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Seborrheic Dermatitis


Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common inflammatory condition that can cause redness, scaling, and flaking of the skin. It has a predilection for the scalp, face, and chest, and can affect up to 5% of the population. It commonly presents as redness and scaling on the scalp and central face (usually around the brows and nose). Patients may also experience irritation and itching of the skin. While the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, it may be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors with overproduction of oil (sebum) in the skin and subsequent inflammation. Some studies suggest that it may involve an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast that grows on oily skin, although this has not been proven. Seborrheic dermatitis can also be aggravated by illness, emotional stress, changes in weather, and certain medications.


While there are a variety of treatment options for seborrheic dermatitis, it tends to have a chronic and recurring course with periodic flares. Treatment options include:


  • Medicated Shampoos: Over-the-counter shampoos containing coal tar, salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, and selenium sulfide have proved to be effective in reducing inflammation and flaking associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Certain anti-fungal shampoos such as ketoconazole have also shown to be effective.

  • Topical Corticosteroids: Steroid creams and ointments are effective in reducing inflammation and itching of the skin. When using topical steroids, it’s best to take periodic breaks to reduce the risk of steroid atrophy and to prevent the body from getting used to the medicine.

  • Non-steroidal Creams: There are a new class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams which help reduce the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis without the risks of topical steroids. However, these medications can be more expensive.

  • Topical Antifungal Creams: Certain antifungal creams and shampoos have been shown to help by reducing the overgrowth of yeast on oily skin.


A combination of these medications and shampoos can be very effective in controlling seborrheic dermatitis. Depending on your skin type and symptoms, our dermatologist can help determine what treatment options are right for you.


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