Can diet high in saturated fat and low in PUFA result in seborrheic dermatitis?

Commented on December 10, 2015
Created April 06, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Malassezia furfur is a fungus that feeds of your sebum glands in your skin and causes seborrheic dermatitis. It feeds saturated fat only, not PUFA, (source here)

Is there link between the fats we eat and the fats we sweat? Is it possible that the dietary changes paleo folks are doing can result in higher incidence of seborrheic dermatitis?

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7 Answers

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on December 10, 2015
at 04:38 PM

That link leads to a blank page for me. 


on April 06, 2013
at 09:26 AM

I've been suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis for over 8 months now, been strict paleo for 6 months. I have read about the whole saturated fat feeding m.furfur deal alot throughout the months, but I am not sure if it is the case if you are suffering from a yeast infection in the gut. As my n=1 experiment ingesting as much saturated fat as I could did not cause a flare. I have sometimes gone up to 200g saturated fat for a very short period of time.

Does Paleo diet cause a higher incidence of SD?

I can only speak in terms of my n=1. The paleo diet helped me alot because it is essentially a special elimination diet and a good one at that. I have found that fructose is the culprit for me (fruits,sweet potato,tomatoes, sucrose..). I would not have figured this out without the paleo diet as my diet initially included different foods before which made it difficult to form a trace.

I recommend paul jaminet's book as he knows his stuff regarding infections, check his blog out here also he did a cool podcast a few days ago that was very informative, you can check it out here

I have no flare ups now and am on the following diet:

1)Carbs (100-200/day)

-jasmine rice

-basmatti rice

-red soil potato's

2)All meats

3)Fish 2-3 times a week

4)Vegetables/Salads(I make sure I get in some sulfur)


-Animal fat

-Coconut oil(be careful with this one, ye its a powerful anti-fungal but the MCT's produce ketones which could possibly worsen a fungal infection, I seem to do fine with it in small quantities)

-Goose/duck fat

-Macadamia Nut Oil

-Olive Oil


Bonus - Ginger/Lemon tea(anti-fungal), Lugols Iodine every 2 days around 1-3mg(I do not eat seaweed, it is present in fish but as I'm dealing with an infection Iodine can become deficient), 5000IU vitamin d3 as theres not much sunlight were I live. Swallow whole garlic clove(anti-fungal) not very often as it sometimes produces too much die off and SD spirals out of control.

This is what works for me. But it probably won't work for you as life is just not that simple!

My only advice is pay great attention to what you eat and try to find the food(s) that trigger the dermatitis. Then you can tinker with your diet from there to fix this, as it CAN be fixed. Good luck


on December 31, 2013
at 06:52 PM

One more thing to add:

Cream does not do anything to help Seborrhoeic Dermatitis, except steroid cream during a very bad flare, but this is something to be avoided so prevention of the flare is most important so you don't have to resort to use of steroid cream. Daktarin, which is an ordinary anti yeast cream used for athletes foot is not strong enough and it's too slow.

If I have eaten the wrong food, such as at Christmas, and have a bad flare (like I have now!) then, unfortunately, sometimes it is so bad that it requires Daktacort which has steroid cream. This is not good to use, but when the skin is badly sore then it would be sore for weeks, which is too long when the skin is so badly sore on a large part of the face. I apply it very sparingly before going to bed for no more than 5 days and it goes.

But this is not good to use as it can thin the skin with regular long term use which make the skin weaker and more vulnerable to inflammation from yeasts.

It has even been discovered by scientists that perioral dermatitis might be so prevalent in females and not males because women go to the doctor about it more and use the steroid cream more.

So, it's most important to prevent the flare by not eating the offending foods, so you don't get the flare and you don't have to use the steroid cream.


on December 31, 2013
at 06:40 PM

Just two more things to add:

(1) Threshold

We have a threshold of how much we can tolerate of certain toxic foods.

