Seborrheic dermatitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition affecting people of all ages. The typical symptoms of skin flakiness, dryness, redness, and itching can appear on the face, scalp, upper chest, back, ears and on the skin where sebaceous glands, producing natural oil called sebum, are most prominent.

This skin disorder affecting children, adolescents and elderly is not harmful; however, it still represents a pronanuced concern in the society because it is estimated that one in every 20 Americans may be undergoing the symptoms of Seborrheic dermatitis. In other words, about 6 million adults and children living in the U.S. are affected by skin dryness, scalp itchiness, and flakiness.

If you are one of these people affected by physically and emotionally draining Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, this article is just for you. Keep on reading, and you might just find a right Seborrheic dermatitis cure for yourself.

Seborrheic dermatitis Symptoms

What is seborrheic dermatitis? A seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema. Precisely, it is a common chronic inflammatory skin disorder affecting men and women regardless of the age. The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis usually appear on the body parts where the skin has most prominent sebaceous glands, glands responsible for producing skin’s natural waxy moisture called sebum. These areas include the face, especially forehead, the skin near eyebrows and hairline, upper chest, back, near the collarbone, neck as well as the groin.

Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms may include:

  • Dandruff, which is considered to be a mild, non-inflammatory form of seborrheic dermatitis affecting the scalp
  • Scaly patches on the skin
  • Redness and sensitivity of the skin
  • Dryness and flakiness
  • Skin peeling, known as erythema, which causes the appearance of white, yellow or oily scales.
  • Secondary bacterial infections appearing when bacterium starts thriving inside patches or other openings on the skin.
  • Skin irritation, itching, and soreness of the affected skin

These symptoms appearing on areas of the body often seen by the public can cause emotional distress to the point where a concern “Is seborrheic dermatitis contagious?” starts burdening the mind. The answer to this question is: No, seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious!

Now, however, unslighty these symptoms for a person may be, one thing is clear, these symptoms are quite generic in nature. If you look at seborrheic dermatitis pictures available online you may notice that the symptoms of this skin disorder highly resemble those of psoriasis, allergic reactions and other types of eczema. Simply said, it is difficult to recognize let alone properly diagnose seborrheic dermatitis by yourself.

If you haven’t yet been medically diagnosed, visit your medical specialist for a professional evaluation before giving any of the over the counter medications a try

Seborrheic dermatitis pictures

What are seborrheic dermatitis causes?

Medical experts are still not completely sure why seborrheic dermatitis develops. It appears that the development of seborrheic dermatitis is related to sebaceous glands and their production of sebum, high proliferation of Malassezia yeasts on oily areas of the body and hyperactive immune system, in other words, abnormal immune responses.

People in adolescence often get affected by seborrheic dermatitis because their sebaceous glands are overactive and produce excessive amounts of sebum. Malassezia yeasts thrive on these lipids secreted by the skin, which causes irritation, inflammation, and other seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.

Here are some factors that trigger the reoccurring flare-ups:

  • Depression, emotional stress, and trauma
  • Sleep deprivation and fatigue
  • Exposure to damp or dry conditions and air conditioning
  • Low exposure to sunlight and vitamin D deficiency
  • Hormonal changes
  • Systematic infections
  • Certain medications
  • Factors that hinder proper immune functioning, for instance HIV, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, food allergies, recurrent infections, Parkinson’s disease etc.

How to treat seborrheic dermatitis?

You can tackle the symptoms of your skin condition with medically approved solutions or home remedies. Take a look at both lists, and you might find the right seborrheic dermatitis treatment for yourself.

Medically approved solutions include over the counter or prescription:

  • Anti-inflammatory topical agents, for instance, keratolytic agents
  • Antifungal topical agents, for instance, ketoconazole cream
  • Anti-itch creams, such as hydrocortisone 1%
  • Anti-dandruff shampoos or antifungal shampoos

Your doctor will evaluate your condition and, based on your skin type, the severity of your flare-up and location of symptoms, establish effective seborrheic dermatitis treatment. Your physician will take other illnesses that you are affected by into consideration as well, especially if you are already taking other drugs. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or intending to get pregnant during the treatment, make sure you let your doctor know about your intentions, as some medications, such as metronidazole 0.75 % gel, mustn’t be used during pregnancy.

Over the counter and prescription medications sometimes worsen the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. If you notice your flare-up getting worse during the therapy, notify your doctor about your concerns.

Home remedies:

NOTE: Following treatments are general in nature and are not a recommendation or substitute for the treatment provided by your medical specialist. If you are having any doubts or concerns about any of the listed remedies, consult your medical specialist beforehand. Don’t treat your child with any of these remedies without the consent of the doctor.

