Leading up to nearly the end of July 2016, my symptoms were absolutely out of control. The seborrhea symptoms included bright red skin blotches all over my face, behind my ears, and chin. Bright red – friends that only see me occasionally that caught a glimpse during these past few months commented they thought I was sun burned. Not sun burned (I don't get any sun), but the burning part was real. Not only was my skin bright red, but it felt on fire. Just as if someone had a lit match against my skin.
The redness would give way after a few hours to skin flaking. Just like dandruff and the flakes could range in size all the way to large enough pieces that could cover your thumb.
I was diagnosed with seborrhea (seborrheic dermatitis, or SD) when I was about 15 years old – that is at least 47 years ago.
Seborrhea wasn't that big of an issue for me over the years. I would end up with a flare up about once or twice a year, and it wouldn't last much more than a few weeks at a time. I preferred having a mustache from the time I was about 19 years old and on ... when the flare ups would kick in, I'd shave off the mustache. That was about the only real negative to me, those flakes looked horrible in my mustache around the ends of my lips. Shave and the flakes would be gone, and only a bit of redness would remain for a few days, possibly a week or so.
And, that was the extent up until five or six years ago. The seborrhea flare ups were more frequent, each lasting a few weeks.
And then we moved. After raising our family in the same home for over 30 years, it was time to downsize. We had installed a water softener and a filtration system for drinking water at that house. Our new one didn't have those. It wasn't an issue, though. The new home didn't have any hard water stains. The only thing we noticed was the smell of chlorine from the taps. Nothing really extensive, though, so we did nothing about it.
From the time we moved into our new home, the seborrhea symptoms grew in severity and frequency. By the time we were in the new home about six months, the seborrhea was nearly at its worst.
I started researching the issue – I was not prepared to use the prescription medicine on a regular basis. I didn't have an issue with the prescribed "corti-steroid" on an infrequent basis, but not on a regular basis. The other doctor recommended treatment was to use a dandruff shampoo and extend its use to all the areas affected by seborrhea. I ended up trying quite a few different brands and found that Nizoral shampoo to be the most effective. I would wash my hair and face several times with regular soap, and then use the Nizoral. Leaving the Nizoral in the hair and on the skin for at least two minutes is the key to this working – then rinsing off with clean water (easy if you are having a shower, not so easy when having a bath).
I discovered a few things about seborrhea. The flaking of seborrhea is from "sebum", that is the process by which our skin grows. The sebum kicks into high gear and causes excess skin to generate – that's the flaking or dandruff. The redness and oil produced in this process are from a fungus. This fungus (malassezia) is in the oil excreted on the skin.
Before anyone assumes this is a hygiene issue, this fungus (malassezia) is on everyone's skin. It just gets out of control and causes several health issues, including seborrhea. To see other health issues caused by malassezia, do a Google search. Malassezia is a fungus that can assume yeast form.
My research focused on locating products, preferably natural, to control or kill off the fungus – similar to the prescribed corti-steroid, a cream to control the fungus. I did find several products that had limited effect – but none that cried out for a eureka moment.
So, back to the research drawing board.
First, this most recent series of flare ups seemed to start when we moved to our new house. Next, bathing seemed to help remove the flakes and scaling of the skin. Next, bathing also seemed to worsen the redness for at least a few hours after finishing a bath. Next, some foods (or drinks) seemed to trigger a flare up – particularly the burning sensation.
I decided to focus my research and tests on the bathing part. It seemed unusual to me that the flare ups would be worse after just finishing a bath ...
I need to point out to anyone reading this that the first research and testing I did was "additive", that is adding a product to help clear or control the seborrhea. This next part is removing things to see if those "things" are the cause or trigger of the symptoms.
Let me explain my bathing procedures so we all have a baseline to start with.
I have diabetes (type 2) and idiopathic chronic pancreatitis. My pancreas has only about 1 to 2% functionality remaining. The defining symptom of pancreatitis is extreme pain – I use several strategies to control that pain, and that includes bathing with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium sulfate added to the bath water. I soak in that water for up to 20 minutes to get the benefits of those anti-inflammatory additives.
I removed the sodium bicarbonate from the next bath. The result is amazing – no more redness, flaking didn't start for at least 12 hours – BUT DID NOT LAST. I emphasize, removing the sodium bicarbonate did not last. It seemed to help but only for one single bath. After the second bath with the sodium bicarbonate removed, the seborrhea symptoms were back immediately and with a vengeance.
I had the exact same result from the second element removed: magnesium sulfate. After the first bath, relief. After the second bath, all symptoms were back and with a vengeance.
Hmmm ... this still seemed to be related to the baths, but all that remained was tap water. I wasn't adding anything else.
Since moving into this new house, we've sort of gone nose-blind to the chlorine. You get used to the smell and taste ... you just don't notice it. But, how would I get rid of chlorine out of my bath water? I didn't want to invest in an expensive solution at this point, at least not before determining the actual cause or trigger. I did a bit more research and found that I could get a shower head filter fairly inexpensively that would remove chlorine from a shower. I decided to try this and switch from baths to showers.
And IT WORKED!
First shower: redness completely gone. Scaling and flaking didn't show up for 24 hours. That held for more than six showers, with the scaling and flaking reducing each time – meaning taking longer and longer to show up and less severe each time.
It is clear that chlorine is a trigger for seborrhea FOR ME. It may be for you as well, but you will need to do your own tests to determine that. I do know that I have done a lot more research on chlorine and find it deplorable that the use of chlorine is on the increase. It's a nasty additive that is toxic. You can read more about that here if you wish.