I know my threshold for food high in saturated fats is very low, but if I had been mostly clean of saturated fats for some weeks, then I ate a few crisps offered at an important dinner, because I was too polite to refuse, my reaction would be minimal as I would not have got too close to my threshold. However, if I had more crisps or anything other food high in saturated fats, then I would go over the threshold and my skin will start to react badly at the sides of my nose, nasolabial folds, corners of my mouth. Then if I ate more then the sores would spread further around my face and I'd shock people when I leave the house again and walk with my head down hunched over and trying to be invisible! Mineral make up powder can be used to try and cover it without it stinging, but it's not a good look as I look like I have pale crusty lumps over my face and sometimes I can't even open my mouth to speak because of perioral dermatitis and if I did it would bleed at the corners of my mouth over the mineral make up.

(2) Vitamins

I have found vitamins make no difference to my skin, except perhaps vitamin B complex, but I don't know as I can't tell for sure. I eat a diet very high in fresh vegetables and fruit etc so I do not think I'm malnourished and blood tests have always showed me to be well nourished. But still, I do sometimes take B vitamins or perioral dermatitis and Vitamin D due to lack of sun exposure even though I've not seen it making a difference.


on December 31, 2013
at 06:21 PM

This is interesting.

Food high in saturated fats causes my Seborrheic Dermatitis flares, I'm 100% certain, so does food high in refined sugars.

I've had Seborrheic Dermatitis for around 15 years, starting in my mid 20s and I've studied this religiously and know 100% what causes the flares now. It's been hard work, but now I know how to keep my skin as clear and I'm happy with my diet now as it doesn't cause sore skin.

Of course, I understand that the cause of Seb Derm is my skin, in the sebaceous rich areas, having an epidermal barrier dysfunction and that the cause of this skin is a mystery and that there is no cure.

However, I have found, with certainty, what causes the flares and I know exactly what to do to prevent Seb Derm flares .The Seb Derm lies dormant, poised for flaring up, but this is about as good as a cure, as I know how to keep my skin clear. I'm very happy about this and I'd like to tell as many people with Seb Derm about this to help.

This is a food intolerance, not an allergy. Allergies tend to cause sudden and life threatening reactions even to tiny amounts ingested. Food intolerances take longer, (with me it takes a few hours to a day) and severity of reaction correlates with the quantity of the toxin ingested. My skin reacts a little bit to small amounts of the toxin and it reacts a lot if I consume a lot of the toxin either in one sitting or repeatedly over time.

My seborrhoeic dermatitis flares are definitely not ever caused by stress or by a weak immune system. When I'm stressed but eating as I should, my skin is clear. If I am so stressed and busy that I have no option to eat junk food, then my skin will react, but that is the junk food, not the stress. When I am ill with a virus, my skin is always clear if I am eating the correct food. If I have not been eating well and eating junk and I've become ill with a virus, then that is due to the bad food, not the virus. It always, 100% of the time is caused by the wrong food, then if I do not wash my face daily the seb derm gets worse, as it spreads.

I am otherwise a very fit and healthy person and I've never had difficulties with my stomach or digestion. I just have seborrheic dermatitis.

Areas affected on me:

Sides of nose, nasolabial folds, corners of mouth, sides of chin, just above and between eyebrows and forehead centre above eyebrows.

The 1st areas in this list are the 1st to flare and then it progresses to the last in the list if I don't manage to stop it spreading by not eating the offending foods, not drinking lots of hot water and not washing my face.

The 2 causes of Seb Derm flares are (1) diet and (2) hygiene.

(1) Diet:

The 2 dietry causes for me are saturated fats and refined sugars.

The most toxic foods that cause bad Seb Derm flares are:

Fried food



Meat fat





Cheese high in sat fat

High refined sugar sweets and cakes especially with sticky syrups.

Chocolate (as it is high in sat fat) but cocoa itself is fine and I get bars which have cocoa in which are low in sat fat and have no added refined sugars added which are great and cause no problem).

So, the good foods below keep my skin clear

Drinking lots of water, including hot water which cleans the skin.

All salad food is good and the best: raw carrots, raw spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and raw red cabbage, raw courgette. I don't use salad dressing at all as that has oil in which has saturated fats.

All vegetables are fine and I eat lots of boiled broccoli and kale.

Lentils, any pulses and whole wheat pasta are all great.

I eat organic salmon, king prawns, sea bass, mackerel without any problems (but never fried, only boiled or boiled).

I rarely ever eat meat other than fish, but if I do it has to be without fat, which makes it less tasty so I just don't bother with meat and I don't miss it now either.

