What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis or sebum dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It is characterized by scaly, flaky, and itchy lesions on the scalp, face, and neck. The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but some factors may contribute to the development of the condition.

A skin condition caused by a fungus, seborrheic dermatitis, accounts for most dandruff cases.

About 6 million children and adults in the United States suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, a skin disorder that causes face dryness and scalp itching. It may be difficult to detect or diagnose because the skin responses produced by seborrheic dermatitis are similar to those caused by psoriasis, other kinds of eczema, or even allergic reactions.

Like many other illnesses caused by aberrant immune responses, patients with seborrheic dermatitis have on-and-off periods of symptoms. This implies that most people have flare-ups of skin responses followed by periods when they subside. Dermatitis patients have claimed that outbreaks are provoked by a variety of circumstances, including:

  • Trauma, emotional stress, or despair are all possible causes of depression.
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation
  • Excessive air-conditioning and damp or dry conditions in the home and office
  • Infections that affect the whole body
  • Certain drugs are used.
  • Other immune-suppressing substances

Chronic skin illnesses, particularly if they get out of hand, may worsen the quality of life and mental anguish. If you or a loved one is suffering from this illness, keep reading to see how you can improve your situation.

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

A chronic, recurring inflammatory skin disorder marked by erythema and skin flaking is known as seborrheic dermatitis. It is a kind of eczema that is also known as seborrheic eczema. Itching, skin dryness or oiliness, and other frequent changes in skin texture, such as scalp dandruff, are common symptoms. Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious, contrary to popular belief.

According to dermatologists, patients would develop “symmetrical, clearly delineated, dull or yellowish-red areas and plaques with overlaying adhering, yellowish greasy scales,” according to dermatologists. Symptoms are prevalent in skin regions with many sebaceous glands (read: oily skin areas). Itching and associated symptoms are most common in the following areas of the body:

  • Dryness and redness on the forehead are common, especially with skin folds, brows, and front hairline.
  • Dandruff is a mild, non-inflammatory type of seborrheic dermatitis that affects the scalp. Symptoms on the scalp appear in more than half of people with this illness.
  • Ears
  • Upper chest area
  • Back
  • Near the collarbone or the neck
  • Any fold of the body, such as the one near the groin

To present, there is no treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. However, you may permanently minimize or eliminate the symptoms by treating the underlying reasons with natural remedies. Most individuals, though, will have flare-ups at some point throughout their lives.

Symptoms and Signs

Seborrheic dermatitis is unusual in that it may produce both dryness and oiliness in the skin. Surprisingly, one of the most common causes of dandruff is oily skin. It may also cause different types of skin irritations (like infections or acne). Seborrheic dermatitis is distinguished from psoriasis by the presence of red, oily skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.

The following are some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis:

  • On the scalp, scaly patches and dandruff are growing. Dandruff is notoriously “stubborn,” It seldom responds to over-the-counter remedies such as dandruff shampoos or greasy treatments. Rashes-like lesions may appear on the scalp, ranging from moderately irritating to reddish crusts, causing the skin to adhere to the hair.
  • Skin that is red, sensitive, and very dry. In some instances, irritated seborrheic dermatitis may turn dehydrated skin yellow or pink.
  • Extra flaking and dryness in folds and oily regions of the skin, such as the “T-zone” of the face (encompassing the nose, chin, and forehead), upper chest, and back.
  • Erythema is a kind of skin peeling that may show as macules (discolored patches of skin) or plaques with dry white or wet, greasy scales. Papules and pustules are uncommon even when the skin peels.
  • If bacteria proliferates within dry patches or gaps in the skin, secondary bacterial infections might develop.

Many babies (about 70%) and children are affected by this illness. Cradle cap is a kind of seborrheic dermatitis that affects the scalp of babies. Seborrheic dermatitis may also develop in an infant’s diaper region, often mistaken for diaper rash.

The disease usually goes away around 3 or 4 months in newborns. Children with untreated food allergies, on the other hand, may have symptoms for years.

During puberty, when hormone fluctuations may influence the glands of the skin and oil production, seborrheic dermatitis is another common occurrence. Adults above the age of 50 have a higher frequency of dermatitis.

Causes and Risk Factors

What causes seborrheic dermatitis in the first place? Dermatitis seems to be linked to the makeup of the skin’s sebaceous gland secretions, the development of Malassezia yeasts that may produce unfavorable skin reactions, and aberrant immunological responses, according to specialists.

