Seborrheic dermatitis commonly occurs in adults and adolescents. The condition is also referred to as “cradle cap” in babies. This condition is more often than not mistaken for dandruff of the hair alone but is actually a manifestation of skin disorder in other parts of the body as well.
It is an inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects the scalp. But, the condition is also visible on the face and across the nose towards the jaw area. It can also affect other body parts such as the chest, the eyelids and the ears.
The condition is generally noticed in skin areas that are rich in sebaceous or oil rich glands. In adults, seborrhoeic dermatitis appears as scaly scalp known as dandruff or in the form of mild to marked erythema across the nasolabial fold.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common occurrence in children during the early years which can occur during the teen years too. In adults, the condition is generally noticed in middle aged individuals or the elderly. The occurrence is more in men and the condition is also seen in adults suffering from Parkinson’s disease, stress, and other immune system disorders. Those who are subjected to long term home care also contract seborrheic dermatitis.
Physically, seborrheic dermatitis is marked by a yellowish or reddish scaling on the scalp. Sometimes the scaling is seen in other areas covered with hair; on the face and also genitals. Seborrheic dermatitis can also occur in skin folds along the nose and also under the breasts.
Although the exact cause of the condition is not known, one of the reasons for its occurrence could be stress related. The condition could also be fungal in nature. The onset of the condition is caused by malassezia, a fungus that generates by-products that inflame the skin. Sometimes, these fungi trigger immune allergic response in predisposed individuals causing rashes.
In seborrheic dermatitis, the yeast, malassezia furfur or the other variant called malassezia genus, both part of the human skin flora could be responsible for the scaly impacts on the skin. These fungi need lipids to survive so they tend to grow on ‘oil rich’ or sebaceous areas of the skin.
Long-term prevention of seborrheic dermatitis can be integrated through natural treatment which control allergens while strengthening the immune system of the body.
Fish oil, biotin, B-complex, zinc, and selenium could help in lowering mild cases of dandruff. However, chronic cases of seborrheic dermatitis needs more investigations to cure the ailment. An aspect to examine is to check food allergies in patients who suffer from seborrheic dermatitis. In patients with stubborn forms of seborrheic dermatitis, allergic response to wheat, dairy and citrus components need to be examined. Inclusion of biotic or cultured foods like yogurt in one’s diet helps to improve digestion. This can control and keep food allergies at bay.
A topical preparation of tea tree oil, aloe vera gel or borage oil applied daily could help settle on the scalp and kill the yeast. For babies, a good solution could be to rub the head with olive oil and then comb out the dry flakes. Care must be taken not to use shampoo based products too often as they could further dry out the scalp. Massaging olive oil or coconut oil also helps to regulate blood circulation which in turn helps in softening the scales caused by seborrheic dermatitis. Topically, olive oil and coconut oil are useful in cleansing and treating seborrheic dermatitis.
Tea tree oil when mixed with measured parts of water or other base oil such as coconut or olive oil can help soothe and reduce the scales. But, one word of caution, tea tree oil when applied directly can leave a very strong fiery sensation on either the scalp or other parts of the skin. So, always mix tea tree oil with any base oil; leave the preparation on for an hour and then rinse off.
Foods which are antifungal in nature can be added to regular diet to prevent excessive growth of the yeast on the skin. Turmeric, a naturally occurring antifungal agent is a good adjunct to be included as part of a healthy diet. Chamomile, rosemary, hop root and other herbal remedies enable effective cure for seborrheic dermatitis. Besides, ginger, sage, fermented foods, radish and oregano also provide antifungal properties when included in our diet.
Including vegetables enriched with vitamins and minerals as part of a regular diet is one of the steps in treating seborrheic dermatitis. These not only help to boost the immune system but also provide protection to the sensitive parts of the skin. Care should however be taken to get a balanced diet.
Because dandruff is seen as one of the evident symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, management of dandruff should be the first step. To do so, it is therefore necessary to avoid excessive consumption of butter, whole milk, chocolates, cheese, cream and foods that are rich in fat content.
The use of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, beet root juice, fenugreek seed, green gram powder and lime when added to topical preparations can help reduce the occurrences of seborrheic dermatitis. A combination of beet root juice with cider vinegar and ginger juice can bring down dandruff- -ridden scaly scalp. One natural cure for dandruff could be to make a potion of coconut oil and lemon juice.
This liquid mixture can be kept under direct sunlight for a few days and stored. This can then be applied when required. This concoction is recommended for use two hours before shampooing the hair. Green gram powder when mixed with yogurt and applied topically on the hair can help to lower the occurrences of dandruff in the long run.
Another key remedy could be to get a regular but intermittent exposure to the sun. This provides requisite UVA and UVB which can inhibit the growth of the fungi on the skin.
The ancient philosophy of ayurveda believes in complete harmony of the three ‘dosas’; vata, pitta and kapha, to build up on one’s immunity. This holistic approach is often integrated with yoga, which also encourages using various concoctions in the form of pills, powders and oil-based applications.
Plant extracts of amla (Indian gooseberry), bringraj (Eclipta alba), brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), yastimadhu (Licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra) and gunja (Indian liquorice root), along with tulsi (holy basil) and jatamansi (Muskroot) are suggested to treat seborrheic dermatitis in one form or the other.
Some yoga postures or ‘asanas’ are known to cure seborrheic dermatitis. The more popular ‘asanas’ suggested are short Intestine wash or ‘ Laghu shakhprakshalana’ and salutation to the sun or ‘Surya Namaskara’.
Unlike chemical remedies, seborrheic dermatitis can be tamed using naturally occurring ingredients but success rate is high only among those who believe in ‘patient pending’ in the long run to heal this ailment!