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Identify and Treat Trigger Cause of Skin and Scalp Rash


Updated, Marc Woodard 27 April 20

If you suffer from a rash that also produces flaky, or dry oily, or thicken skin you may have been diagnosed by a dermatologist with seborrhea, eczema or psoriasis. Many skin conditions occur as a result of an overactive immune system where internal or external environment toxin and allergen triggers cause the inflamed and irritated skin condition. Learn how to determine the cause and best treatment course of various skin and scalp irritant sources.

Skin inflammation (dermatitis) is often misdiagnosed as Seborrhea Dermatitis caused from toxicity issues within the body. Seborrhea is commonly called dandruff and the most common form of dermatitis in adults.

Seborrhea can present itself in the form of thick oily or dry skin on the scalp, armpits, face, or red patches under the breasts. Even though the skin appears dry, it is also oily at the same time. Most moisturizing creams on the market will only make the dry scales redder and more irritable, usually only smoothing out the scaly disorder.

“Treatment options include application of selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole-containing shampoos, topical ketoconazole cream or terbinafine solution, topical sodium sulfacetamide and topical corticosteroids. ‘Hygiene issues play a key role in controlling seborrheic dermatitis. Frequent cleansing with soap removes oils from affected areas and improves seborrhea. Patients should be counseled that good hygiene must be a lifelong commitment. Outdoor recreation, especially during summer, will also improve seborrhea, although caution should be taken to avoid sun damage” (Johnson and Nunley 2000).

Dandruff is a form of seborrhea dermatitis that results from neither too little moisture, nor too much oil. The cause of this type of skin dermatitis is unknown. The positive news on this, dermatologists do have medication for this condition.  Medicated shampoos and topical creams are prescribed at first to avoid health risk typically associated with orals. However in severe skin symptom cases, the benefits out weight the risks of medication use.

Like seborrhea; eczema and psoriasis the exact cause of disease is unknown. However a common denominator appears to trigger each surface rash and inflammation and skin condition event. And appears to be the result of an overactive response of the immune system. Whereas a genetic predisposition to sensitivities of allergen or chemical toxin consumed, absorbed or inhaled appear to trigger these skin conditions.

“The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.”  The itching can begin before the rash appears. Then the skin can become a thickened, dry crusted scaly layer. These skin area effected “most commonly appears on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet. It may also affect other areas as well, including the scalp” (WebMD 2016).

Atopic Dermatitis is a common form of eczema. Atopic means having a predisposition and reaction to irritants or allergens upon contact which causes a hypersensitive skin condition, or inflammation to the skin. “The skin gets red, itchy, and weepy because it touches something that the immune system knows is foreign, like poison ivy. ‘This condition results as a unique combination of three factors: first, environmental influences, such as irritants and potential allergens; second, your immune system and, in particular, your immune system’s sensitivity to irritants in the environment; and, third, your family history of atopic dermatitis” (Healthgrades Editorial Staff 2014).

Tips to avoid eczema contact dermatitis: Avoid sweating and overheating, wearing of wooly scratchy clothes and cover up when working in the yard or out in the woods. Then change clothes and remove vegetative irritant oils by washing clothes. Moisturize effected skin often and stay dry.

Psoriasis on the other hand can look a lot like a chronic case of contact dermatitis or eczema. However it is different in that the hard skin plaques begin forming under the skin.

Plaque Psoriasis Source, diseasespictures.com

“When your body has plaque psoriasis, your immune system is overactive, triggering skin inflammation and causing skin cells to be produced faster than normal. New skin cells are pushed to the skin’s surface in 3 to 4 days instead of the usual 28 to 30. ‘But your body can’t shed the new skin cells at that fast of a rate. So while new skin cells are being produced, the old, dead skin cells pile up on top of each other. ‘As more and more new skin cells are produced rapidly, the old skin cells are pushed to the surface, forming the thick, red, itchy, flaky patches known as plaques” (AbbVie 2015).

Since dermatitis acute and chronic conditions have a connection to weaken immune system… through identification and avoidance of toxin or allergen triggers, skin inflammation and irritation may abate, or go away completely. To help assist in determining what might be the cause of exasperating a dermatitis disease, I’ve provided a few former client examples who identified triggers that caused a dermatitis reaction. And after identification and avoidance of the irritant trigger the symptoms were greatly alleviated or disappeared.

For example, I had a client that worked within the construction industry. He had what appeared to be dry flaky and itchy skin on various parts of his body. His doctor first diagnosed him with heat rash, than hives and at one point thought shingles before referring to a dermatologist. The treatment prescribed prior to seeing the dermatologist was Benadryl and anti-itch cream.

What’s in your Laundry Room? Everyday laundry products could be the cause of your contact dermatitis.

After further diagnosis from a medical specialist the identified irritant trigger was a reaction to heavy detergents used to wash his clothes. That allergic reaction became more severe while perspiring throughout the day. The anti-itch medications kept the itching at bay but had an unwanted drowsy-side effect. The lesson learned, seek a referral to a dermatologist if your primary care physician repeatedly prescribes medications that don’t resolve inflamed skin irritation, or symptoms worsen, or won’t go away.

Another past client had a bad skin reaction to something consumed. During medical history consultation and while developing a customized fitness program, the client talked about a skin rash that mostly manifested on her face. I did noticed her face would get blotchy with red spots then dry up and flake on certain days. After doing a nutrition assessment I identified a trigger toxin. She was allergic to a brand of red wine with high sulfites in it.

