Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, chronic or recurrent form of eczema that primarily affects the oil-rich areas of the scalp, face, and trunk. You can find more information below.
What is seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis , also known as seborrheic eczema, is a common, non-contagious, easy-to-treat skin condition. This type of dermatitis causes itchy red patches and oily scales on your skin, as well as white or yellow crusty or dandruff flakes on your scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis can occur in different parts of your body. These are the regions with the most sebaceous gland activity.
Regions with the most sebaceous gland activity; the upper back, chest, face, forehead, base of the nose, behind the ears, belly button, eyebrows, under the breasts and folds in the arms, legs, and groin. Seborrheic dermatitis is a lifelong condition that occurs from time to time, disappears with treatment, and flares up from time to time.
What causes seborrheic dermatitis?
Researchers are unsure of the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis. They think there could be many reasons. Factors thought to play a role include:
- A type of fungus called Malassezia , which is found on everyone’s skin but overgrows in some people
- increased androgen level
- Increased skin lipid level
- an inflammatory reaction
- hereditary predisposition
Other factors that trigger or worsen seborrheic dermatitis include:
- cold and dry climate
- Oily skin
- Using alcohol-based lotions
- History of other skin disorders such as rosacea (rosacea), psoriasis, and acne
seborrheic dermatitis during pregnancy
Dermatitis/eczema during pregnancy (seborrheic dermatitis is also a type of eczema) is generally not dangerous to the mother or baby. In most cases, dermatitis should resolve after pregnancy. However, sometimes it can continue after pregnancy. There may also be an increased risk of developing it during future pregnancies.
Dermatitis is not associated with any fertility problems and does not cause long-term complications for you or your baby.
Who is at risk?
About 11% of the population has seborrheic dermatitis. It mostly occurs in infants younger than three months of age and adults aged 30-60 years. It is more common in men than women and Caucasians than African Americans.
If you are born with naturally oily skin, you are more likely to get this type of dermatitis. A family history of psoriasis also puts you at risk. If you live in a dry, cold area, the weather won’t cause seborrheic dermatitis, but it will make the condition worse.
You are more prone to seborrheic dermatitis if you have the following health conditions:
- Organ transplant recipients
- Hodgkin lenfoma
- non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
- Parkinson’s disease
- late diskinezi
- facial nerve palsy
- spinal cord injury
- Down syndrome
You may also be more prone to seborrheic dermatitis if you are taking the following psychotropic medications:
- Haloperidol decanoate
You should always consult your doctor before stopping any medication.
What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?
Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:
- Itchy white scales on your scalp (when scratched, the scales become loose, mingle with your hair, or fall on your neck and shoulders)
- red flakes on your skin
- Yellow scales on babies’ heads, also known as cradle caps (cradle caps should not be scratched, if scratched they can cause additional inflammation in the area and can irritate the skin, leading to bleeding or mild infections)
- Blepharitis (scaly redness around the edges of your eyelids)
- Pinkish plaques on both sides of your face
- Scaly patches of flower petals or rings on your chest and hairline
- Redness in folds and wrinkles under your genitals, armpits, and breasts
- Inflamed hair follicles on your cheeks and upper half of your torso
How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will likely determine if you have seborrheic dermatitis by examining your skin. The doctor may scrape skin cells for examination (biopsy) to rule out conditions with symptoms similar to seborrheic dermatitis, including:
- Psoriasis: This disorder also causes dandruff and red skin covered with flakes. With psoriasis, you usually have more scales that are silvery-white.
- Atopic dermatitis: This skin reaction causes itchy, inflamed skin in the folds of the elbows, behind the knees, or on the front of the neck. It is repeated often.
- Tinea versicolor: This rash appears on the trunk but is not usually red like patches of seborrheic dermatitis.
- Rose disease: This condition usually occurs on the face and is very small in scale.
How is seborrheic dermatitis treated?
Medicated shampoos, creams, and lotions are the main treatments for seborrheic dermatitis. Your doctor will likely recommend trying home remedies such as over-the-counter dandruff shampoos before considering prescription medications.
If home remedies don’t work, you can talk to your doctor to try the following treatments:
Creams, shampoos, or ointments that control inflammation
Prescription hydrocortisone, fluocinolone, clobetasol, and desonide for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis are corticosteroids that you apply to the scalp or other affected area. It is effective and easy to use, but should be used sparingly. If used for weeks or months without a break, they can cause side effects such as skin thinning and itching.
Creams or lotions containing calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus and pimecrolimus may be effective and have fewer side effects than corticosteroids. But these are not first-choice treatments because the Food and Drug Administration has concerns about a possible association with cancer. Additionally, tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are more expensive than mild corticosteroid drugs.
