What is Seborrheic Dermatitis? By Dr. Shalini Vemula

Dr. Shalini Vemula

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common chronic skin condition that can affect both children and adults. It causes scaly patches and pink to yellow skin in areas of skin that are rich in oil glands, mainly on the scalp but also common on the ears, central face, upper chest and back. It can vary in severity from mild dandruff of the scalp to more prominent scaly red patches on the skin. In darker skin, some of the affected areas may look lighter in color.

What causes it?

  • The normal skin yeast Malassezia is thought to play a role in this condition.
  • Stress and cold, dry climates may exacerbate the condition
  • Severe seborrheic dermatitis is seen frequently in people with Parkinson disease, stroke, epilepsy, and HIV infection.

What can you do for it at home?

  • Try over-the-counter shampoos containing ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, 2% pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, or coal tar.
  • Consider rotating or alternating two different shampoos every other day.
  • Try more frequent shampooing or a longer lather time. Pro-tip: Try lathering up your shampoo before you get in the shower and leave it on for 10 minutes before you wash it off.
  • If you have thicker scale, try removing the scale first with mineral oil before washing with shampoo.

While there is no cure for seborrheic dermatitis, the good news is that control is usually possible with treatment. If you are dealing with persistent or severe flare-ups, then it’s time to talk with a dermatologist about ways to better control your symptoms.

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