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What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis - Cause, Symptoms, Treatment And Cure


Seborrheic Dermatitis is usually a scalp and skin problem that leads to redness, scaly patches of the skin and dandruff. It is a chronic form of eczema and occurs in those parts of your body where there are a number of sebaceous glands including the scalp, nose, face, and upper back. The effects are more severe in cold and dry climates and during periods of extreme stress; this could also trigger off extreme cases of telogen effluvium. It is more common among infants and adults between 30-60 years of age. With infants, it usually develops within the first few months and then disappears over a few weeks or months. In adults, however, it could clear and reappear as part of a process that could go on for years. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is highly unpredictable. It could last for the entire duration of your life with sporadic outbursts that could continue to bother you from time to time. At the same time, you might have to go through those phases where you might be perfectly normal and not display any symptoms of the disease at all. On the other hand, there will be those times when you might have flare-ups and the discomfort and pain become unbearable.  When it comes to seborrheic dermatitis vs dandruff while dandruff is restricted to the scalp while seborrheic dermatitis could affect other body parts as well.

The solution is to build a health regime that allows you to minimize the problems to help you lead as normal a life as possible. You will be able to identify the triggers and take steps in advance to help deal with your condition. The crucial objective is to ensure that the condition does not aggravate and lead to any serious medical complications. 

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis? 

Seborrheic Dermatitis occurs as a result of an inflammatory reaction to an abnormal increase in yeast Malassezia, which proliferates rapidly on the surface of the skin. This increase in the production of Malassezia creates an immune reaction in the body. The yeast survives on lipids (fats/oils) and increases expeditiously if a good quantity of fatty acids is present in and around it. It could also flourish as a result of an excessive amount of scalp oil which might force the skin to turn red and greasy. 

Hormonal changes that take place in the body of the mother during pregnancy might also lead to this condition. The changing hormonal levels may lead to increased secretion from the oil glands and lead to an itchy scalp. 

Certain medical conditions like acne, Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, epilepsy, alcoholism, HIV or recovery from a stroke may also trigger seborrheic dermatitis. The following could also cause seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Soaps, Harsh hair products, shampoos, dyes
  • Medications such as interferon, lithium, and psoralen.

Who Is At A Risk Of Seborrheic Dermatitis? 

If you have a weak immune system, you could be susceptible to seborrheic dermatitis. People who suffer from oily skin problems are the most likely to have seborrheic dermatitis. This gives rise to the theory that the condition could be connected with sex hormones like androgens. There is a possibility that individuals suffering from neurological disorders and psychiatric issues could develop a seborrheic dermatitis scalp sometime in the future. The likelihood increases manifold if somebody closely related to the family has it. Apart from this, the list of possibilities also includes certain high-risk individuals including the following:

  • Obese people 
  • Persons suffering from weakness & fatigue
  • People with skin issues or those suffering from scalp psoriasis or acne
  • Those suffering from stress
  • Individuals under medication with specific drugs like lithium
  • People treating their hair with harsh using chemical products 
  • Persons with serious medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, HIV and AIDS.

Genetics is one of the main reasons for seborrheic dermatitis. Hormonal changes or yeast overgrowth could also lead to such issues. 

Ways To Diagnose Seborrheic Dermatitis 

We need to separate the symptoms that are typical of seborrheic dermatitis from other similar issues such as scalp psoriasis. There is a simple way of diagnosing it as there is a typical way in which the lesions are scattered over the scalp; they also develop in a specific manner. They are normally spread out in those areas where more oil-producing glands are present. These include the scalp, ears, upper chest, eyebrows, back, and genitals. 

In rare cases, biopsies might be required and a portion of the skin is extracted for further analysis. This is done to eliminate the possibility of infections that display similar symptoms like fungal infections among other things. You might also have to go for a blood test if the expert suspects that there is a possibility of it being triggered by some underlying health condition. 

While psoriasis is very similar to seborrheic dermatitis there are some marked differences. Seborrheic dermatitis appears as yellowish-white lesions that are greasy and can be removed easily. Psoriasis on the other hand is silvery-white and tends to bleed when they are scratched. However, there might be those rare situations when the individual suffers from more than 1 condition at any point in time. One such example is sebopsoriasis, a condition where psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis overlap. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Itchy white flakes are seen on your scalp. The flakes drop down from your hair to your neck and shoulders. 
  • Infants tend to develop crusty skin on their scalps. Though they do not normally itch, scratching can escalate into bleeding and mild infections. 
  • Scaly redness can be seen near the eyelids.
  • Pinkish scales appear on both sides of the face.
  • Flaky ring-like patches might be seen on the scalp or chest. 
  • Swelling and inflammation of hair follicles on cheeks and upper half of trunk.
  • One might experience redness and mild swellings in the folds of the genitals, breast, and armpits.

