Seborrhea is just a way of describing excessively oily skin. It’s a common condition, and while it's not necessarily one that causes harm, it can be frustrating and distressing.
What’s going on?
Seborrhea is an excess of sebum, the oily substance your skin naturally produces to protect itself and keep the skin barrier robust and resilient. When the sebaceous glands are overactive, your skin can feel and look greasy.
The oiliness particularly affects the face, scalp and chest, where the sebaceous glands are most densely located.
There’s no clear cut reason why some people produce more sebum than others; it does seem to run in families, so there’s a genetic component, but it can also affect people during hormonal upheavals, especially boys during puberty when sebum production increases by 500%. You produce less sebum as you age, so for some people seborrhea is only an issue during teenage years.
What’s the problem with having seborrhea?
There isn’t actually any harm done by just having oily skin, except for the distress it can cause if it affects your self-confidence. However, problems can arise when the excess sebum clogs pores, or attracts microbes, dirt and sweat, which can make infections more likely.
Seborrheic (also spelled seborrhoeic) dermatitis is a condition that is associated with having high sebum production, a yeast (called Malassezia) on the skin, and an overactive inflammatory response. Seborrheic dermatitis needs careful management: see our article Seborrheic Dermatitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for more details.
How to manage seborrhoea
If you have oily skin and want to reduce the risk of seborrheic dermatitis, acne or infections, try these suggestions:
- Wash your face daily with warm (not hot) water and a soap-free, scent-free, super-gentle wash like Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash.
- Pat (don’t rub!) dry with a fresh, clean towel
- Moisturise with a non-clogging cream like Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream.
- Once a week, use a natural, clay-based mask.
- Cut out the irritants from your toiletries: check the ingredients and avoid those likely to flare up sensitive skin
- Use a topical antimicrobial rescue oil (like Balmonds Scalp Oil) on problem areas
- Make lifestyle changes if necessary: cut down on stress; eat well; sleep long!
If you’re finding that your oily skin is causing you problems and you can’t manage it at home, consult a dermatologist, who can prescribe medications.
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with shea butter and hemp, from £13.99 for 100ml
Balmonds Scalp Oil with tea tree, borage & rosemary, £14.99 for 50ml
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash with calendula and nettle, £19 for 200ml
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.