Sebum is a surface component of the skin that generates oils (lipids) to keep the skin moisturized. In addition, it is rich in squalene, wax esters, and triglycerides, all of which help prevent dryness. Dermatitis patients may have close-to-normal sebaceous gland activity, according to research. However, alterations in the skin’s surface makeup, along with an overactive immune system, may cause unusual reactions to bacteria on the skin.

Immune responses rise when lipid-dependent bacteria, such as yeasts develop faster. Malassezia yeasts are generally found on the skin in sebum-rich (oily) regions, including the face, scalp, trunk, and back. They seem to be generated in more significant quantities in patients with seborrheic dermatitis. They leave behind metabolites that cause skin irritation and inflammation throughout the process.

Patients with various health issues that influence their immune systems and cause inflammation are more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), autoimmune illnesses, food allergies, mental disorders, recurring infections, and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are examples of these ailments. Seborrheic dermatitis is more likely in those who have a severely weakened immune system. In reality, it affects up to 11% of immunocompetent persons and up to 85% to 95% of HIV patients. Those living with HIV frequently have more severe symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and do not react to standard therapy as rapidly as people who do not have an impaired system.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), using one of the following drugs increases your risk of seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Interferon
  • Lithium
  • Psoralen

Risk factors for dermatitis exist even in persons who don’t have any other major health problems:

  • Life’s major stressors
  • Having a traumatic experience
  • Sunlight exposure is limited (resulting in possible vitamin D deficiency)
  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy or menopause


Traditional treatments for seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, mainly the most prevalent symptom, scalp dandruff, include:

Shampoo with Antibiotics

A range of medicated shampoos is among the first over-the-counter (OTC) choices that physicians may prescribe. Coal tar shampoo, selenium sulfide shampoo, tea tree oil shampoo, and zinc pyrithione shampoo are the four fundamental forms of these shampoos. Tea tree oil shampoo may be used regularly. The other three kinds should be used twice a week.

  • A keratolytic agent is coal tar shampoo. These are intended to soften the protein keratin on the skin and make it easier to slough off dead skin cells. Sulfur and salicylic acid are found in keratolytic agents. Because salicylic acid is oil-soluble and decreases skin irritation, it is highly significant in traditional skin treatments. It’s for this reason that it’s widely used to treat acne. However, contact dermatitis, folliculitis (tender, red lumps on hair follicles), and photosensitivity are all common adverse effects of coal tar shampoo (allergic reaction caused by sunlight).
  • Selenium sulfide shampoo is designed to aid in treating seborrheic dermatitis by preventing infection, alleviating irritation, and eliminating scaly dandruff particles. Alopecia (hair loss), hair discoloration, and skin irritation are all common adverse effects.
  • Tea tree oil shampoo employs tea tree oil’s antifungal and antibacterial qualities to cure seborrheic dermatitis and the associated dandruff while naturally moisturizing the skin. This medication seems to be beneficial for mild to severe dandruff. However, allergic contact dermatitis and skin irritation have been recorded as adverse effects.
  • Another antifungal and antibacterial medication routinely administered to people with seborrheic dermatitis is zinc pyrithione shampoo. It is one of the most cost-effective solutions. Skin irritation is the only documented common adverse effect of zinc pyrithione.

Agents of Interest

Dermatologists often prescribe topical creams, shampoos, and gels to treat the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. They are divided into many groups, including:

  • Shampoos with antifungal properties (brand names Loprox and Nizoral)
  • Topical corticosteroids are a kind of corticosteroid that is applied to (Luxiq, Clobex, Capex, Sylanar, Beta-Val, desonide products, fluocinolone products, and hydrocortisone cream)
  • Antifungal creams (Ciclodan, ketoconazole cream and Ertaczo)
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors are a kind of calcineurin inhibitor that is applied to the

Pimecrolimus and tacrolimus are calcineurin inhibitors. They function by preventing inflammatory reactions in the immune system by suppressing specific immune system processes. Unlike tacrolimus, pimecrolimus is a more focused chemical substance that does not seem to be associated with skin shrinkage.

Stinging, cough, fever, skin atrophy, burning, headache, upper respiratory infection, and flu-like symptoms are all documented adverse effects of these drugs (among others). The long-term consequences of calcineurin inhibitors are poorly understood. There are warnings on such prescriptions that there have been sporadic skin cancer and lymphoma occurrences. Under no circumstances should you use these drugs for an extended period.

