Seborrheic Dermatitis: More Than Just Regular Dandruff

Jeanne M. Ellern, PA-C

Certified Physician Assistant

Seborrheic Dermatitis Described

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, chronic inflammatory skin process. It is similar to dandruff but with redness, irritation, dry or greasy scale, and occasionally it might itch or burn. It is typically most common in areas with the largest concentration of sebaceous glands, like the scalp, face, chest, upper back, eyebrows, ears, men’s facial hair, and body folds.

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The cause of Seborrheic dermatitis is not completely understood. Probable causes include Malassezia yeasts, sebum production and hereditary factors. It is often worse in the winter months with improvement in the summer. It is more common in men and often begins after puberty. “Cradle cap” can be seen in babies and young children. Even though Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, some relief is possible. Treatment options are available and vary depending on the location of the lesions.

Treatment Options for Seborrheic Dermatitis

  • Scalp: Mild scalp seborrheic dermatitis typically responds to shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione, coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide or sulfur. Prescription shampoos include Ciclopirox and Ketoconazole. Over-the-counter options include Head & Shoulders® Clinical Strength Shampoo, Neutrogena® T/Gel® Therapeutic Shampoo, and Selsun Blue® Medicated Shampoo. Severe scalp seborrheic dermatitis often needs to be managed similarly to management of scalp psoriasis, a similar skin condition with thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful. Potent steroids such as Fluocinonide solution can be helpful in these severe cases.
  • Face and Body: Seborrheic dermatitis responds well to low potency topical steroids as well as antifungals creams and gels. We recommend washing your face or other affected areas of your body with a prescription or over-the-counter antifungal or dandruff shampoo. Some options include Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Shampoo, Neutrogena T/Gel and Selsun Blue Medicated Shampoo.

Even though Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, it can be managed well. If you feel like this might be something you are suffering from, please contact us. We are happy to help you.

Jeanne sees patients for Medical and Cosmetic Dermatology at our Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Valley locations. Book an appointment with her or any of our talented providers online or by calling 509.456.7414.