Manhattan Dermatology Specialists
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Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis

A very common skin condition, seborrheic dermatitis, affects more than three million people every year. It causes itchy, red skin or rashes with white scales. If you have this condition, you’ll find it on your scalp, face, forehead, and on the folds of skin around your nose, eyes, ears, and eyelids. When it appears on your body, you’ll see it on the folds of the skin, including under your arms, below your breasts, and around your groin, buttocks, and navel. On an infant’s scalp, seborrhea is called cradle cap. If a child gets a cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis usually resolves itself, although the child is more likely to see a reoccurrence during puberty. On adult scalps, the condition is called dandruff, and it requires treatment.

Typically, seborrheic dermatitis can be an acute or chronic condition lasting anywhere from months to years or through your lifetime. It usually can be cured or symptoms resolved within months after an accurate diagnosis. But seborrheic dermatitis can be mistaken for other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. If you’re experiencing persistent dry skin anywhere on your body, make an appointment with your dermatologist.

Seborrhea Symptoms

Seborrhea symptoms can differ among individuals in both duration and intensity. The most common symptoms appear on your face in the skin folds. Other common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Rashes anywhere on your body, but usually on your face
  • Dry skin that can be itchy and red
  • Flaky skin; the flakes may be white, yellow, or gray
  • Peeling skin occurring in patches of red, irritated skin, commonly on your scalp
  • Red and irritated patches
  • Patches of oily skin covered in white or yellow flaky scales, often in folds of your skin
  • Persistent dandruff
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Scaly pimple-like bumps usually along your hairline
  • Itching
  • Lesions
  • Soreness of your skin
  • In infants, crusty, sometimes yellow skin on the scalp or persistent diaper rash, since itching isn’t common with infants.

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis are uncomfortable and can even be miserable and embarrassing. They can cause anxiety and self-esteem issues. Medical diagnosis and treatment are needed to cure the physical conditions but pay attention to outside factors that could make these symptoms worse.

Causes of Seborrhea

While seborrheic dermatitis is still not fully understood, a number of environmental factors and other illnesses may increase the likelihood that you’ll get the condition. There may be a genetic predisposition to seborrhea. Seborrhea is more common in infants, the elderly, men, and people with oily skin. Environmental factors that can cause seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Cold weather
  • Dry weather
  • Yeast
  • Fungal growth
  • Change in seasons
  • Lack of nutrients, especially zinc, biotin, vitamin B6, and B2
  • In children, too much vitamin A

Diseases that often are associated with seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • AIDS
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alcoholism
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Heart disease
  • Eating disorders
  • Stroke recovery
  • A weakened immune system
  • A hormone imbalance
  • Neurological disorders

Psychological triggers can also cause seborrhea flare-ups:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced general health

With seborrheic dermatitis, it’s important to look after your overall health to prevent flare-ups and keep the condition manageable. it’s a good idea to track anything in your life that might agitate your seborrhea. Keep a journal of your diet and emotional well-being and share it with your dermatologist for a comprehensive approach to tackling your seborrheic dermatitis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis requires a medical diagnosis by your dermatologist. Because it’s frequently mistaken for other conditions, you can’t self-diagnose this condition. Besides, seborrhea treatment requires prescription medicine. Most over-the-counter options only reduce the severity of symptoms; they don’t cure seborrhea.

If you’re experiencing any of the seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, make an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible. In addition to diagnosing your seborrhea, your dermatologist can put together a treatment plan to prevent future flare-ups, making your condition more manageable. When your seborrhea is caused by another medical condition, treating the underlying issue cures you of seborrhea. For some, seborrhea can be treated and cured, but for others, it is a lifelong condition that requires constant management. Most common treatments include:

  • Good general skincare: Caring for your overall health and having good skincare habits is your best chance for keeping your seborrhea manageable.
  • Coal tar products: Coal tar is known for it’s skin-soothing qualities. It can give immediate relief to the symptoms of itching and dryness.
  • Salicylic acid: This chemical peel works by breaking down the thick top layer of skin while also increasing the amount of moisture in the skin.
  • Selenium sulfide: Products containing selenium sulfide are good for soothing the symptoms and reducing the flaking of dry skin. it’s a common ingredient in shampoos for dandruff.
  • Ketoconazole: This product eases your seborrheic dermatitis when it’s caused by fungal infections. Ketoconazole has some side effects, so use it only under the direct supervision of your dermatologist.
  • Ciclopirox: Ciclopirox shampoo treats the yeast that commonly causes dandruff.
  • Zinc pyrithione: This ingredient is typically found in dandruff shampoos, along with other products that help cure seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Antifungal products: Antifungal creams and shampoos are effective alongside other treatments because they help with symptoms.
  • Sulfur products: Sulfur products are commonly included with other treatment options. They reduce swelling and itching of your affected areas by removing the outer tough layer of skin.
  • Light therapy: Light therapy treatments are UV applications to your affected areas and can be quite effective.
  • Corticosteroid lotions: These products can be effective at quickly relieving some of your irritating symptoms.
  • Prescription-strength medicated shampoo: These shampoos are much stronger than anything you can get over the counter, so they’re much more effective at soothing symptoms and curing seborrhea.

Now that you’re aware of seborrheic dermatitis, your best option is prevention. But your best in class dermatologist can help get you on a care regimen to best keep your seborrheic dermatitis in check and help you prevent future flare-ups. Learn more about the seborrheic dermatitis treatments available from your dermatologist.

Seborrheic Dermatitis FAQ

What Does Seborrheic Dermatitis Look Like?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that normally affects a person’s scalp. It leads to scaly patches, stubborn dandruff, and red skin. This skin condition tends to affect oily areas of the body, including the face, eyebrows, sides of the nose, ears, eyelids as well as chest.

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How Long Does Seborrheic Dermatitis Last on the Face?

Regardless of the part of the body where seborrheic dermatitis forms, it tends to permanently disappear between 6 months and 1 year. This skin disorder might go away without treatment. However, you might need repeated treatments before the symptoms disappear. The symptoms of this disease can also return later. Keep in mind that daily cleansing with a gentle shampoo can reduce dead skin buildup and oiliness.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic skin disorder can be triggered by a variety of different factors depending on your skin sensitivity and type. By far, there is no alternative treatment. However, there are several natural remedies that are believed to ease the symptoms of this skin disease. These include fish oil, aloe vera, probiotics, tea tree oil, and apple cider vinegar. Although, your best bet would be to discuss the use of the aforementioned products with your dermatologist.

Can Stress Cause Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Yes, it can. A flare-up can be triggered by stress. Fortunately, treatment can reduce flare-ups and bring relief.

What Are the Risk Factors for Seborrheic Dermatitis?

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis, including neurologic and psychiatric conditions, a weakened immune system, recovery from stressful medical conditions as well as several medications.

Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a dermatologist about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist could determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Updated on Mar 7, 2023 by Dr. Susan Bard (Dermatologist), Manhattan Dermatology Specialists Locations: Manhattan Dermatology (Upper East Side) 983 Park Ave, Ste 1D1, NY 10028
(212) 427-8750
Manhattan Dermatology (Midtown) 56 W 45th St, Ste 819, NY 10036
(212) 889-2402
Manhattan Dermatology (Union Square) 55 W 17th St, Ste 103, NY 10011
(212) 378-9984
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice and self diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs you may be having. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan should only be made by your physician in order to exclude a serious condition.
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