Sleeping woman with healthy scalp

Seborrheic Dermatitis – what you need to know

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common, chronic and embarrassing, skin condition which causes yellowish scales on the scalp or face, although it may also affect other areas. Correct and frequent use of specially formulated hair and skin products can control this lifelong condition.

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic Dermatitis (also known as Seborrheic Eczema) is the medical condition which, in many cases, is the underlying cause of dandruff. In infants, it appears as cradle cap.

Up to 50% of the adult population suffer from dandruff with flaky, yellowish scales on the scalp and a significant number also from an inflammatory scalp condition. 

It is often accompanied by reddened skin. Seborrheic Dermatitis can also occur on many different areas of the skin, such as oily skin patches inside the ear. Other commonly affected areas include the eyebrows and eyelids, the nose and nasolabial folds, and middle of the chest. Seborrheic Dermatitis is not contagious or caused by poor hygiene.

Seborrheic Dermatitis in infants (cradle cap) is a temporary skin condition and should disappear, as the child gets older, usually by the age of 3 years. Symptoms are thick, crusty, yellowish flakes of skin from over the infant's scalp, and sometimes the eyes ears and nose.

Man with yellowish scales on the scalp
Seborrheic Dermatitis often results in flaky, yellowish scales on the scalp.
Woman scratching her scalp
Itching is one of the common symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis.

What are the symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Commonly occurring symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis consist of:

  • Skin scales – white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and adherent – “dandruff”
  • Lesions in the skin
  • Plaques that cover a large area of the skin
  • Skin that is oily or greasy
  • Itchy skin – this may become severe if the skin becomes infected, leading to further itching and potentially bleeding if scratched
  • Mild redness
  • Hair may fall out
Baby with seborrheic dermatitis
Symptoms can appear as plaque on large areas, such as face.

What causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic Dermatitis occurs when the scalp’s cell renewal process shortens, leading to the rapid shedding of horny skin cells, which stick together to form visible flakes. This process has been linked to many causes. It has been noted to be hereditary, with children of affected people more likely to be affected. However, it is also known to be linked to irritation from a yeast called malassezia, which thrives in areas of skin which are very oily, and causes microinflammations which lead to skin and scalp itchiness.

Other factors such as physical or emotional stress, hormonal changes, poor diet or alcohol intake, fatigue, weather extremes, infrequent use of shampoo, poor skin cleansing, and obesity may increase the risk. Neurologic conditions, including Parkinson's disease, head injury, and stroke may be associated with Seborrheic Dermatitis. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has also been linked to increased cases of Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Illustration of dandruff
Signs of Seborrheic Dermatitis 1. Skin hyperproliferation is triggered by malassezia fungi 2. Microinflammations of the scalp occur 3. Visible flakes form

How is Seborrheic Dermatitis treated?

The best way to reduce the severity of Seborrheic Dermatitis is by preventing or controlling the provocative factors by paying careful attention to scalp and skin care.

The most frequently used dermatitis of the scalp treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis is specially formulated shampoos which not only help to remove the flakes of skin but also prevent the reformation of flaky skin.

Many shampoos are designed specifically for Seborrheic Dermatitis. These may include any of the following  actives; Climbazole, Piroctone Olamine, Polidocanol, anti-inflammatory agents such as salicylic acid and resorcin, minerals such as zinc or selenium sulfide, or antifungals like ketoconazole.

The Eucerin DermoCapillaire  ANTI-DANDRUFF INTENSIVE SCALP TREATMENT, ANTI-DANDRUFF CREME SHAMPOO and ANTI-DANDRUFF GEL SHAMPOO  are specifically designed for dry or greasy dandruff and are dermatologically proven to be effective on Seborrheic Dermatitis.

In severe cases, a dermatologist or doctor may prescribe an antifungal, such as ketoconazole, metronidazole, or azelaic acid, which affects the malassezia yeast, or lotions containing anti-inflammatory corticosteroids.

More recently, topical immunomodulators such as tacrolimus or pimecrolimus have been used.

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a chronic condition that can be managed well with the right treatment. It often has flare-ups between extended periods of inactivity. A more extreme form of this condition overlaps with Psoriasis of the scalp and is called Sebopsoriasis.

Woman washing her hair
Eucerin´s DermoCapillaire range is especially designed for Seborrheic Dermatitis.
Woman applying scalp treatment
Use DermoCapillaire ANTI-DANDRUFF INTENSIVE SCALP TREATMENT - Dermatological and clinical studies prove efficacy and tolerability on dry and greasy scalp and seborrheic eczema.

Always consult a dermatologist if Seborrheic Dermatitis symptoms do not respond to frequent use of medicated shampoos. Also call if patches of Seborrheic Dermatitis become infected, fluid or pus appears, crusts form, or it becomes very red or painful.