Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Seborrheic dermatitis?
This is a skin condition that is very common and occurs on areas of your body where the sweat and oil glands are in abundance like your groin area or the scalp. It could also appear in the folds of your skin like your armpits or neck. It can also appear between your eyebrows, behind your ears, the sides of your nose, your chest, legs, etc. Although it is an unsightly skin condition it is not harmful. When an infant has this skin condition it is referred to as cradle cap and is also referred as dandruff when you get older. Even after treatment it can recur but you could manage the flare-ups if you are able to recognize the symptoms. It can happen to anyone regardless of age or race. It generally affects males more than it does females.
Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms
The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis can include:
- Inflammation of your skin
- On your scalp you may see thick crusts or areas of patchy scaling
- Flakes on your hair, mustache, beard, and eyebrows commonly referred to as dandruff and can be white or yellow in color.
- Skin areas that are red and greasy looking covered with flaky scales white or yellow in color that can include your armpits, groin area, etc.
Because it can cause itchiness there is a chance of infection from the scratching a person might do to get rid of the itchiness.
When an infant has cradle cap they may have patches that are yellow, greasy, thick, or crusty on their scalp. In addition to their scalp being affected their diaper area and face may also be affected. Normally this will clear up by the time they turn a year old.
The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known but there are several things that might trigger a flare-up which can include:
- Having a yeast infection called Malassezia furfur. It appears that when this type of yeast mixes with normal bacteria in the areas of the skin where oil is secreted it can cause this skin condition
- An excessive intake of vitamin A in children
- Change of the season as it seems that in the winter time the episodes are worse
- Neurological medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease or other neurological medical conditions
- Emotional or physical stress
- Having HIV/AIDS – it seems that seborrheic dermatitis is common in people who have this and can be more severe
It has also been linked to people who have dirty or oil skin.
The treatment that would be used depends on the area of your body that you have seborrheic dermatitis. If it is on your scalp you should use a shampoo that your dermatologist recommends which can be over-the-counter or by prescription. These would be ones that contain ciclopiroxolamine, selenium sulfide, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, or ketoconazol. If you are using anti-dandruff, anti-fungal, or medicated shampoos once you have worked it into your scalp area let it set for at least five to ten minutes to give it time to work before rinsing your hair. You should wash your hair two or three times a week. For men who have this in their mustache or beard may need to shave it off as it could be worse under them.
If you have a severe case your dermatologist may tell you to use an application of water-soluble ointments that contain vitamin B6. You can also take biotin, flaxseed oil, B-complex, or zinc supplements in order to create a nutritional balance to help fight off this skin condition
To help with the itching, discomfort, and inflammation your dermatologist may give corticosteroids for short-term usage. This can include prescriptions for Desonide ointment or cream that you can apply to your body or scalp or Betamethasone lotion or cream and is a stronger steroid. You can also get Hydrocortisone cream in one percent strength over-the-counter that you can use on your body but not on your scalp. If you need a higher strength your dermatologist can give you a prescription of it. For the itching you could take an over-the-counter antihistamine or anti-itch cream for the areas of your body.
For infants with cradle cap and children you should use baby shampoo. If the baby shampoo does not seem to be getting rid of it you should talk to your pediatrician about what to use. You may be told to use shampoo that contains two percent ketoconazole as an ingredient. After applying the shampoo and rubbing it into their scalp, use a soft bristle brush to gently scrub their scalp to loosen up the scales. If the scales do not seem to be loosing up you can apply a few drops of olive or mineral oil to their scalp. You will need to let it soak into the scales a few minutes before shampooing and brushing their scalp.
There are many different home remedies that you can use but if it does not clear up or appears to be getting worse you should see your dermatologist. One treatment that you can use is to take a cut onion and rub it on the affected area. You can also run it on your scalp before you shampoo. For areas that are at least four days old you can wash them with tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar. You can also make a mixture of aloe Vera gel and tea tree oil. After massaging it into your scalp, leave it on for at least sixty minutes before you wash your hair. Because it thought that seborrheic dermatitis could be caused by yeast it is best that you avoid eating foods that are rich in yeast like bread, wine, or beer. You should eat foods that are rich in vitamin B like bananas, egg yolks, grains, nuts, etc. Going outside and getting several hours of sunlight each day on your scalp can also discourage the yeast from growing.