The Possible Role of Nutrition in Seborrheic Dermatitis

We all know that the food we eat has a major impact on our health and quality of life. Yet, many of us fail to truly use this valuable knowledge. Instead we find ourselves making sub-optimal food choices and feeling guilty about.

This section will not going into the specifics of dietary recommendations and optimal nutrient intake levels Instead, the section will solely focus on examining the potential connections between food choices and the condition of the skin. Most importantly, the link between dietary choices and seborrheic dermatitis will given the most attention.

Food Choices and Skin Health

Most of us know and have personally experience the effects which food can have on our skin. However, with the drastic surge of online information on the subject, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between valuable advice and the more common nonsense.

To keep the discussion as direct as possible, let’s review some of the most apparent nutritional elements of various skin issues:

  • Dairy consumption and acne [1, 2, 3], with higher risk in the case of skim milk [4, 1]
  • Diets with a high glycemic load and acne [5, 6]
  • Dietary AGEs (advanced glycation end products) and delayed wound healing [7]
  • High intake of antioxidants and a lowered risk of skin cancer and cellular stability [8, 9]
  • Increased omega 3 fatty acid consumption and improvement of psoriasis [10]

And that’s only a small list of the different associations which have been examined by the scientific community. The main point is that the food we eat clearly has a significant role in either improving or degrading the condition of our skin.

Whole food nutrition trumps isolated supplementation
In clinical trials conducted on humans, isolated supplements often fail to shown any significant benefits. On the contrary, intake of dietary antioxidant and phytochemicals from whole food sources appears to hold substantial potential.

Nutrition and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Since diet appears to be such a critical component in the condition of our skin it only makes sense to theorize it may also play a role in seborrheic dermatitis progression. Sadly, in the case of seborrheic dermatitis the research is a lot more sparse then compared to conditions such as acne or psoriasis.

Still, there have been a few medical papers which have considered the potential role of diet in seborrheic dermatitis progression.

A 1988 research paper briefly discussed the striking similarity between and seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and those seen in fatty acid deficiency. However, simple oral supplementation of these fatty acids has failed to show any benefit. The authors of the paper went on to suggest that the EFA deficiency may only by marginal, inconsequential or linked to other nutrient deficiencies not yet examined [11].

In addition to the above finding, a few other interesting points were also brought up in the paper above and by other researchers as well:

  • Biotin deficiency may result in infantile seborrheic dermatitis and supplementation has shown to reverse the condition. But in the case of adults as relationship was never documented [12, 13]
  • Deficiencies of zinc can often produce skin symptoms to those visually identical to seborrheic dermatitis [14]. But yet again, there do not appear to be any adult trails which have been benefit of increasing dietary zinc in the case of seborrheic dermatitis.

In the end, these are basically just theories. And since 1988 there still haven’t been any studies which actually show any benefit from correcting any of the above deficiencies/abnormalities.

There was however one other paper from 1991 which considered a few more specific nutritional factors which may play a role in seborrheic dermatitis. Here, the authors noted that in the case of seborrheic dermatitis there are appears to be a clear reduction in blood levels of vitamin E, polyunsaturated fatty acid and glutathione peroxidase [15]. Again, it’s difficult to determine if these attributes actually cause seborrheic dermatitis or simply are a side effect of the seborrheic dermatitis progression.

In recent years there has been practically no new research on the potential role that nutrition may play in seborrheic dermatitis. Accordingly, making any specific recommendations remains difficult.

Nonetheless, improving our diets may hold tremendous value in lowering stress, improving immune function and a variety of other factors which could altogether play a large role in reducing seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and reversing the condition altogether.

Section Summary

This section discussed the potential connection between the food we eat and seborrheic dermatitis progression. Key points include:

  1. The impact of dietary choices is often included in self-reports of individuals affected by various chronic skin conditions
  2. Studies have confirmed some correlation between specific dietary choices and various skin conditions such as acne, skin cancer, and psoriasis
  3. In the case of seborrheic dermatitis, the research is sparse and only a few studies have noted several differences in nutrient availability
  4. There haven’t been any studies which confirm that resolving the noted nutritional differences can reverse seborrheic dermatitis
  5. Improving dietary habits as a whole may have a secondary effect on skin disease by improving immune function and increase rate of repair


  1. Clement A Adebamowo, Donna Spiegelman, Catherine S Berkey, F William Danby, Helaine H Rockett, Graham A Colditz, Walter C Willett, Michelle D Holmes "Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 58.5 (2008): 787-93. PubMed
  2. Clement A Adebamowo, Donna Spiegelman, Catherine S Berkey, F William Danby, Helaine H Rockett, Graham A Colditz, Walter C Willett, Michelle D Holmes "Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls." Dermatology online journal 12.4 (2006): 1. PubMed
  3. Whitney P Bowe, Smita S Joshi, Alan R Shalita "Diet and acne." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 63.1 (2010): 124-41. PubMed
  4. Clement A Adebamowo, Donna Spiegelman, F William Danby, A Lindsay Frazier, Walter C Willett, Michelle D Holmes "High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 52.2 (2005): 207-14. PubMed
  5. Robyn N Smith, Neil J Mann, Anna Braue, Henna Muekelueinen, George A Varigos "A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial." The American journal of clinical nutrition 86.1 (2007): 107-15. PubMed
  6. Robyn N Smith, Neil J Mann, Anna Braue, Henna Muekelueinen, George A Varigos "The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 57.2 (2007): 247-56. PubMed
  7. Melpomeni Peppa, Harold Brem, Paul Ehrlich, Jian-Gang Zhang, Weijing Cai, Zhu Li, Anca Croitoru, Swan Thung, Helen Vlassara "Adverse effects of dietary glycotoxins on wound healing in genetically diabetic mice." Diabetes 52.11 (2003): 2805-13. PubMed
  8. Rajani Katta, Danielle Nicole Brown "Diet and Skin Cancer: The Potential Role of Dietary Antioxidants in Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Prevention." Journal of skin cancer 2015 (2015): 893149. PubMed
  9. David R Bickers, Mohammad Athar "Oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of skin disease." The Journal of investigative dermatology 126.12 (2006): 2565-75. PubMed
  10. Jillian W Millsop, Bhavnit K Bhatia, Maya Debbaneh, John Koo, Wilson Liao "Diet and psoriasis, part III: role of nutritional supplements." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 71.3 (2014): 561-9. PubMed
  11. S Brenner, C Horwitz "Possible nutrient mediators in psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. I. Prevalence, etiology, symptomatology, histological and biochemical features." World review of nutrition and dietetics 55 (1988): 153-64. PubMed
  12. A NISENSON "Seborrheic dermatitis of infants and Leiners’s disease: a biotin deficiency." The Journal of pediatrics 51.5 (1958): 537-48. PubMed
  13. A Nisenson "Seborrheic dermatitis of infants: treatment with biotin injections for the nursing mother." Pediatrics 44.6 (1970): 1014-6. PubMed
  14. R G Kay "Zinc and copper in human nutrition." Journal of human nutrition 35.1 (1981): 25-36. PubMed
  15. S Passi, A Morrone, C De Luca, M Picardo, F Ippolito "Blood levels of vitamin E, polyunsaturated fatty acids of phospholipids, lipoperoxides and glutathione peroxidase in patients affected with seborrheic dermatitis." Journal of dermatological science 2.3 (1991): 171-8. PubMed
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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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