What is seborrhoeic dermatitis?
A rash or inflammation of skin that usually comes up in areas rich in sebaceous glands e.g. the face, scalp and centre of the chest.
How common is it?
Pretty common: 3-5% of people globally are affected by it.
Is it more prone in certain age groups?
Yes: young adults, the elderly and infants
What causes it?
This isn't fully understood. What is know is that a yeast called Malassezia (present in skin) plays a part in its development. Other possible causes include:
- Neurological or immunodeficiency diseases, e.g. Parkinson's disease or HIV
- Cold weather
What does NOT cause it?
- What you eat, i.e. diet
What are the symptoms of scalp seborrhoeic dermatitis?
- Flaky skin
What does seborrhoeic dermatitis look like on the scalp?
Bumpy, red (if you're light skinned) with greasy-looking white or yellowish scales. The rash may weep.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor should be able to tell, however, it can be difficult for doctors to distinguish seborrhoeic dermatitis from psoriasis.
Can it be cured?
No, it can only be managed. This means you might have to take a treatment continuously or on and off for many months or years.
How is scalp seborrhoeic dermatitis treated?
Your doctor might prescribe:
- Medicated (anti-fungal / anti-yeast) shampoos with one or more of the following active agents: zinc pyrithione, coal tar, selenium sulphide or ketoconazole
- To help reduce itchiness/soreness: a cream with a strong steroid might be prescribed to be used occasionally and sparingly
- For severe inflammation: pimecrolimus cream or tacrolimus ointment
- A salicylic acid-based ointment can be rubbed in at night and washed off in the morning
- A scale softener, e.g. you might need to soak the scalp in warm olive oil
- For a stubborn rash: oral anti-fungal / anti-yeast medication.
To avoid repetition, please read the second half of the blog on psoriasis for a few more dos and donts unique to those with natural hair.
You might also like:
Managing scalp psoriasis and your natural black hair
13 Top Tips for Keeping Natural Black Hair Moisturised - No More Dry Hair!
Solutions for a burnt scalp e.g. due to hot water or direct application of essential oils
The British Association of Dermatologists
NHS Clinical Knowledge Summary
I have a mild preference for British over US medical sources because the UK system is not-for-profit so the sources won't have a money-making motive in them.