Natural Treatment

1. Take care of itchy dandruff and dry scalp

Dandruff is a condition in which the scalp sheds an excessive number of dead skin flakes. It affects both adults and children. However, this does not imply that it is entirely “normal.” According to studies, dandruff is caused by an excessive buildup of dead skin. Low immune function, sensitivities to the dry winter air, a vitamin-deficient diet, and harsh chemicals found in items like chemical-heavy shampoos are all possible causes of dandruff. In addition, most people have Malassezia yeast on their scalps. It may cause more skin cells to develop, die, and fall/flake off if consumed in excess.

You may try the following seborrheic dermatitis scalp treatments:

  • Use a mixture of moisturizing coconut oil and aromatic oils to massage the scalp (more on this below).
  • To cover irritated regions, make a DIY dry scalp shampoo or mask.
  • Not washing too often, but making sure the scalp is clean. Shampooing every two to three days may help your scalp and hairline remain healthy by allowing natural oils generated by your skin to stay at normal levels.
  • Increasing antioxidant-rich foods like berries and leafy greens in your diet.
  • Use a humidifier if your home’s air is particularly dry (dandruff is more common in the autumn and winter when the air is very dry).

2. Boost Your Immune System

Low immune function and high inflammation levels (often in conjunction with hormone abnormalities) are at the basis of the majority of skin disorders, as previously stated. Chronic stress, sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion are all known to cause or exacerbate skin irritations. Try these suggestions to boost your general immunity:

  • Each night, get seven to eight hours of sleep.
  • Exercise regularly to manage stress.
  • Consider taking omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics as supplements.
  • Every day, spend at least some time in nature or the sun.
  • Maintain interests and connections to feel more connected and at ease.
  • Meditation, yoga, prayer, reading, writing, and volunteering are all-natural stress relievers.
  • Use adaptogen herbs to help your body cope with stress and keep cortisol levels in check.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods are garlic, apple cider vinegar, bananas, avocados, flaxseed, ginger, and coconut oil.

3. Limit Your Inflammatory and Allergen Food Consumption

It’s critical to eat as unprocessed a diet as possible to help keep inflammation at bay. Eat whole foods as much as possible. Reduce your consumption of packaged and processed foods that have been shown to aggravate autoimmune responses and allergies, such as:

  • Sugary drinks and those with added sugar.
  • Corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower oil are all processed oils.
  • Trans fats and fried meals
  • If you’re allergic to wheat, refined grain goods, traditional dairy, shellfish, and peanuts, avoid them.

4. Maintain hydration

Drink lots of water throughout the day to ensure that your skin is adequately hydrated. Avoid overeating salty food, drinking too much alcohol, coffee, or drinking too many sugary beverages since they might irritate and dry up the skin. Instead, boost your fluid intake by drinking coconut water, green tea, or homemade smoothies or juices.

5. Use Coconut and Essential Oils for Healing

Natural coconut oil has powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal qualities because it includes medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid and capric acid. Coconut oil has been demonstrated to help eliminate excess yeast, bacteria, and fungus on the skin, which may cause irritation, excess oiliness, and dryness. Even better, mix in some relaxing essential oils like cedarwood oil, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, and lavender with coconut oil.

Combine 8 drops cedarwood oil, 8 drops rosemary oil, 6 drops tea tree oil, 1 teaspoon local honey, and 4 ounces coconut oil to prepare a natural treatment for scaling, itchy skin that you can store at home and use numerous times (or olive or almond oil). First, massage the afflicted region, including the scalp, for 15–20 minutes before gently rubbing or rinsing off. These oils, like coconut oil, have antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. They may also cure infections and decrease inflammation.

6. Consider taking a zinc supplement

A zinc shortage is more prevalent than you would believe. Rashes and skin discomfort characterize this insufficiency. This is one of the reasons dermatological guidelines occasionally recommend testing for low zinc levels in people who have these symptoms.

Zinc is also found in specific topical treatments for seborrheic dermatitis, as I described before. On the other hand, internal zinc supplements are now receiving greater attention. This is because supplementing with zinc may assist in treating part of the underlying issue for people who suffer from this illness due to zinc insufficiency.

7. Stay away from irritating beauty products

The use of chemical-laden items daily is likely to aggravate dermatitis symptoms. In addition, itching, plucking, and over-cleaning the skin may all aggravate the situation.

