I have a rash on my face, which is red and swollen. It is quite itchy and comes up in different areas, including my nose and chin. It’s very embarrassing. Can you tell me what it is and what I can do about it?
You have seborrhoeic dermatitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the skin. (‘Derma’ refers to skin, ‘itis’ to inflammation.) It is similar to dandruff (see column, right) and appears on the face wherever there are hair follicles.
Basically there are two types of glands which expel toxins through the skin: sebaceous glands and sweat glands. In general, sweat glands expel toxins that dissolve in water – this is what happens when you ‘detox’ in a sauna or steam bath. Sebaceous glands, however, excrete fatty, greasy toxins. Normally they would produce a certain amount of sebum, which appears in the hair or on the skin. But if there are a lot of these fat-soluble toxins in the body, the sebaceous glands become overactive and produce more sebum, which irritates the subcutaneous layer-the layer underneath the top layer of skin, which is in fact dead skin cells. This leads to the sort of rash you are experiencing, or to acne. The tip of the nose has a particularly large collection of sebaceous glands. In seborrhoeic dermatitis, the production of the toxins is so intense that the skin becomes ‘angry’ and this results in a red nose, as you describe.
Sometimes – I’m sure not in your case – this red nose is associated with excess alcohol intake. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is exacerbated by alcohol, particularly drinks that contain yeast, such as beer and stout. In some people, consuming an excess of citrus fruits, sugar or fried foods can cause a rash.
The most effective treatment is to avoid the following foods: products that contain yeast (bread, pizza, nan, pitta bread, yeast extract, artificial gravy sauces, brewer’s yeast, etc); sugar in excess (chocolate, cakes, sweets); citrus fruits; fried foods; excess alcohol (beer, lager and stout should not be drunk at all); cheese and butter; very spicy curries.
Additionally, you should make an infusion of Black Kadu, or hellebore: overnight, soak one or two twigs in a cup of hot water, then drink hot or cold on an empty stomach in the morning, for one month. This is a bitter drink and you may feel nauseous for the first couple of days. If that happens, drink a few sips at a time to get used to it. It may also make your stools soft in the first few days.
A preparation made with chickpea powder (known as besan in Indian grocers) will help suck the excess grease from the sebaceous glands. Mix one tablespoonful of chickpea powder with a little cold or warm skimmed milk. Rub this paste on the face, concentrating on the affected areas. Scrub for a while and then wash your face with warm water. This is best done at bedtime. The skin will feel quite dry. Leave it to work overnight. There is also a useful cream, called Aru Cream, which you should apply twice daily to the affected areas. Aru Cream is a blend of homoeopathic remedies and is useful in reducing inflammation, itching and any stinging sensation. In general, this advice is also useful for acne sufferers.
In the case of dandruff, the production of sebum causes the dry dead outer layers of the skin to flake off and these can be seen trapped in between the roots of the hair. They may appear on the face and ear lobes too. The treatment for dandruff is the same as for seborrhoeic dermatitis. In addition, sufferers can use an oil extracted from the red flowers of a plant known as flame of the forest which grows wild in the tropics. Apply one to two tablespoonfuls of oil on the scalp. Massage gently until it is fully absorbed and leave overnight. In the morning apply Margosa Shampoo all over the scalp, and rinse with lukewarm water.
Men tend to get sensitive skin in the beard area, usually with small lumps which become red and angry after shaving. The same treatment plan as for seborrhoeic dermatitis (above) will work for this ‘barber’s itch’.