I never eat fatty meat or fried food because they always cause a nasty Seb Derm flare and makes my face sore and look bad, which makes me feel so bad and ill I can't even leave the house or it would shock people. Chicken fat is particularly bad for causing sore Seb Derm flares (I used to love it, but now I know it causes sore skin I have no problem never eating it again!).

For dessert and snacking:

All fruits are fine and I eat at least 2 oranges a day, many grapes, nectarines, papaya, melon and banana without any problems.

Nuts and seeds, I eat the following: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseeds.

Low fat natural plain yoghut: I stay away from fruit flavoured yoghurt as they are so high in sugar it's bad for my skin. Make sure you read the labels. The only yoghurt without added sugar are the natural plain ones and they vary vastly in taste, some more smooth and some acidic so try around and choose the one you like.

I check the food label of every food I'm unfamiliar with and check it's saturated fat content and only have it if it is low in saturated fat.

I check food label for any refined sugar content and if it has any at all - I simply won't buy it or eat it at all, except for Kellogs All Bran which I mix with my cereal to make museli which is a minimal amount.

If the food packaging says no added sugar, I am interested, then I check for the saturated fat content and if that is low too, then I buy it and eat it.

For breakfast:

Homemade museli made with porridge oats and Kelloggs All Bran (which has a small amount of refined sugar in the ingredients) with lots of seeds and nuts I add along with a few raisins. Then skimmed milk. I drink about 1/2 pint of skimmed milk a day.

(2) Hygiene and caution with moisturisation

The face must be washed at least once per day and the hair/scalp must be washed at least 3 times a week. If I have the start of a flare and I don't wash my face, it will spread very quickly to all the other dormant areas by the next day. I use basic Cetaphil cleanser and make sure I pat my skin dry. Then, because I have very dehydrated skin I moisturise, but I focus my miniaturisation on my cheeks where there is never any seb derm flares.

I only cautiously moisturise the seb derm areas when there is no flare.

When there is a seb derm flare, I do not moisturise it as this makes the seb derm worse by making it moist and helping the yeast to thrive even more. Keeping the Seb Derm flare dry helps it to heel faster and flake off.

So that's it. I hope that's helpful to someone. I've studied this very carefully like a scientist for 15 years.

I've spoken with a professor who is an expert in the field of allergy and intolerance and he says this all makes sense and it actually known by people in the field of food intolerance already.

Unfortunately Dermatologists are not so knowledgeable. They study many different skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis and rosacea, which does not have any obvious link with food intolerance and management is extremely difficult and even impossible. These are truly mysterious conditions.

Eczema and psoriasis flares look similar to Seb Derm and although Dermatologists know how to distinguish between them when diagnosing (due to the typical regions of the body they afflict) many dermatologists still do not realise that Seborrheic Dermatitis differs from psoriasis and eczema in that flares are caused by food intolerance and can be managed through diet, which is about as good as a cure.

So we are very lucky that we can learn to control and manage Seborrheic Dermatitis through our diet and with normal hygiene.

I hope this helps someone out there with Seborrheic Dermatitis and if anyone has any questions feel free to ask me and I'll answer if I can and be honest if I can't.





on December 09, 2015
at 01:36 PM

Hi Sue,

I found your comments very interesting and I agree with you about a diet high in saturated fat causing seborrheic dermatitis. When I consume meat (especially red meat, chicken) and also oily greasy foods like chips and crisps my skin is always worse. At the moment I am on a gluten free, wheat and dairy free diet in the hope that this will help my skin condition. I have read that consuming wheat and dairy can cause imflammation and all sorts of problems in the body as a whole, so this is why I am starting with this. I have also completely eliminated tea and coffee, I have redbush tea and the occasional green tea. I have been on this for two weeks now so I want to stick with it but my skin isn't any better yet. However I am eating a lot of meat, fish and oily tinned fish like sardines and anchovies, loads of steamed veg, salad and fruit like berries, bananas and oranges, nuts and nut butters. I have also been baking my own walnut bread made with ground almonds, ground flaxseed, coconut oil and walnuts. I sometimes add pumpkin, apple sauce or banana to it. However as I said earlier something it is still not working and sometimes my skin is worse than before. I know that sometimes things can get worse before they get better so I don't want to rush to any conclusions but I do think that eating meat is flaring up the condition. Even oily fish(which is covered in olive oil) flares up my skin. I have done some research about the negative effects of eating meat on human health and the skin. Farmed animals are pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics and live in stressfull conditions. I have to say also that I am never comfortable with eating meat on an ethical point of view but I am directing my message from the point of view of the effect of eating meat on seborrhiec dermatitis.

