The skin barrier is essential for keeping pathogens and irritants from disrupting our skin’s integrity. Theoretically, with a strong enough barrier, pathogens should not present any issues as they will be kept from activating further components of the skin’s immune system. Plus, a good barrier will ensure that the underlying skin remain moisturized as the barrier minimizes water loss . As a result, using skin barrier repair and restoration products may be a reasonable and effective approach to treating seborrheic dermatitis.
Even though majority of skin barrier restoration products have been targeted and marketed specifically towards atopic dermatitis and eczema, my experience has shown that their effectiveness for seborrheic dermatitis may be more significant than a strictly anti-fungal approach. However, due to the malassezia component of seborrheic dermatitis, some of the ingredients found in these products may be restricting their overall effectiveness. These ingredients include various oils and emollient agents, and it happens because the malassezia may be able to use them as a food source . So even though the skin barrier may be improving with their usage, the malassezia communities may also be growing. If this delicate balance shifts too far in favor of the malassezia, any beneficial aspects of the products effect on the skin barrier may not be enough in protecting against the well-nourished malassezia yeasts.
In the end though, due to the complexity of many of these formulations (preservatives used, oils used, and other ingredients) and the specific malassezia yeast involved in an individual’s seborrheic dermatitis issues, it becomes quite difficult to predict the end-outcome for a specific case. A good approach may simply be to test a variation of skin restoration products and see what works best specifically for your skin.
When it comes to the scalp, the selection of skin barrier restoration shampoos is quite limited due to differences in marketing approach most companies use in this area. The scalp itself is not as visible as other areas of skin, and as a result, most shampoo producers tend to focus their efforts on the visible part of the scalp (the hair). And since healthy hair is often the result of a healthy scalp, individuals aiming to restore the skin barrier of the scalp may consider testing various shampoos targeted at improving and/or regulating hair growth and quality.