Find out what you can do to treat this flaky skin condition that can cause scaly skin and stubborn, itchy dandruff.
Seborrheic (seb-o-REE-ik) dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects your scalp. It causes scaly patches, red skin and stubborn dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oily areas of the body, such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest.
Seborrheic dermatitis may go away without treatment. Or you may need many repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. And they may return later. Daily cleansing with a gentle soap and shampoo can help reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also called dandruff, seborrheic eczema and seborrheic psoriasis. For infants, the condition is known as cradle cap and causes crusty, scaly patches on the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis signs and symptoms may include:
The signs and symptoms may be more severe if you're stressed, and they tend to flare in cold, dry seasons.
See your doctor if:
Doctors don't yet know the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis. It may be related to:
A number of factors increase your risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis, including:
Your doctor will likely be able to determine whether you have seborrheic dermatitis by examining your skin. He or she may scrape off skin cells for examination (biopsy) to rule out conditions with symptoms similar to seborrheic dermatitis, including:
Medicated shampoos, creams and lotions are the main treatments for seborrheic dermatitis. Your doctor will likely recommend you try home remedies, such as over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, before considering prescription remedies. If home remedies don't help, talk with your doctor about trying these treatments.
Creams, shampoos or ointments that control inflammation. Prescription-strength hydrocortisone, fluocinolone (Capex, Synalar), clobetasol (Clobex, Cormax) and desonide (Desowen, Desonate) are corticosteroids you apply to the scalp or other affected area. They are effective and easy to use, but should be used sparingly. If used for many weeks or months without a break, they can cause side effects, such as thinning skin or skin showing streaks or lines.
Creams or lotions containing the calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) may be effective and have fewer side effects than corticosteroids do. But they are not first-choice treatments because the Food and Drug Administration has concerns about a possible association with cancer. In addition, tacrolimus and pimecrolimus cost more than mild corticosteroid medications.
You may be able to control seborrheic dermatitis with lifestyle changes and home remedies. Many of these are available in over-the-counter (nonprescription) forms. You may need to try different products or a combination of products before your condition improves.
The best approach for you depends on your skin type, the severity of your condition, and whether your symptoms affect your scalp or other areas of your body. But even if your condition clears up, it is likely to come back at some point. Watch for the symptoms and resume treating the condition when it recurs.
If regular shampoo doesn't help with dandruff, try over-the-counter dandruff shampoos. They are classified according to the active ingredient they contain:
Use a product daily until your signs and symptoms begin to subside, and then use it one to three times a week as needed. Shampoo that contains tar can discolor light-colored hair, so you may want to use other products.
If one type of shampoo works for a time and then seems to lose its effectiveness, try alternating between two or more types. Be sure to leave your shampoo on for the full recommended time — this allows its ingredients to work. These shampoos may be rubbed gently on the face, ears and chest and rinsed off completely.
The following over-the-counter treatments and self-care tips may help you control seborrheic dermatitis:
Many alternative therapies, including those listed below, have helped some people manage their seborrheic dermatitis. But evidence for their effectiveness isn't conclusive. It's always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding any alternative medicines to your self-care routine.
You'll probably first visit your primary care doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may free up time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
An over-the-counter (nonprescription) antifungal cream or anti-itch cream can be helpful. If your scalp is affected, a nonprescription antifungal shampoo may ease your symptoms. Try not to scratch or pick at the affected area, because if you irritate your skin or scratch it open, you increase your risk of infection.
August 18th, 2021