Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that primarily affects the scalp and results in scaly patches, red skin, and stubborn dandruff. This condition can also affect oily regions of the body such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, and chest. It may settle without any treatment but sometimes a person may need continuous treatments for the symptoms to ease. Regular cleaning with gentle soap and shampoo can help lessen oiliness and dead skin build-up.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also called seborrheic eczema, seborrheic psoriasis, and dandruff. Infants are also affected by this skin condition, and it is known as cradle cap or crip cap and causes crusty, scalp patched on the scalp. Generally, it occurs within the first weeks after birth and slowly disappears over a few weeks or months.
Signs and symptoms associated with seborrheic dermatitis may include:
Flaky skin on the scalp, hair, eyebrows, beard, or moustache
Patches of oily skin covered with white flakes or yellow scale or crust on the scalp, face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, chest, armpits, groin region or under the breasts
The signs and symptoms may flare up if a person is stressed out and during cold and dry seasons.
The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is still not known, and doctors relate it to:
A yeast (fungus) called Malassezia that results in oil secretion on the skin
Poor immune response
Risk factors associated with this condition include:
Neurologic disorders like Parkinson’s
Psychiatric problems - depression
A compromised immune system, such as person who has undergone organ transplant and people with AIDS, alcoholic pancreatitis, and certain cancers.
Recently recovered from stressful medical problems like heart attack
The doctor will completely examine the patient to check whether he or she shows any signs of seborrheic dermatitis. Furthermore, the skin cells are scraped and sent for biopsy to rule out conditions with similar symptoms to seborrheic dermatitis, including psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, tinea versicolor and rosacea.
The key treatment options for seborrheic dermatitis include medicated shampoos, creams, and lotions to control inflammation. Also, dermatologists may suggest using over-counter dandruff shampoo before going for prescription medicines.
Prescription creams are effective and easy to use but should be used minimally. Overuse of these creams without any break may cause side effects such as thinning skin or skin showing streaks or lines.
Antifungal gels, creams or shampoos are also given alternatively with other medications depending upon the severity of the symptoms. If the condition is not improving with these treatments, then antifungal medication in the form of a pill is recommended. However, these are not the initial choice for treatment due to potential side effects and drug interactions.
Following some of the self-care tips may help a person manage seborrheic dermatitis include:
- Apply mineral oil or olive oil to the scalp to soften the scales, let it stay for an hour and then brush the hair and rinse it well
- Clean your skin regularly and rinse the soap thoroughly off the body and scalp. Avoid using harsh soaps and always use a moisturizer
- Avoid using styling products like hair sprays, gels, etc., while undergoing treatment for this condition
- Refrain skin and hair care products containing alcohol, as these can flare up the condition
- Wear soft-material cotton clothing to support air movement and lessen the irritation
- Men with beards should shampoo facial hair regularly, as seborrheic dermatitis can aggravate under the beard. Shaving may also help to lessen symptoms
- Gently clean your eyelids every night with mild shampoo or baby shampoo and wipe away scaled with a cotton swab. Warm compresses may also help
- For infants with cradle cap disorder, washing the scalp with nonmedicated baby shampoo once a day is beneficial. Before washing, gently loosen the scales with a soft-bristled brush. If scaling persists, then apply mineral oil to the scalp before washing