Seborrheic Dermatitis vs rosacea: here’s everything you need to know

I went to the dermatologist a few months ago because I wanted to get something prescription strength for my dry skin, which I thought was due to rosacea and my blasting the heat 24/7. Turns out while I do have mild rosacea I also have something called seborrheic dermatitis. Maybe you’ve heard of it because it’s a very common skin conditions that usually effects the scalp. I had never heard of it so I didn’t recognize it when I developed it. It effected by chin, around my nose, and around my brows (not my scalp, which again, is the most common place). Luckily with a bit of ointment the flaking was gone in 2-3 days. Because it’s such a common condition and can be easily confused with just plain dry skin this time of year I thought it would be helpful to go more in depth into the topic. I spoke with two experts: Heather Rohrer, physician’s assistant and owner of Center for Aesthetic Medicine and Human Performance in Las Vegas and Dr. Shamban, Los Angeles based dermatologist and founder of SkinFive by AvaMD.

How can you tell if you have seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea?

“People who have seborrheic dermatitis experience scaly patches on their skin that are itching or burning. Often these patches are greasy and yellow in color. Seborrheic dermatitis flair ups occur primarily on your scalp, nasal folds, or eyebrows. A rosacea flair up is red in color and can feel like it’s stinging. It appears on the forehead, cheeks, chin, and nose. The biggest distinction between the two besides where on your face the flair up is, is that rosacea flair ups generally feature visible blood vessel on the skin or bumps that resemble acne,” says Rohrer.

Dr. Shamban adds that both are chronic illnesses, but they may fluctuate over time with periods of dormancy so to speak where the visual symptoms are not actively showing but unfortunately for both, there is not really an actual cure.

About how many people do each of these effect?

“These two condition can occur in tandem, although the two disorders are unrelated. About 25% of patients with rosacea will also develop  facial seborrheic dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. Both skin conditions affect 4% to 5% of the population globally with about 1% developing both conditions,” says Dr. Shamban 

Is there anyone more prone to it? Are you born with these or can they develop over time?
“If you’re over the age of 30 years old, with a light to fair complexion and blush easily, you’re more likely to be prone to rosacea. Also people with Irish, English, Welsh, or Scottish ancestry are more prone. Newborns and adults ages 35-65 with oily skin are more likely to be prone to seborrheic dermatitis. It’s not exactly known what the initial cause of seborrheic dermatitis is, but certain medical conditions like AIDS, eating disorders, depression, and alcoholism, can amplify your likeliness to see a flair up, which have nothing to do with being born more prone to it,” says Rohrer.

Are there any OTC products you recommend?
Rohrer recommends Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Gel ($66). “This is an absolutely amazing solution for sensitive skin caused by seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea. It soothes, calms, and moisturizes sensitive skin to prevent flair ups, minimizes redness, and promotes a clearer complexion without discoloration.”

Is there any way to naturally treat either of the skin conditions?
Rosacea: “Using an all-natural oatmeal mask will help temporarily reduce redness. Also, applying a small amount of lavender essential oil, which offers many anti-inflammatory and cooling benefits to your flair ups will temporarily help soothe the area,” says Rohrer.

Seborrheic dermatitis: “Coconut oil is a wonderful natural moisturizer which has been proven to reduce excess yeast and fungus,” says Rohrer.

What prescription products do you typically recommend?
“Metrogel is a topical antibiotic gel that is probably one of the most popular rosacea prescriptions and one that yields some of the best results. Rosacea can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. For seborrheic dermatitis, if it’s on the scalp a prescription 2% ketoconazole shampoo will be like a miracle worker and for the body clobetasol. I prefer the gel form personally,” says Rohrer

Images: Vogue

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