Although she drank infrequently it had more to do with the quality of the wine than how much she drank. The rash condition on her face was observed Monday through Wednesday after having drinks with friends over the weekend. Then the rash dissipated Thursday and Friday. Her doctor had prescribed hydrocortisone and Benadryl to alleviate the symptoms. After she changed to a more organic wine selection the skin condition never reappeared.

“Sulfites are preservatives used in some drinks, foods and occasionally medication. Sulfites can cause allergy like reactions (intolerances), most commonly asthma symptoms in those with underlying asthma, sometimes allergic rhinitis (hay fever) like reactions, occasionally urticaria (hives) and very rarely, anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Wheezing is the most common reaction. ‘Most people with sulfite sensitivity do not have positive allergy tests and there is currently no reliable blood or skin allergy test to test for sulfite intolerances. ‘At times, it may be important to undertake a supervised food challenge with sulfites under medical supervision to confirm or exclude sensitivity (ASCIA 2014).”

Another client had a skin reaction to a particular clothing material. Most don’t know clothing and bedding materials are a number one contributor of contact dermatitis.  “Read clothing labels and try to avoid synthetic materials such as Rayon, Nylon, Polyester, Acrylic, Acetate or Triacetate as much as possible. Also avoid no-iron, wrinkle free and preshrunk items. Even used clothing purchased from thrift stores such as Goodwill may be sprayed with some skanky chemical before they’re put up for sale. Wash and dry them at least once. Stay away from dry cleaners that use perchloroethylene. There are some that don’t” (Tags 2012).

Toxins, allergens and bacteria may also be the cause of unhealthy hair and nail conditions. If you are concerned about these things also consider the nutrients your body may be lacking. Try taking a daily vitamin mineral to boost immune system.

What irritant trigger might your immune system be overacting to? The first thing you might consider before making medical referral decisions and probably the most important step is to talk to your mother, father, siblings and cousins. Why?

Chances are they’ve likely dealt with a similar skin condition and know what their allergic or sensitive too.

Genetics can almost always predict relative immune sensitivity and preventative treatment solutions. Therefor similar lifestyle changes recommended by family and relatives may provide relief and abate an inflamed skin condition. There are many cases in which once lifestyle habits or avoidance of irritant triggers are avoided, unhealthy skin conditions including hair and nails clear up. However this is not always the case dependent upon genetic makeup and disease. Chronic cases will require referral to medical specialists to receive specialized treatment that may persist throughout a lifetime but can be managed through medical intervention.

If you are having severe and chronic skin irritant symptoms request a referral to a dermatologist immediately to diagnose and treat the symptoms. Thereafter start looking at diet and environment to determine what might exasperate inflammation, itching or cause skin condition to worsen.

Now imagine all the environmental toxin possibilities of things that could cause a skin irritant and inflammation and bad skin condition. Then begin the process of removing suspected irritant allergens or toxins from your environment. Try removing hygiene, laundry, home cleaning, and clothing fabric and highly processed food products with toxic chemicals and replace them. Go as organic and whole food as possible for a period of time and then see if there is a difference in symptoms.

Keep in mind, like sulfite triggers in wine, the foods you consume have hyper-palatable food chemical trigger allergens. For example, High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate], Aspartame, partially hydrogenated oils, etc., (Sherpa 2010). Many food chemicals like these are also known to cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Make a list of consumables you suspect your body may be allergic to with the help of medical advisement. Then through time, you may be able to isolate and remove what triggers inflammatory skin, poor hair and nail condition.

You can also request a doctor perform a skin allergy test to determine what you’re allergic to. The doctor may order allergy skin tests if you have: hay fever, hives and skin rashes, etc. “The skin prick test may also be used to diagnose food allergies. Intradermal tests are not used to test for food allergies because of high false-positive results and the danger of causing a severe allergic reaction” (NIH 2016).

By living a healthy lifestyle that includes clean green home and hygiene products and balanced whole foods you provide a healthier environment for the immune system. These changes will decrease the toxic load on the body which bodes well for healthy skin, hair and nails. And of course this allows anyone to live life to the fullest while comfortable within their own skin.

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2016 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your free monthly newsletter.


AbbVie. “What Is Psoriasis.” What Is Psoriasis? ABBVIE INC., 2015. Web. 24 June 2016.

ASCIA. “Sulfite Sensitivity.” Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA). The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), 2014. Web. 24 June 2016.

Healthgrades Editorial Staff. “Dermatitis – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments – Causes.” Dermatitis – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments – Causes. Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc., 26 June 2014. Web. 24 June 2016.

Johnson, Betty Anne, M.D., PH.D, and Julia R. Nunley, M.D. “Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis.” American Family Physician. American Academy of Family Physicians, 1 May 2000. Web. 24 June 2016.

NIH. “Allergy Testing – Skin: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, 7 June 2016. Web. 24 June 2016.

Sherpa, Coupon. “Top 15 Chemical Additives in Your Food.” Top 15 Chemical Additives in Your Food. Phys.org, 19 Jan. 2010. Web. 24 June 2016.

Tags, Louis. “Beware of Hidden Toxin Sources in New Clothes – Always Wash Them before Wearing.” NaturalNews. The Natural News Network, 1 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 June 2016.

WebMD. “Eczema and Your Skin | Eczema Types, Symptoms, Causes, and More.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 24 June 2016