had since my diagnosis. Check them out below!
What causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes itchy, scaly, patchy and greasy scales to appear on the skin. This condition is non-contagious, but its exact cause is yet to be identified. In many cases, there is an inflammatory reaction to an excess amount of Malassezia yeast found on the skin.
What makes it different from dandruff?
The main differences between dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis are their characteristic appearance and placement. Dandruff usually appears as small white flakes on the surface of the scalp. Seborrheic Dermatitis can manifest as greasy plagues, yellow scales and irritated spots. Seborrheic Dermatitis can also be found on the scalp, on the face, behind the ears and upper chest.
How does stress fuel Seborrheic Dermatitis?
According to research, stress can have an impact on inducing an acute Seborrheic Dermatitis episode or flare-up. Studies confirm that oftentimes Seborrheic Dermatitis is preceded by stressful events. Although exact mechanisms are still unknown, stress has been identified as one of the main triggering factors.
What are the product recommendations, both prescribed and over the counter?
Mild Seborrheic Dermatitis can be controlled with over-the-counter medication, such as antifungal or anti-itch creams. As for the prescription medication, Hydrocortisone, Fluocinolone and Clobetasol can be applied to irritated and affected areas.
Are there any lifestyle changes that can help?
Reducing stress is one of the main ways one can avoid acute flares of Seborrheic Dermatitis. Regularly cleansing the skin and washing the scalp can reduce the appearance of dry flakes. It’s also best to avoid using skincare and haircare products that contain alcohol, as these chemical compounds may irritate the skin more.
Is it okay to oil your scalp if you suffer from Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Moisturizing the scalp can help decrease the appearance of flakes and dryness. Using over-the-counter oils and creams, such as coconut oil or baby oil, can soothe the scalp and reduce irritation.
Have more tips for Seborrheic Dermatitis? Let us know in the comments!
Ashley Fern is a Brooklyn based writer. She is a health copywriter by day and holds an M.S in Publishing. Her interests include exploring health, wellness and beauty through the lens of Black women.