Despite limited funds these days, and still recovering from a heart attack, I decided to find an inexpensive whole house chlorine filter. I ended up locating a new unit at a reasonable price. It's from a friend of mine that has his own product for commercial accounts. His product is a water conditioner for hard water. All I wanted was a chlorine filter, so he offered to acquire one through his distributor and at his wholesale price. I ended up with a unit that has a 20-year lifespan and guarantee. But, I was on the hook to install it myself. He did recommend a plumbing company and I asked them to come in to do the installation. My friend also offered his commercial water conditioner product at cost, so I decided that add that on. Overall the two products purchased were less than the low priced solutions I had been quoted by local water companies.
I was taken a bit by surprise by the plumbing company. They charge $79 just to come out and knock at your door. For that price, they will "diagnose" your issue and provide you an estimate – they are prepared to start the work immediately though. And, the $79 is not deducted from the final bill.
The estimate from this company to install the water conditioner and the chlorine filter system: $770, plus taxes. Huh? SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY?
I'm not a plumber. Not even close. I've done some home plumbing projects on my own ... but trust me, I don't even claim that they were done right or anywhere near as fast as a professional plumber. But, I can take a fairly educated guess that I was about to be robbed blindly. By my estimate, this project would have taken less than 2 hours to complete by a professional, and require about $50-60 worth of additional parts to complete.
After a discussion with the plumber that was sent, he called his dispatcher and gave me the great news that they could drop the price down to $660 (plus taxes and plus the $79 initial fee). Really? still $660 + ?????
By my calculation, that worked out to $60 worth of parts, and at least $300 per hour to do this job. He called his supervisor and discussed the pricing with him. Result: he said $660 was pretty much "cost" ...
AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN !!! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE !!!
I decided to try this myself, planning to get an early start on a Saturday and allow enough time to call in an emergency plumbing service if needed.
I found a local plumbing supplier and bought two 90 degree PEX elbows and two pass-through (straight) PEX connectors. Total cost $61.
I was planning to start on Saturday at 8 am ... but didn't actually get off my duff until 10:45 am. I asked my wife to help – mainly to monitor me (I am still recovering from a heart attack – didn't want to push myself too hard). I first shut off the main. My wife started at the second floor and opened cold and hot water faucets as well as flushed the toilet. Same on the main floor. In the basement, I opened up the cold and hot water on the laundry sink. After that was done, we waited about two minutes after all the water had stopped running. While waiting, I cut and connected all the PEX pipe, elbows, and straight connectors – except for the two connections on the as-yet-uncut main line.
I setup a pail under the main water inlet, planning to cut the PEX ¾" pipe just above the pail. My wife held the pail right beside where I was planning on cutting the PEX pipe in the main. I cut it and quickly shifted it over the pail: only two drops of water came out. Our draining strategy worked well.
I connected the inlet port and outlet port of the chlorination filter to the main pipe. On the outlet port, I had already installed the water conditioner element.
From the start of this, to this point where everything was now connected back up: total of 15 minutes.
The next step was to open the inlet valve on the chlorine filter – and then test all of this by turning the water back on at the main. Fingers crossed: all worked fine, no drips anywhere, no leaks.
Next, time to open the outlet valve on the chlorine filter. This would get water flowing through all the pipes. So, before opening that valve, my wife went up to the top floor of the house, prepared to shut off the faucets after a minute or so of water flow. Then she did the same on the main floor. Then she returned to the basement, and we watched as water flowed through the laundry facuet. Some of the early water flow included residual black color from the charcoal "charge" in the chroline filter tank. That only lasted a few seconds though, and then clear water. We let the water flow while the air expelled from having drained the system.
After shutting off the faucets, I installed the backwash drain pipe from the chroline filter unit to the laundry sink. That took no time at all.
We then shut off the water main and turned off the breaker to the hot water tank. We connected a garden hose to the hot water tank and drained as much of that hot water as possible (the hot water tank was still full of the chlorinated water from prior to the chlorine filter installation – we wanted to start with as little of the old chlorine in our water system as possible).
Once that was done, I shut off the valve on the hot water tank, turned the water main back on, and turned on the breaker to get power to the hot water heater.
All that remained was to empty the ice cube maker of the ice cubes made with chlorinated water and let that process start over again.
My wife and I did all of this and finished at 12 noon. Total time to get this done: one and one-quarter hours. By an old geezer recovering from a heart attack.
To the plumbing company that quoted $770 to do this (and reduced their estimate to $660): hope you can see my one-finger wave. And, I'm smiling, knowing that I have at least $600 cash still on my side of the ledger.
To everyone else: I've now been symptom free of the seborrhea redness, burning, scaling and flaking for almost two weeks. It's clear that chlorine triggers a seborrhea flare up for me. Medical research also shows that it is a trigger for seborrhea and many other skin and internal diseases.
Be careful when reading about products that "cure" seborrhea. Many of the solutions I read about are temporary relief only, most are absolutely absurd and would cause faster and more severe flare ups.
And to the person that read my tests with the shower filter: wake up, the issue is not hard water (hard water contains magnesium that would help control the fungus). The issue with bathing and showering is chlorine. Suggesting that people rinse their hair with inexpensive 8 oz bottles of water is just dumb. If you are struggling financially, you can get a shower head chlorine filter that will work just as effectively for about $25. The filter needs to be replaced every 4 to 6 months, but it is far more convenient and cheaper than buying bottled water to rinse your hair/face.