Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that causes a red, scaly, itchy rash. It can appear as a mild, white scaling or a yellowish greasy or reddish scaly rash. Most commonly affected areas are along the hairline, in and behind the ears, on the eyebrows, around the nose, and on the chest.
Dandruff is a type of seborrheic dermatitis where there is a scaling of the skin on the scalp. The area can be dry or oily and is sometimes itchy.
The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. Common skin yeast organisms may play a role in some people.
Risk factors include having:
The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They include:
In babies less than 1 month old, seborrheic dermatitis may cause a thick, yellow, crusted scalp rash known as cradle cap.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is made by the appearance of the rash.You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (a dermatologist).
Treatments for seborrheic dermatitis are usually applied directly to the skin in the form of shampoo or lotion. Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms.
There are many products to treat dandruff. Examples include:
A variety of treatments are used for seborrheic dermatitis, such as:
Treatment can take several weeks or months and may need to be repeated if the condition returns.
American Academy of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Dermatology Association
Cunha PR. Pimecrolimus cream 1% is effective in seborrhoeic dermatitis refractory to treatment with topical corticosteroids. Acta Derm Venereol. 2006;86:69-70.
Schwartz RA, Janusz CA, Janniger CK. Seborrheic dermatitis: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74:125-130.
Seborrheic dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/seborrheic-dermatitis. Accessed January 22, 2015.
6/17/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kastarinen H, Oksanen T, et al. Topicxal anti-inflammatory agents for seborrhoeic dermatitis of the face or scalp. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 May 19;5.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Purvee S. Shah, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.