As much as possible, use natural, organic cosmetics on your skin. For example, if you have dandruff, you should avoid commercial shampoos that include chemicals. The majority of cosmetics contain chemicals that are either drying or toxic. Instead, look for products that are free of parabens, sodium Laureth sulfate, and lauryl sulfate. Instead, use natural skincare products like apple cider vinegar, tea tree, witch hazel, shea butter, and aloe vera gel to clean, tone, and moisturize the skin without irritating. It’s also crucial to stay away from other causes of contact dermatitis, such as:

  • Poison ivy or poison oak are both poisonous plants.
  • Fragrant soaps, detergents, shampoos, perfumes, and lotions that may be on your clothing or in your home
  • Latex is a kind of rubber that is used (if you have an allergy)
  • Certain natural items, such as essential oils or active components, may cause an allergic reaction if you’ve had rashes in the past.

Scalp Psoriasis vs. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Other dermatological conditions may accompany seborrheic dermatitis, making therapy more challenging. The good news is that many of the same treatments used to treat dermatitis (such as limiting allergen intake, avoiding chemical skincare products, and enhancing immune function) may also be used to treat skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis.

Because it seems “spongiform” or swollen and open like a sponge, early seborrheic dermatitis may be recognized from scalp psoriasis.

Psoriasis typically produces greater dryness and red scaling, while seborrheic dermatitis may make skin seem oily.

Look for evidence of lesions on the elbows or knees in patients with face or scalp peeling in psoriasis patients. Psoriasis produces nail pitting as well, although dermatitis does not.

A disorder known as sebopsoriasis, a mix of seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, is also possible.

Facts and Figures

  • Seborrheic dermatitis affects 1–5% of the general population in the United States.
  • Within the first three months of life, up to 70% of babies develop dermatitis on their scalps (often known as cradle cap).
  • Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms most typically appear in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis most often appear on the face and scalp. About 88 percent of patients have face symptoms, 70 percent have problems on their head, 27 percent have signs on their chest, and just 1% to 2% have symptoms on their arms or legs.
  • Dandruff is currently thought to be a minor type of seborrheic dermatitis that does not cause inflammation. However, dandruff is quite prevalent, with up to 50% of the population suffering from it.
  • Every year, around $230 million is spent in the United States to treat the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, particularly those that affect the face and scalp. Unfortunately, this has the potential to have the most significant impact on one’s quality of life.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis affects more males than women. However, no racial or ethnic group seems to be preferred.
  • Dermatitis is more common in those who have allergies, leaky gut syndrome, or autoimmune illnesses, all of which damage the immune system.

When Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis

Because dermatitis is a chronic illness, experts caution that patients be informed that seborrheic dermatitis is generally recurring. The condition may trigger symptom breakouts from time to time, even after effective treatment. Rather than presuming your symptoms are caused by seborrheic dermatitis, it’s critical to see a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis, which will aid in therapy.

Your doctor will be able to distinguish seborrheic dermatitis from other skin problems such as psoriasis, rosacea, Demodex dermatitis, atopic eczema, pityriasis Versicolor, contact dermatitis, and tinea infections. If left untreated, knowing what sort of skin problem you have and the underlying reasons may prevent symptoms from worsening or creating different immunological responses.

Key Points

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a kind of eczema that causes facial redness, skin dryness, and irritation in the scalp and dandruff.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by aberrant immunological reactions, yeast development on the skin, and oil production alterations.
  • Symptoms may be triggered by emotional stress or sadness, exhaustion, exposure to dry environments, systemic infections, the use of certain drugs, and other variables that might impair immune function.

The following are some natural remedies for seborrheic dermatitis:

  1. Applying coconut oil and essential oils to the skin
  2. Reducing your consumption of items that cause inflammation or allergies
  3. Stress management
  4. Chemicals that might irritate the skin should be avoided.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of seborrheic dermatitis permanently?

A: Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin disorder that’s characterized by scaly patches of inflamed, irritated, and oily-looking skin. There are several ways to treat seborrheic dermatitis, but the most effective way would be with Azelaic acid cream (Azalea).

What is the root cause of seborrheic dermatitis?

A: The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not well understood, but it appears to be a problem with the balance and timing of the body’s natural oil production. It can occur in many different areas on your skin, such as your scalp, eyebrows, nose, or chest.

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