• Seborrheic Dermatitis



    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.
    Seborrheic Dermatitis
    Nucleus factsheet image
    © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. Common skin yeast organisms may play a role in some people.

    Risk Factors

    Risk factors include having:
    • Oily skin or hair
    • Family members who have seborrheic dermatitis
    • Chronic conditions, including disorders of the immune system such as HIV infection
    • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson disease or, less commonly, stroke


    The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They include:
    • Dry or greasy scaling of the scalp
    • Itchy scalp
    • Itchy, scaly rash with small pimples
    • Thickened, flaking skin
    • Reddened skin over the forehead and on either side of the nose
    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:

    Medicated Products

    A variety of treatments are used for seborrheic dermatitis, such as:
      Prescription or over-the-counter shampoos containing one or more of the following ingredients:
      • Zinc pyrithione
      • Hydrocortisone or other cortisone (steroid) preparations
      • Selenium sulfide
      • Salicylic acid
      • Coal tar
      • Antifungal medications
      Prescription or over-the-counter creams or lotions containing:
      • Hydrocortisone or other cortisone (steroid) preparations
      • Antifungal medications
      • Antibiotic medication
      • Pimecrolimus
      • Nonsteroidal creams that are anti-inflammatory and antifungal
      • Calcineurin inhibitor
      • Lithium salt
    Treatment can take several weeks or months and may need to be repeated if the condition returns.


    There are no guidelines for preventing seborrheic dermatitis because the cause is unknown.


    American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org


    Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    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.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.