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Foods to Avoid When Dealing with Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis or adult seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease. It is characterized by the presence of erythematous plaques covered with oily scales. The following question arises: what foods should be avoided in case of seborrheic dermatitis? Let's take a look.

Published August 22, 2023, updated on February 6, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 6 min read

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by red patches covered with yellowish-white scales. This condition targets parts of the body that produce an excessive amount of sebum, thus creating an environment conducive to the growth of a fungus responsible for this disease: Malassezia. The scalp is almost always affected; other common sites (in order of frequency) are the face, particularly the eyebrows, the chest, and intertriginous areas. Its histological appearance has strong similarities with psoriasis and constitutes one of the main difficulties of differential diagnosis.

Oily or seborrheic skin is the primary risk factor. The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include the following:

  • Red scaly patches;

  • Skin particles detaching from patches;

  • Itching and pain at the site of lesions.

Seborrheic dermatitis is widely recognized as one of the most common skin conditions, although estimates of its prevalence are limited by the lack of validated criteria for diagnosis or classification of its severity. An infantile form is known and affects 70% of newborns during the first 3 months of life, but generally disappears by the age of one year.

This skin condition is believed to be caused by the excessive proliferation of a fungus: Malassezia. Other factors such as hormones, diseases, or lifestyle may also play a role. Let's explore the appropriate diet to adopt in the case of seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis: What Foods Should Be Avoided?

Adopting a healthy diet can help combat seborrheic dermatitis. It is particularly important to avoid certain foods:

  • Foods with high glycemic indexes.

    This type of food is associated with hyperglycemia, reactive hyperinsulinemia, and increased formation of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Insulin and IGF-1 stimulate sebaceous gland lipogenesis in vitro by increasing the expression of a transcription factor (SREBP-1) that regulates many genes involved in lipid biosynthesis. IGF-1 also plays a role in inducing the production of androgens. These androgens promote the growth of sebaceous cells and thus the production of sebum. Therefore, consuming high glycemic index foods will only stimulate sebum production, thereby contributing to the proliferation of Malassezia. These foods can include: white bread, fried potatoes, or even cooked carrots.

  • Dairy products.

    Dairy products contain inflammatory fatty acids that can influence inflammatory responses and increase skin irritations. They are also rich in hormones such as estrogens, progesterone, bovine insulin, and IGF-1, which have the ability to stimulate the production of androgens. These androgens can impact the functioning of the sebaceous glands, leading to an excessive production of sebum, a condition known as hyperseborrhea.

  • Processed foods (fast foods, etc).

    This type of food is composed of "trans" fatty acids, which are associated with a high production of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). This factor increases the expression of a transcription factor (SREBP-1) that regulates many genes involved in lipid biosynthesis. It also plays a role in inducing the production of androgens that promote the growth of sebaceous cells, thereby increasing sebum production.

  • Alcohol.

    Frequent alcohol consumption increases the levels of certain hormones such as testosterone and estradiol, a form of estrogen. This promotes the growth of sebaceous cells and consequently the production of sebum.

Seborrheic Dermatitis: Foods to Favor.

A healthy diet can help you limit the development of seborrheic dermatitis by soothing skin inflammation. The following foods should be prioritized:

  • Low glycemic index foods:

    As previously discussed, foods with a high glycemic index stimulate the secretion of sebum, which leads to the onset of seborrheic dermatitis. Therefore, replace them with foods with a moderate or low glycemic index, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes or even dried vegetables.

  • Foods rich in omega-3:

    Foods rich in omega-3 inhibit the secretion of IGF-1, thereby reducing the overproduction of sebum. This results in limiting the proliferation of Malassezia and alleviating symptoms related to seborrheic dermatitis. The fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, etc...), the oilseeds (nuts, etc...), the avocados, the flaxseed, canola and walnut oils are all foods rich in omega-3.

  • Foods rich in antioxidants.

    Foods high in antioxidants play a protective role for the skin by neutralizing free radicals, which can contribute to inflammation and exacerbate the signs of seborrheic dermatitis. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as citrus fruits, spinach, strawberries, cranberries, etc., are foods to prioritize in case of seborrheic dermatitis.


SAKUMA T. H. & al. Oily Skin: An Overview. Skin Pharmacology Physiology (2012).

SANDERS M. G. H. & al. Association between Diet and Seborrheic Dermatitis: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2018).

TAMER F. Relationship between diet and seborrheic dermatitis. Our Dermatology Online (2018).


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