Overview on seborrheic dermatitis

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Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disorder that results to whitish-yellow oily scales on the scalp, face and ears. It generally occurs on the scalp among infants and called as cradle cap. If it develops on the scalp of adults, it is known as dandruff.

This skin condition can cause various parts of the skin to become itchy or flaky. It frequently affects the scalp but can also develop on other body parts. The usual sites include the eyebrows, edges of the nose, eyelids, ears and chest. In some cases, it can also occur in the navel and creases of the legs, arms or groin.

If the scalp is affected, it causes dandruff which appears as white, loose flakes of skin that can be itchy.


If the scalp is affected, it causes dandruff which appears as white, loose flakes of skin that can be itchy. In case other body parts are affected, it causes red and scaly patches of skin.

Who are at risk?

Seborrheic dermatitis occurs most often among infants younger than 3 months old and even in adults between 30-60 years of age. Men are more affected than women.

What are the causes?

Seborrheic dermatitis has various causes and hormones might have a role. In some individuals, a yeast known as Malassezia which is typically present on the skin might grow excessively and trigger skin issues.

Other contributing factors include:

  • Fatigue
  • Family history
  • Stress
  • Oily skin
  • Weather extremes
  • Lotions with alcohol content
  • Intermittent shampooing or cleaning of the skin
  • Having other skin conditions

Management of seborrheic dermatitis

The treatment is based on the age of the individual and the site that is affected.

  • Among adolescents and adults, the condition might settle on its own. Dandruff can be treated using an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo that contains salicylic acid, tar, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole. Lotions that contain steroids might be used to treat other parts of the skin that are affected.
  • Among infants, cradle cap clears on its own without treatment if the child is between 8-12 months old. It can be managed with daily cleaning with a mild baby shampoo. Brush or massage the scalp using a soft brush a number of times throughout the day and after every shampoo.

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