Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic but mild skin condition that causes white or yellowish scales to form on oily areas of the skin, as well as itchy red skin. It typically appears on the scalp, but can also occur in the folds of skin and on areas of skin that have high concentrations of oil glands. On the scalp, it can occur as patchy scaling or thick crusts, and can cause moderate to severe dandruff. On the face, it usually occurs as a red scaly rash on and between the eyebrows, and the sides of the nose. It affects approximately 3-5% of the population, most commonly men. In infants, this condition is commonly referred to as “cradle cap”.

Common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Skin scales that are white or yellow in color
  • Dandruff
  • Redness and irritation Itching, which can be severe at times
  • Oily areas of skin
  • Hair Loss

Seborrheic dermatitis is believed to be caused by a yeast called malassezia that grows on the scalp. This micro-organism lives on the scalp and skin of most healthy individuals without causing problems. With certain scalp conditions, it can sometimes grow out of control); it feeds on the oils secreted by your hair follicles and causes irritation that leads to increased cell turnover. Factors such as stress, neurological conditions, changes in weather and poor dietary/exercise habits can aggravate the condition.

Good skin care and hygiene is essential to caring for skin affected by seborrheic dermatitis. Keep your skin clean and clear by using a gentle cleanser and exfoliator. Use a daily moisturizer to keep your skin adequately hydrated. When shampooing, make sure to cover all areas of the hair, deeply massaging the scalp. Afterwards, rinse the hair thoroughly to remove any excess dead skin cells. Protect your skin from the sun by using a sunscreen that offers protection against harmful UV rays. If you experience flaking or dryness, try switching to a medicated shampoo.

The chances of developing seborrheic dermatits can often be reduced by making changes to the way you care for your hair and your overall health. Cut back on styling and styling products such as gels and mousses. These often contain alcohol, which can dry out and irritate the scalp. Try not to over-brush or pull too hard on your hair. This can also cause irritation. Living a healthy lifestyle can give you more energy and strengthen your immune system. Stress can also be a catalyst for seborrheic dermatitis. Engage in activities that will help you relax and reduce your stress level. Eating a healthy diet can also reduce your chances of developing seborrheic dermatitis.

The primary cause of seborrheic dermatitis is a yeast, so a medical ingredient like pyrithione zinc can effectively kill it. Clinical studies indicate that the use of a shampoo and conditioner with this key ingredient provides an improved antidandruff effect. For symptoms of flaking and dryness, use an antidandruff shampoo that contains coal tar, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, sulfur or selenium sulfide. The tar-based shampoos slow cell production, while salicylic acid-based shampoos promote the shedding of dead cells before they accumulate. Pyrithione zinc and selenium sulfide reduce cell turn over.

A doctor may prescribe topical steroids, which help to reduce inflammation and minimize symptoms of itching. If OTC shampoos are not effective, a doctor may also suggest a prescription strength anti-fungal shampoo.