Antifungal gels, creams or shampoos
Depending on the area affected and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a product containing 2 percent ketoconazole or 1 percent ciclopirox, or your doctor may prescribe both products to use alternately.
Antifungal medications you take as pills
If your condition does not improve with other treatments, your doctor may recommend an antifungal medication in pill form. They are not the first choice for treatment because of possible side effects and drug interactions.
Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
What is good for seborrheic dermatitis?
Lifestyle changes and home remedies for seborrheic dermatitis can work. You may need to try different products or a combination of products before your condition improves.
The best approach for you will depend on your skin type, the severity of your condition, and whether your symptoms affect your scalp or other areas of your body. But even if your condition improves, it’s likely to come back at some point. Monitor for symptoms and continue to treat the condition when it recurs.
Wash your scalp regularly
If regular shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis doesn’t help dandruff, you can try over-the-counter dandruff shampoos.
Use one product every day until your symptoms begin to subside, and then use one to three times a week as needed. Shampoo containing tar can discolor light-colored hair, so you may want to use other products.
If one type of shampoo works for a while and then seems to lose its effectiveness, you can try switching between two or more types. Make sure you leave your shampoo on for the recommended amount of time – this will keep its ingredients working. These shampoos can be gently applied to the face, ears and chest and rinsed off completely.
Other home remedies
The following over-the-counter treatments and self-care tips can help you control seborrheic dermatitis:
- Soften and remove scales from your hair: Apply mineral oil or olive oil to your scalp. Wait for an hour. Then comb and wash your hair.
- Wash your skin regularly: completely remove the soap from your body and scalp. Avoid harsh soaps and use moisturizers.
- Apply a medicated cream: Consult your doctor or pharmacist first, try a mild corticosteroid cream on the affected areas and keep it away from the eyes. If that doesn’t work, consult your doctor or pharmacist and try an antifungal cream.
- Avoid styling products: Stop using hair sprays, gels, and other styling products while treating the condition.
- Avoid skin and hair products that contain alcohol: These can cause an exacerbation of the disease.
- Wear plain-textured cotton clothing: This helps maintain air circulation around your skin and reduces irritation.
- Shampoo your facial hair regularly if you have a beard or moustache: Seborrheic dermatitis may be worse on mustaches and beards. You can use a shampoo containing 1 percent ketoconazole daily, by consulting your doctor or pharmacist, until your symptoms improve.
- Gently clean your eyelids: If your eyelids show signs of redness or crusting, wash them with baby shampoo every night and wipe the scales with a cotton swab. Warm or hot compresses can also help.
Alternative treatments for seborrheic dermatitis
Many alternative treatments, including those listed below, have helped some people manage their seborrheic dermatitis. However, the evidence for their effectiveness is inconclusive. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before adding any alternative medicine to your self-care routine.
- Tea tree oil: On the affected area, tea tree oil can be used alone or in shampoo. Some research suggests that tea tree oil may trigger an allergic reaction.
- Fish oil supplements: These types of pills contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Aloe vera: Apply aloe vera gel in a product or directly from a cut leaf of the plant to the affected area. You may be interested in our article on the benefits of aloe vera for the skin .
Nutrition guide for seborrheic dermatitis
So how should nutrition be in seborrheic dermatitis? Which foods should be preferred and which should be avoided?
For seborrheic dermatitis, a balanced diet provides essential vitamins such as:
- Vitamin A found in butter, liver and eggs;
- Vitamin C found in fruits (strawberries, citrus, melons, etc.) and vegetables (peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
- In oils (sunflower oil, olive oil, peanut oil, etc.), almond, hazelnut, avocado, etc. Vitamin E found
- Omega 3 and 6 found in fatty fish and oils (rapeseed oil, olive oil, etc.)
It is also important to adopt a balanced diet in protein, iron and essential fatty acids to ensure a good metabolism. You should also limit the intake of certain foods, such as saturated fats (cream etc.) and fast-absorbing sugars (sweets, cakes, etc.).
Finally, it is useful to prefer homemade foods over processed foods whenever possible. Processed foods often contain high amounts of salt or sugar.
- Seborrheic dermatitis is a common type of rash. It causes red, scaly, oily skin. It occurs on the skin where the sebaceous glands are located, such as the face, scalp, and upper chest.
- It tends to last long or go and come back. Cold weather, hormonal changes, and stress often make it worse.
- Symptoms can include bumpy, scaly, oily, and itchy skin.
- You may also have acne, inflamed eyelids (blepharitis), or other skin conditions.
- Treatments such as medicated shampoo, body wash, and lotion can reduce symptoms.
- Seborrheic dermatitis is an ongoing (chronic) condition. It can go and then come back. You will need to use shampoo, cream, or ointment with the medicine once or twice a week, in consultation with your doctor.