So I am going to take on board your advice on the foods to eat and those to cut out. I will cut out most meat and just have wild salmon and vegetarian alternatives for protein as well as still avoiding dairy, wheat and gluten for the moment. I may introduce some of these foods back again after some time and see if I get a reaction, but I shall definately cut out the meat and sugars.

Thank you



on September 02, 2013
at 05:44 PM

one thing we may be overlooking here is that we have all been steeped in PUFAs for most of our lives until turning paleo/primal. PUFA (and even trans fats) are in our cell walls, where SatFats ought to be. as we 1) change the fat ratios in the diet and 2) finally go ketotic, even if intermittently) the body may finally begin to turn replace cells, release stored PUFA and generally clear our PUFA wherever it may reside. How long does this take? Does PUFA come out in the sebum? Who knows. But it's something to consider.

I found my own Seb Derm minimized the most when I committed to a daily ritual of face washing followed by application of coconut oil. it sounds gross to think I hadn't been face washing (outside of the shower) all along but it's been years since I had the acne of youth. So the natural motivation subsided. When seb derm 'scale' is around. I find cleaning skin using packing tape works really well. effective, cheap & gentle. once the skin is cleaned follow with coconut oil or whatever medicinal lotion you're using. go easy on any procucts with cortizone/steroids as they weaken the connective tissue over time.

read up on skin mites & eyelash mites. they can be part of the picture also and can progressively cause permanent skin damage as we age.

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on December 10, 2015
at 04:13 PM

Any advice on how to tell the difference between problems caused by mites and Seb Derm? Any advice on how to get rid of mites if one believes they may have a problem with them? I just read up on the symptoms of a mite over-infestation and it looks like I have either that or Sub Derm, hard to know which. I hesitate to go to a dermatologist because they just slap some cream on it and don't look at the body holistically. 


on April 06, 2013
at 11:32 AM

I had very bad seborrheic dermatitis before going paleo. I had it on my scalp, forehead and across my face. Upon going paleo my seb derm cleared up about 90%, to the point where other people don't notice I have it anymore, even though my skin can get a little red sometimes. I've been eating a lot of saturated fat this whole time. I've been paleo for a year and a half and for a lot of that time have kept a food diary and have been eating different things here and there. For example, high dairy for a while, no dairy for a while, lots of fruit for a while, no fruit for a while, etc...

That's an interesting study, but I always think it's important to remember that the body is crazy complicated and I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that just because of the results of that study that eating saturated fat could worsen your seb derm. I'm not exactly very well read on the Mallasezia literature but I'd imagine that the overall picture is probably very complicated and while it seems saturated fat has something to do with it, the full story more than likely has many components.

My seb derm tends to get better and worse occasionally in ways that I find hard to predict. For me, physical and emotional stresses are big triggers. I don't exercise hard very often but if I do something even a little intense, like a 30 min run, my seb derm might break out a little (nothing like my pre-paleo days though). My seb derm breaks out if I'm dealing with a lot of stress but I've started meditating a lot recently and this has been helping quite a bit.

So for me stress is a major thing. Two weeks ago I decided to go super strict paleo (mainly for other reasons but I would also like to improve my skin) for a few months so I'm going to see if this helps my seb derm.

To try and answer your question, I guess it is possible that dietary changes people have been making on paleo could serve to worsen their seb derm. Bodytop certainly seems to notice a direct correlation between some foods and dermatitis, whereas I haven't so far, beyond that fact that cutting out grains helped enormously (when I started paleo, I was still eating a reasonable amount of fruit, dairy and occasional sugar and my dermatitis was as good as it is now). I can't imagine cutting down on saturated fat would help, but I don't know because I've been eating loads of it as long as I've been paleo.

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