Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that usually affects the scalp. The disorder causes itchy, red skin and scaling as well as scaling and persistent dandruff. Although the condition is most common on the scalp, it can also affect any oily part of the body, including the back, face or chest.

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

While seborrheic dermatitis is not a harmful disorder, it can be bothersome and unattractive. The causes of the condition are not known, but there are certain factors that seem to contribute to the development of seborrheic dermatitis, including:

• Fatigue
• Stress
• Seasons – winter is the most common time for an occurrence
• Neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease
• A certain yeast that grows in the oils excreted by the skin

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

• Scaling or thick crusting found on the scalp
• White or yellow scales found on the hair shaft
• Soreness
• Itching
• Oily red skin with yellow or white scales
• Flaking of the skin or dandruff

The symptoms associated with seborrheic dermatitis may improve or worsen from time to time with no apparent cause. The common name for seborrheic dermatitis in infants is cradle cap. Infants do not seem to experience the itching that adults do but they do often have thick patches of yellow or greasy skin.

When to Seek Doctor

Medical attention should be sought if experiencing skin pain, excessive redness or itching, or if experiencing a great deal of discomfort. A doctor may be able to help if seborrheic dermatitis is suspected and home treatments are not helpful.


Although there are no treatments specifically for seborrheic dermatitis, there are several ways to treat the symptoms associated with the condition. Over the counter medicated shampoos are the most basic way to treat seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. Common active ingredients are pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, tar and salicylic acid. Tea tree oil has also been used to treat this condition.

To treat seborrheic dermatitis located on the body, antifungal and anti-itch creams can help keep symptoms under control. Prescriptions of steroids, antifungal medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by a doctor to get symptoms under control.

Living with seborrheic dermatitis can be uncomfortable. Shampooing daily, avoiding harsh soaps, and trying not to scratch can help ease symptoms. Using over the counter treatments can also be effective. For more severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis, working with a doctor or dermatologist can help bring relief.