Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

It is red, itchy, greasy, and flaky patches on the skin in areas with many oil glands, such as the scalp, face, ears, chest, and in skin folds. In patients with darker skin tones, affected areas may be lighter in color than the rest of their skin, and they may not have redness. 

Symptoms are made worse by illness, irritation, cold or dry environments, and stress. A mild form is called dandruff.

The cause is not known. It is linked to the skin’s overproduction of oil and an overgrowth of a normally harmless skin yeast called Malassezia. 

How do I know if I have seborrheic dermatitis?

  • You will have scaling with redness or lighter skin in the scalp, eyebrows, forehead, ears, and beard area. It can also be on your chest, underarms, groin, and around your belly button.  
  • You may itch. 
  • A dermatologist can diagnose you.

How do you treat seborrheic dermatitis?

There is no cure. The goal is to control the rash and symptoms.

Treatments are: 

  • Anti-fungal shampoos and creams
  • Topical anti-inflammatory agents 

The treatment you chose must be used as prescribed to control the rash and symptoms.

The medicines your doctor prescribes to you will depend on:

  • How bad your symptoms are
  • Where on your body you have patches
  • Your hair and skin type 
Last reviewed: 
January 2020
Alternative Names: 

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