Business man with dandruff, beard flakes

Have you ever heard of beard flakes? Some men find that the skin on their cheeks and chin under their beard is itchy and flaky. As a result, they are embarrassed to discover that they may have white flakes of skin in their beards as well as on their shirt fronts. What can be done?

Getting Rid of Beard Flakes:

Q. I get bad beard flakes. I also get flaky dry skin and redness on my temples, the bridge of my nose and my forehead. I use Cetaphil cleanser but would love to get rid of the flakes.

Seborrheic Dermatitis as a Cause of Beard Flakes:

A. What you are describing sounds suspiciously like seborrheic dermatitis. Your dermatologist can determine if that is really what is going on.

Seborrheic dermatitis causes flaking, itching and redness on the face and scalp. It is most prominent across the forehead, around the eyebrows, beside the nose and chin. Beards and mustaches are also susceptible.

The Yeast Behind the Flakes:

Dermatologists believe that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by oil-loving yeast called Malassezia (Han et al, Annals of Dermatology, June 2017).  They may recommend treatment with a mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone or with an antifungal medicine (Balighi et al, International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, Dec. 2016).

Malassezia is susceptible to the same types of antifungal compounds, such as clotrimazole or miconazole, found in dandruff shampoo or athlete’s foot treatments. Topical hyaluronic acid gel may also control the yeast (Schlesinger & Rowland Powell, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2014).

Home Remedies for Beard Flakes:

Some readers of this column have reported success treating facial flakes with milk of magnesia, Noxzema, Listerine or half-strength vinegar. Even Vicks VapoRub, with its mix of antifungal herbs, may work, although that would probably be much too greasy to use on a beard. Other readers are enthusiastic about a simple sea salt wash to soothe seborrheic dermatitis and banish beard flakes.

Some people find that diet makes a difference. A diet low in processed carbs and sugars seems to discourage facial yeast for them. While this connection has been studied in dogs, we are not aware of research demonstrating that diet changes susceptibility to yeast in humans (Di Cerbo et al, Veterinary Research Communications, March 2016).

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  1. Rick
    Portland, OR

    My dermatologist gives me 3 medicated shampoos to apply to my hair and face to reduce the s. dermatitis. Ketoconozole, Selenium sulfide, and coal tar. I alternate among the 3 and once the dermatitis is under control, I only need to use one or the other once or twice a week. Sel. sulf. and coal tar for sure are available over the counter and keto. may be also.

  2. Shelly M
    Canandaigua, NY, USA

    This has worked for me, not a man so no beard. However it worked wonders on hairline, on face, on neck, and in and behind ears to relieve rough itchy tissue.

    Nizoral shampoo.

    Moisten the affected area with warm water and apply a modest amount of the shampoo, then move the shampoo into affected and around gently for light coverage. Leave it for 2 1/2 minutes and using warm water completely rinse until all the shampoo is gone. You can very gently use a wash cloth to remove loose surface debris. Use up to three times a week. More is not necessarily better.

  3. dar

    Yuck…consider all the guys in the food handling biz, not to mention patient care…all their yeasty fungi sprinkled on our soup ‘n salads and open wounds…

    • dar

      serendipity or what? There was a repeat episode of Dr Oz on supermarket take-aways, & the interviewer was ‘grilling’ a Costco (well-bearded) guy in the prep room…not only was he sporting a head hairnet, but a beard hairnet as well…kudos Costco

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