  1. Anti-dandruff shampoo

seborrheic dermatitis cure - anti-dandruff shampoo


  • 1 ½ cups (1 can) of coconut milk
  • ½ cup of liquid castile soap
  • ½ cup of purified water
  • ½ teaspoon of unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 20 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • 15 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon of ground fenugreek seeds


  • Pour coconut milk, coconut oil, and castile soap in a mixing bowl and mix these ingredients with a whisk thoroughly.
  • Once blended, add water, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda to the mixing bowl as well. Mix well.
  • Add rosemary essential oil and tea tree essential oil to the mix.
  • Last but not least, add ground fenugreek seeds to the mix and make sure all ingredients are well blended.
  • Pour your natural anti-dandruff shampoo into a BPA-free container with a lid.
  1. Anti-scaling and anti-itch balm

Coconut oil is enriched with medium-chain fatty acids including capric acid and lauric acid which give it powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties suitable for the treatment of various skin conditions including seborrheic dermatitis. Raw, organic coconut oil applied to your affected skin will help you restore the microflora by reducing excess Malesseia yeasts and help you fight the abnormal dryness or oiliness. For better effects, you can enrich your coconut oil with essential oils that provide similar healing powers, for instance, lemongrass, cedarwood, lavender or rosemary essential oils. These oils will help you reduce inflammation as well.

Anti-scaling and anti-itch balm for seborrheic dermatitis treatment


  • 8 drops of cedarwood essential oil
  • 8 drips of rosemary essential oil
  • 6 drops of tea tree oil
  • 1 teaspoon of raw, organic honey
  • 4 ounces of coconut oil


  • Mix all ingredients in exact measurements thoroughly.
  • You can replace coconut oil with 4 ounces of olive oil or almond oil if preferred.
  • Massage the balm on the affected skin and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing it off.

  NOTE: Avoid using essential oils you are allergic to, or that irritate your skin.

  1. Avoid using irritating skincare products

products for seborrheic dermatitis treatment

Some commercial skincare and beauty products nowadays contain strong, irritant chemicals, which can worsen the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis if used regularly. Simply avoid using products containing parabens, lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth. Also, stay away from fragrant soaps and harsh anti-dandruff shampoos. Switch to more natural alternatives, such as shea butter, witch hazel and aloe vera gel. These natural aids will help you preserve the health of your skin.

  1. Seborrheic dermatitis diet

The first piece of advice you will probably receive from your doctor is to establish seborrheic dermatitis diet. Since human skin reflects our internal well-being, some experts are speculating that the real causes of seborrheic dermatitis may be lying in the gut. Unbalanced gut flora can be easily corrected with proper nutrition, so take a look at these do’s and don’ts when it comes to food:

Foods you should eat:

  • Vegetables, especially pumpkin, squash, cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, and laminaria.
  • Dairy products rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, sour milk, cottage cheese etc.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods such as coconut oil, ginger, apple cider vinegar, avocado, flaxseeds, garlic, and bananas.
  • Cranberries, currants, gooseberries, cherries and watermelon
  • Drink herbal infusions, fresh, organic juices and plenty of water

Foods you should avoid eating:

  • Processed foods and processed oils, for instance, soy, corn, canola and sunflower oil
  • Fried foods and foods containing trans fats
  • Marinated and smoked foods
  • Starchy foods
  • Caviar
  • Citrus fruits and strawberries
  • Mushrooms
  • If you are prone to allergies avoid eating peanuts, shellfish, refined grain products made of wheat etc.
  • Sweetened beverages and added sugar.

Conclusion + Last tips on how to treat seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder affecting people of all ages, even infants at high 70% likeliness. Although the exact causes of seborrheic dermatitis are still not completely clear, trigger factors still help us build accurate treatments for alleviating the symptoms of redness, dryness, skin flakiness and itchiness.

If you are affected by reoccurring flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis visit your medical specialist who will, according to the severity of your condition, recommend you appropriate over the counter or prescription antifungal ointment, dandruff shampoo or natural remedy, for instance, coconut oil. These treatment options will treat the symptoms of your current outbreak, but for the long-run improvements, you will have to make few lifestyle changes, tweak your diet and stop using harsh skin care products.

These last tips on how to treat seborrheic dermatitis will help you make your therapy as effective as possible:

  1. Avoid scratching, picking and over-cleaning affected skin.
  2. If the air in your home is too dry, especially during fall and winter, use a humidifier to prevent dandruff.
  3. Try to get eight hours of sleep every night.
  4. Exercise regularly to boost your immune system and reduce stress.
  5. Consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and vitamin D.
  6. Chronic stress worsens seborrheic dermatitis, so try spending a little bit of time in nature and in the sun. Exposure to sunlight will help you prevent vitamin D deficiency.
  7. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your skin well hydrated.
  8. Avoid drinking caffeine and sugary drinks.
  9. Avoid exposure to poison ivy and poison oak.
  10. Avoid exposure to latex, if you are allergic to it.