Dermatitis: Seborrheic

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that causes flaking of your skin. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common cause of dandruff, but dandruff can also be caused by dry skin from stress, weather, diet, hair care products, hormones, and some medical problems.

Seborrheic dermatitis is also called seborrhea.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of seborrhea is not known. Seborrhea is not caused by lack of cleanliness. You have a greater risk of having seborrhea if you have:

  • HIV
  • Certain types of fungus or yeast infections
  • Acne, rosacea, or psoriasis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Problems with alcohol abuse
  • Depression
  • An eating disorder

Some medicines may also increase your risk.

What are the symptoms?

The parts of the body that tend to be affected are the scalp, the forehead, eyelids, and the skin on either side of your nose. Those areas have many oil glands that make skin oil (sebum) that can block pores and trap dead skin cells. Symptoms may include:

  • Itchy patches of flaky skin
  • Patches of red, scaly, greasy skin that may have yellow or brown crusts on the top

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine your skin. In some cases your skin might be tested for fungus, or you might have blood tests.

How is it treated?

Seborrhea often comes and goes. Using an anti-seborrhea shampoo can help prevent flare-ups.

The treatment depends on where the seborrhea is and how severe it is. Your healthcare provider may prescribe:

  • Prescription antifungal shampoo. Treating the scalp with shampoo may also help the seborrhea rash on nearby areas of skin, such as the forehead and eyebrows. Do not use scalp shampoo around the eyes.
  • Antifungal creams to treat yeast infections
  • If your symptoms are severe, your healthcare provider may prescribe:
    • Antifungal medicine that you take by mouth
    • Steroid cream or lotion

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Use dandruff shampoo that contains zinc or selenium as recommended.
  • Avoid putting a lot of styling products on your hair. Hair sprays, mousses, and gels may build up on your scalp and may make it oily.
  • Gently clean your eyelids. Use a mixture of half no-tears shampoo and half water to clean flaky skin on your eyelids. A warm washcloth over your eyes may also help.

Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-10
Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X