1. Treat it like dry skin
Your skin is reddish and flaky . . . so it’s dry, right? Not necesarily! If it is seborrheic dermatitis, then your epidermis has been catfishing you! Surprise! The source of your problem is more like a rash caused by oil/yeast. So fight the urge to just slather it with moisturizers, oils, creams, etc. Certain oils, such as coconut oil, may be useful for the cleaning of your skin, though it shouldn’t be left on. And using a light moisturizer can help with the appearance of those flakes. But overall, don’t go crazy.
2. Flake it off
Think you can just flake off those crusty skin patches and all will be well? Sorry, but no. If you need to spiff up for an evening, sure you can gently peel off the worst flakes but it is a slippery-slope to obsessive flaking off . . . resulting in an even worse appearance than before. Irritation causes more oil to ooze out your pores (nice image, right?) and can just inflame the heck out of your skin. This goes for both scalp and face, or anywhere else. Treat the source of your problem (see derm), not the symptom (flakes).
3. Put up hair when wet, or wear a hat over wet hair
I’ve learned this from personal experience and from commenters chiming in. This logic applies to seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp (dandruff), obviously. When you put your wet hair up in a ponytail or bun, or if you throw a hat on top of damp hair . . . it just creates some weird sort of greenhouse. It’s like your head is all humid and the dandruff becomes this mushy gloop. And your head gets all itchy and maybe oily. I think fresh air is key to keeping flakes at bay.
4. Skip showering or shampooing
A lot of people are sort of anti-shampooing these days. There are even advocates suggesting we all bath much less. It’s true, bathing may be America’s 2nd favorite pastime. And that can dry out your skin and hair, especially with harsh soaps and chemicals in our products. I personally have tried, on several occasions, giving up the shampoo for weeks at a time. I have tried lowering the frequency of my showers. But I have found that seborrheic dermatitis needs frequent cleaning. Certainly don’t over-do it, stripping your skin of all oils. But, in general, you’ve gotta gently wash away the oils that are causing your SD.
5. Give up hope
The truth is there is not “cure” for SD. You’ll probably have to deal with it for years. But it can absolutely be improved! You can have lovely skin again if you explore your options and commit to a skin care plan. I have cried big fat tears because I was embarrassed and ashamed of my skin. I have avoided parties and dates. I have spent tons of money trying to fix it. And after getting educated on the topic and trying a variety of solutions, I’m now able to keep my skin in pretty good shame. People often comment on how great my skin looks. Don’t give up, you’ll find the best way to kick seborrheic dermatitis to the curb.
Oh dandruff. You flaky white devil.
And here’s the first thing you need to accept about dandruff: it isn’t easy to get rid of and you most likely will deal with it your entire life. I sometimes read about someone claiming to have “cured dandruff forever!” Well, good for them. But I’m pretty skeptical that they cured it forever. Like the terminator, dandruff will be back. Especially if the type of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, which is the most common cause of scalp flakes.
You can read my summary on seborrheic dermatitis here, but basically it’s oil and yeast that causes a rash. The rash is itchy, flaky and sometimes red or yellow. So while I know I’ll always be fighting with this obnoxious condition, I have crowned a new hero in the flight against flakes.
I have discovered a NEW FAVORITE product for taking down the scaly beast: Scalpicin 2 in 1. It’s an over-the-counter product that you can sometimes find at drugstores or buy on Amazon. (Get subscribe and save because you’ll want to keep using it. And you need a lot.) Basically its a 3% salicylic acid/aloe/vitamin E solution that comes in a handy squeeze bottle so you can apply it all over your scalp, without it getting your hair grody. Unlike dandruff shampoos, you just leave it on. Back when I struggled with acne, salicylic acid always did the trick (benzoyl peroxide always dried me out and irritated), so I’m not at all surprised that it worked on my seborrheic dermatitis. Remember, seborrheic dermatitis is NOT about dryness. You don’t have dry scalp! You have an oily, yeasty, rashy scalp!
So salicylic acid dries it gently and kills the bacteria. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but it has done wonders for me. When I got my first bottle, I went a little crazy, applying it OFTEN and LIBERALLY. I used up that entire bottle over the course of a weekend, but you wouldn’t believe the results. Now I continue with my usual dandruff routine (cycling shampoos), but instead of having to do it daily (and with “not bad” results), I use the medicated stuff just 2 – 3 times a week. In between, I use tea tree oil shampoo that I pick up at Trader Joe’s. And my scalp is better than ever. I use the Scalpicin 2 in 1 a few times week.
If you really struggle with the ITCHINESS of dandruff, you might be more interested in Scalpicin Max. This is a hydrocortisone solution so it relieves the itch fast. I haven’t tried it because I don’t struggle too much with the itchies and also because I just love the Scalpicin 2 in 1. To be clear Scalpicin Max does NOT have salicylic acid, so it’s more about relieving your symptoms than curing the source of the problem. However, if you are constantly scratching your head, that will only make the dandruff worse so this product could be YOUR cure.
Good luck and let me know if Scalpicin works for you! It’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to skin/scalp care, so share your results with us. I’d love to hear your Scalpicin review, good or bad.