Medical Treatments For Seborrheic Dermatitis 

Teenagers and adults could be most severely affected by this condition and might need medical treatment if the condition does not improve soon. The procedure of treatment will depend on the area of the infection and its severity.  It would also be necessary to analyze your skin type so that the appropriate seborrheic dermatitis scalp treatment procedure can be decided on. 

Start by attempting to reduce redness and itchiness in the affected part with the use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Prescription drugs also include corticosteroids and anti-fungal medicines. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the most vexing and irritating skin issues and if it deteriorates it could make your life pretty uncomfortable. However, if the problem extends to your upper body or face it could get pretty annoying and you might need to get in touch with a doctor for a detailed diagnosis and suitable treatment procedures. The most popular remedies for seborrheic dermatitis treatment are topical medicines. This includes

  • Corticosteroids: Creams that contain corticosteroids and hydrocortisone are the chosen remedy for reducing inflammation. Inflammation could also lead to scalp pain. Hydrocortisone is considered one of the most effective seborrheic dermatitis medicines. However, it needs to be administered with medical supervision as it cannot be used for longer periods without possible side effects.
  • Antibacterial And Antifungal Creams: These are specific medicines to deal with bacterial and fungal issues.
  • Psoralen And Light Therapy: Psoralen can be taken orally and could also be used topically. It has the reputation of being the most effective oral medication for seborrheic dermatitis. The affected area could also be exposed to UV rays to reduce itchiness as it helps soothe the skin.
  • Metronidazole: Metronidazole is also a very effective ointment for seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Keratolytics: These are compounds that are very useful in disintegrating the outer layers of the skin. The products containing urea, lactic acid, and salicylic acid are very useful in removing scales.
  • Coal Tar: They can help the skin shed all the dead cells and decrease the growth of the skin cells. Apply the tar to the affected areas and shampoo after a couple of hours.

How To Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis Naturally at Home?

Home remedies have always been very useful in dealing with hair problems and this also includes the harmful effects of seborrheic dermatitis. A combination of prescription medicines and home remedies could provide potent options for dealing with troublesome seborrheic dermatitis scalp issues.

  • Tea Tree Oil: Tree tea oil has excellent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties which help reduce symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.  Add some coconut oil to the tree tea oil before applying, to reduce the possibility of allergic reactions.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar helps stop inflammation and is useful in removing the scales from the scalp. Shampoo and clean your hair before rinsing it with a mixture made by adding 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 2 cups of water. You can also treat seborrheic dermatitis on your face by diluting 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons of water before applying it to your face. 
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe vera extract is a very potent remedy for seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Apply the aloe vera gel to your scalp and let it stay for up to an hour. Wash it off with a mild shampoo later. Use this remedy 2-3 times a week.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is also very effective in removing the flakes from your scalp. Apply the oil and brush off the flakes after an hour. Shampoo later.


These excellent natural treatments need to be supported with the right dietary habits. Include a lot of green leafy vegetables and tomatoes in your diet. Antioxidants and fruits rich in vitamin C, blueberries and cherries would help in scalp and hair repair. Almonds and sweet potatoes have excellent nutrients that will help your scalp heal. 

Seborrheic dermatitis can be easily treated. While at times it may go away on its own, there could be occasions where you might need to go for medical treatment in consultation with your dermatologist. Remember to adopt good hair hygiene processes and lessen the use of harmful chemicals on your hair. Do get in touch with our experts at Traya for those detailed tests and advanced procedures to help maintain the health of your hair and the scalp.


Q1 - How Do You Get Rid Of Seborrheic Dermatitis On The Scalp?

Ans - You can get rid of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp by frequent cleansing. There are a variety of medical products available including soaps and shampoos with selenium sulphide, sulphur, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, salicylic acid or tar that work effectively. You need to apply these to the infection and wash it off after 10 minutes. It is best to consult a doctor before using medicated products.

Q2 - What Triggers Seborrheic Dermatitis On The Scalp?

Ans - Seborrheic dermatitis is mostly a result of genetic and environmental factors. It could be caused by the yeast Malassezia, an immunity problem or probably excess oil in the skin. Malassezia lives on the surface of the skin and is a major cause of the infection.

Q4 - How Do I Know If I Have Seborrheic Dermatitis On My Scalp?

Ans - If you have seborrheic dermatitis your scalp will have reddish dry, flaky, itchy skin and this could extend to your eyebrows, beard and moustache as well. You might also have portions of greasy skin scales with flaky yellowish-white scales on the face, eyelids, armpits, sides of the nose, chest, under the breast and the groin area. 

Q5 - Are Seborrheic Dermatitis And Scalp Eczema The Same Thing?

Ans - Scalp eczema results in reddish, itchy, dry skin on your scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of scalp eczema and is usually caused by a fungus while the cause of eczema is an allergy or hypersensitive skin. Scalp eczema could also be accompanied by eczema in other body parts as well.


Zahra Lokhandwala

Hair Coach

Zahra is the hair coach-in-chief at Traya. She works closely with the doctors to monitor all cases. She is a fitness freak and has not touched sugar in years!

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