Here's The 3-Step Routine That Calmed My Seborrheic Dermatitis For Good
After living with a flaky scalp for as long as I could remember, I recently figured out what it was—seborrheic dermatitis ("sebo" for short) many thanks to Alan Dattner, M.D.'s, OG skin care book Radiant Skin. It was the only beauty book I could find with extensive information—an entire chapter!—dedicated to the condition. Also known as "adult cradle cap," sebo is a type of eczema triggered by stress, hormone imbalance, chemical irritants in shampoos, and extremely dry or cold weather. According to Cybele Fishman, M.D., sebo could also be a sign that your skin's microbiome is out of balance.
I knew it wasn't "normal" dandruff because my flakes were thick, sometimes yellow, and clustered. Although many hairstylists insisted that it was product buildup and the unfortunate result of too much hair washing, I tried clarifying shampoo, dandruff shampoo, low-poo, no-poo, apple cider vinegar rinse, and everything in between—all of which made it worse. When home remedies fail, especially when they're made by trusted experts, it's frustrating to say the least!
I had to experiment (for what would be more than a decade) to find products and ingredients that would work through trial and error. A three-pronged approach of stress management, finding the right, safe topicals, and weekly treatment rituals became the winning combination for me. Familiarizing myself with triggers that made it worse and products that soothed was key. For example, I know now to expect a flare-up when I'm really stressed, and the reverse is true: Typically on vacation I'm less likely to experience flaking.
Here is the winning routine and process that finally worked for me—hopefully it helps some of you as well:
1. I found the right shampoo combo.
For years I was convinced that I needed a "green" shampoo and tried every brand I could get my hands on. Head & Shoulders was my standby during that time, stabilizing my scalp after even natural shampoos irritated it, but trusty H&S failed sometimes, too. Earlier this year I discovered True Botanicals nourishing shampoo, which seemed to cause less irritation than any other natural shampoo, but it was really Kamedis anti-dandruff SEBO shampoo that cleared everything up. I've never used anything that worked so quickly. I now use Kamedis on its own one to two times a week, and I combine it with True Botanicals (and other shampoos, I'm always testing) the rest of the time. Nailing down these products helped decrease flaking and itching by almost 70 percent—it made a huge difference.
2. I treat my scalp once a week.
A weekly moisture treatment helps keep flakes and itchiness to a minimum. If you can leave it on overnight, that's best, but I can't sleep with an oiled head and personally prefer allowing it to soak for two to four hours on a Sunday. My favorites are Beneath Your Mask skin and hair serum, which is a blend of potent, plant-based oils, and Nucifera balm, which is a solid balm that comes in a tub. Preventing flakes from dryness while using treatments with naturally antimicrobial properties will help balance hydration and the microbiome of the scalp.
3. I started a probiotic regimen.
This was a recommendation from Dr. Fishman. I had taken a probiotic before but only to counteract antibiotics. She said starting a regular probiotic regimen may help address the imbalance of "bad" bacteria on my skin and particularly on my scalp. I'm currently taking Dr. Fishman's own probiotic, one she formulated specifically for skin issues, but I've also seen great results taking Garden of Life's 100 billion strain.
These three tips have been game-changing for my scalp, and I've tried everything! Earlier this year, I also tried craniosacral therapy, and even cutting out dairy, sugar, and reducing my caffeine intake—all of these were helpful, but I saw the best results from this daily, weekly, and internal approach. Of course, before starting a new supplement or skincare regimen, talk to your derm or healthcare provider.
For a crash course on hair oils, check out celebrity stylist Kristen Shaw's expert tips.