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Understanding Seborrheic Dermatitis

Understanding Seborrheic Dermatitis

If you’ve noticed scaly patches on your face or body, you could be experiencing seborrheic dermatitis. This is a common, inflammatory skin condition involving a rash, usually pink in color, and areas of scaling that are typically white or yellow. Although unrelated, seborrheic dermatitis has been known to occur at the same time as rosacea.

The rash may or may not be itchy, but mostly seborrheic dermatitis is disfiguring and just really annoying. If you can see symptoms on your scalp, this is referred to as dandruff.

The causes of seborrheic dermatitis are relatively unknown at this stage, but there are several working theories:


Many experts believe a tiny organism called Malassezia could be responsible, supported by the fact that seborrheic dermatitis improves with anti-fungal medications. Malassezia is a yeast that most people have on their skin, but those with seborrheic dermatitis are overly sensitive to this tiny organism and their body reacts to it by launching an inflammatory response. It’s this inflammatory response that leads to the scaly rash, itching and other symptoms.

Genetics and Hormones

These play a role when it comes to suffering with skin problems. The disease tends to run in families and is more common in men than women. It’s also more common in people with certain medical conditions such as immunodeficiency problems or central nervous system conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, although otherwise healthy people can also be affected.

Sebaceous Glands

The rash and scaling effects that can appear usually cluster in areas where there’s a high density of sebaceous glands. These areas can include the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, along the edges of the nose and the creases of the ears. Men with facial hair often experience symptoms in those regions. Sebaceous glands produce sebum, a sticky substance that lubricates the skin. People with seborrheic dermatitis produce excessive amounts of sebum, which provides the perfect environment for Malassezia to grow and thrive.


Certain factors can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis, for example stress, illness, weather changes, fatigue, certain foods and lack of sleep. It’s especially important for people who have this condition to practice a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Some products to help with Seborrheic dermatitis can be found below:

So how can you treat cases of seborrheic dermatitis?

Good Hygiene

This is extremely important to keep the condition under control, whether you are experiencing it on the face, body or scalp. Allowing sebum and oils to build-up can enhance the growth of malassezia and aggravate the scaling, rash and itching. It is important to cleanse facial and body skin with a mild soap twice a day. Change your bed sheets, pillowcases and towels regularly, as they can collect dust and dead skin cells.

Anti-Fungal Products

For seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, shampooing every day or two with a product that contains pyrithone zinc or selenium sulfide may help ease symptoms. Anti-fungal shampoos can also be effective as they stop the growth of malassezia.

For seborrheic dermatitis on the face, anti-fungal creams can help with growth of malassezia, and reduce redness and scaling. Doctors also prescribe steroid-based creams in severe cases to soothe inflammation and itching. These should be used for the shortest period of time possible due to their potential side effects. In very severe cases, oral medications may be needed to control the symptoms.

Natural Remedies

There’s some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish helps control the symptoms of seborrhea dermatitis. These are available in supplement form, but talk to your doctor before taking them. Some small studies show that tea tree oil is more effective than a placebo although more research is needed. Food allergies can also aggravate the symptoms. Keep a food diary for a few weeks to see if certain foods make the symptoms worse. Some people find that their symptoms improve when they lighten up on processed foods or dairy, and eat more fruits and vegetables.

To help prevent and ease symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, we’ve selected products with soothing, antibacterial properties for you.


If you have more questions about seborrheic dermatitis, or any other skin condition, tweet or Facebook us and we’ll do our best to help!

Hira Malik

Hira Malik

Resident Pharmacist

With a Masters in Pharmacy, I am here to explain the science behind the beauty. I offer expert advice on ingredients, the latest Skincare trends, lifestyle choices and any skin concerns you may have. I enjoy travelling and taking part in running events like Tough Mudder and the Color Run.