West Houston Dermatology

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Seborrheic Dermatitis

Skin condition - Seborrheic dermatitis


The word “eczema” has come to mean a great variety of inflammatory, scaly, itchy skin conditions. One person may have atopic dermatitis and another seborrheic dermatitis, but they both describe their conditions as “eczema”. 

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a relatively common skin condition that usually is easily recognized and differentiated from other eczematous conditions. Its characteristics are:

  • Reddened, somewhat swollen patches of skin
  • Yellowish-brown scales and crusts on affected areas of the skin, frequently on the scalp (a common cause of dandruff), and around the nose and mouth
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is common in infancy and can occur again after puberty and in adulthood. Its cause is unknown. Unlike acne, which also has increased sebum production, seborrheic dermatitis is not a disease of the hair follicles and attendant sebaceous glands


The typical form of seborrheic dermatitis in infancy is “cradle cap”—oily scales and crusts on hairy portions of the scalp that may extend to the face and neck. The groin and armpits may also be affected, resembling “diaper rash.” The infant form of seborrheic dermatitis is usually self-limiting and disappears after a period of weeks to months. A dermatologist to relieve symptoms and to be sure that the condition is not atopic dermatitis—a condition requiring different management, should treat seborrheic dermatitis. 


The manifestations of the mildest form of seborrheic dermatitis in adults are oilyappearing skin, scaling skin, mild skin redness, and itching of eyelids, scalp, face and body. Scaling skin on the scalp often presents as dandruff. In young women, especially, seborrheic dermatitis often occurs in the facial areas around the mouth and nose. In its more severe form of patchy seborrheic dermatitis, more areas of the body are covered and lesions are more severe. Adult seborrheic dermatitis often persists for years to decades and may be associated with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. The disease may worsen in cold weather and improve in warm weather. A dermatologist’s examination must differentiate seborrheic dermatitis from other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, rosacea, and psoriasis. Treatment of seborrheic dermatitis is directed toward loosening and removing scales and crusts, preventing skin infections, and reducing inflammation and itching. Standbys of treatment include daily shampoos with a product recommended by a dermatologist, topical steroids, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agents, and anti-itch medications. Infant and adult forms of seborrheic dermatitis may require different formulations and applications of standard treatment.