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Seborrheic Dermatitis

Causes, symptoms and treatments

Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the commonest inflammatory skin conditions that mainly affects your scalp. It causes stubborn dandruff, red skin and scaly patches. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect other areas of the body, such as the eyebrows, ears, eyelids, face, sides of the nose and chest.

New-borns and adults aged 35-65 are more likely to get this inflammatory skin condition. It is a condition found commonly in people with oily skin and more prevalent in men than women.


  • Skin flakes and dandruff on your scalp, hair, beard, moustache or eyebrows.
  • Greasy skin patches covered with yellow or flaky white scales or crust on the face, scalp, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, sides of the nose, armpits, chest, under the breasts or groin area
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Moderate to severe Itching

The signs and symptoms tend to flare in cold, dry seasons and may be more severe if you are stressed. The scales that flake off could be yellowish or white and look oily or moist.

Because of its similarity with other skin conditions, you should see your doctor to get a confirmed diagnosis and the right treatment approach. The dermatologist will investigate your medical history and look at your apparent signs and symptoms. You may need blood or skin tests if the doctor thinks it’s another skin or systemic condition.


The definite cause of seborrheic dermatitis is still unknown and various theories have been formulated. It may be related to:

  • A yeast called “Malassezia” that is in the oil secretion (sebum) on the skin
  • A hyperactive response of the immune system.
  • Psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and Parkinson’s disease.
  • A weakened immune response, such as seen in people with HIV/AIDS, alcoholic pancreatitis, organ transplant recipients and some cancers.
  • Due to side effects of certain medicines.
  • Recovery from stressful health conditions, such as a heart attack.


More often, this skin condition is a lifelong issue that clears and flares; however, sometimes, it will clear up by itself. It can last for years, but you can usually control it with proper skin care and the right treatment approach.

Adults with scalp seborrheic dermatitis can be treated following a treatment plan given by our specialists at Trichologica or alternately, an over-the-counter anti-seborrhoea shampoo containing one of the following ingredients may help:

  • Coal tar
  • Ketoconazole
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Zinc pyrithione

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