Postpartum Seborrheic Dermatitis -- A Reader Question

Postpartum Seborrheic Dermatitis -- A Reader Question

I got a question from B a couple of days back:

    "I want to ask you if you have any advice for Seborrhoeic dermatitis. I remember you once mentioned you had the condition in a blog post. Is there anything in particular that helped you to get it under control? I would really appreciate any advice, I have had nightmare skin ever since I gave birth, about 15 months ago."

       Hi B,
     Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is very often caused by stress, emotions, hormones or auto-immune issues. It is a symptom rather than just a skin problem. My SD is light and seems to be seasonal, but my husband's is more severe, so I have a bit of experience in the area. I will share what I know about this problem, and hopefully this will help you pinpoint the causes of your Seborrheic Dermatitis. Also, warning: parts of this post are extremely subjective. It's possible that you are experiencing new motherhood in an entierely different way than I did. Still, I hope that you will find a bit of what I say useful.

    Lets start with stress, fatigue and sleep deprivation -- all of these can aggravate Seborrheic Dermatitis. And I know that there is a lot of that with babies. I have two kids, and know that it can take more than a year post nursing for the body to re-balance its hormone levels. Stress and fatigue is always a factor even with uncomplicated babies. Even though older kids bring new challenges every day, it's caring for the tiniest ones that demands so much from women -- almost all of your time, energy, emotions and attention. Luckily, your kid is becoming a little less dependent of you each day, so life should get easier soon.

     Emotions and skin problems -- I feel that often skin and hair problems that appear (or get worse) during and after pregnancy are connected with our body image during this time. I speak from experience when I say that new moms very often go though some kind of identity crisis, a struggle a lot with self-image, their "new" body, and their new role. These often get manifested as skin problems or weight issues.

      Do you have post-partum depression? Do you find yourself attractive? How do you think others see you? Are you struggling with the image of yourself as a mom, who is meant to be functional rather than decorative? Are you getting pressure from relatives regarding your parenting and lifestyle choices? Or are you simply physically tired, getting too few sleep and reaching for junk food? If you are struggling with any of this, I totally feel you. I think the way out of this can be very different for different women, but if you like I could write a bit  about what helped me (I had post-partum depression and a extremely clingy needy baby, so I went through some stuff). For now I'll mention some key things that helped me: a) decidng to stop seeing myself only as a mom, and b) regularly taking actual time and space away from the kids and doing "my thing" (the first time I had a weekend for myself I had forgotten what actually it is that I like to do...). If you like self-help books, I highly recommend Sexy Mamas for re-discovering yourself as a woman; and Discipline Without Distress for great tools for understanding and bringing up kids.

      Food and auto-immunity -- I think that Seborrheic Dermatitis is strongly  linked to low tolerance to gluten, dairy and sugar. In my husband´s case it is most dairy, another friend (also a new mom) has issues with both dairy and gluten. Many human beings has problems digesting these foods, and the body openly starts to rebel against them when it has been stressed or burdened in some way (pregnancy, sickness, stress or simply age). A lactose intolerance test is easy to do, but unfortunately doctor's can't detect problems with gluten unless it's severe (celiac disease). If you are not nursing any more, you could try cutting out diary and gluten out of your diet for a couple of weeks each, and see whether your skin clears up. You might notice other effects too -- gluten-free keeps my head way clearer, going low on the sugar keeps mood swings away.

    You might also want to get your thyroid checked -- often Seborrheic Dermatitis goes together with thyroid issues, and this glad often acts up after pregnancies. The emotional causes for thyroid problems are also really interesting -- it's connected to feeling repressed or stifled.

    I feel that all the above things are linked with each other -- stress makes the body more likely to stop tolerating food that is hard to digest; wrong food makes your body have a harder time dealing with stress. And of course anxiety, lack of self-acceptence and other such things are the deeper causes of stress.
    I think that topical medication might bring the flaking under control, but won't actually be addressing the problem and isn't very healthy long-term.

     In terms of skin care, which is actually only a helpful thing and will not make Seborrheic Dermatitis go away --- I recommend being gentle to the skin. No sulfates, alcohol or perfume in products, no hard scrubbing. Flakes are best removed with a microfibre cloth. One thing I really love for the red, peeling parts of the skin is the Weleda Skin Food. This cream is very healing and soothing, I have great experiences with using it on any kind of irritated skin.

   My dear readers, it's over to you now. Do you have advice for someone with Seborrheic Dermatitis? What do you think about the connection between stress and skin issues? How did your skin change after major events in your life? Any tips for B?

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