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Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis of Scalp?

Seborrheic Dermatitis of the scalp, is a common skin condition that can cause red scaly itchy patches on the scalp, especially around the margins of the hair line. Many individuals have similar red scaly areas present behind or inside the ears, at the corners of the nose, along the eyebrows as well as the beard and moustache area in men.

What is the cause of Seborrheic Dermatitis of Scalp?

This condition is usually hereditary, but no specific cause has been discovered. Flare ups tend to occur during winter months when the climate is cooler and drier and it can also worsen during periods of stress and anxiety.

What are the symptoms?

Itching and flaking of the scalp are the main symptoms, unlike regular dandruff that causes dryness and flaking of the scalp but no itching. If the flakes are scratched off or irritated, it is possible to notice focal areas of bleeding on the scalp as well.

How is it diagnosed?

A dermatologist can usually diagnose Seborrheic Dermatitis of the scalp visually, based upon appearance and location of the involved areas.

What tests are needed?

In general, no tests are needed to make a diagnosis. If there is a concern about the presence of a fungus infection, a skin scraping might be taken to examine microscopically.

What is the expected duration?3

The recovery from Seborrheic Dermatitis of Scalp can take a few weeks and even up to a year.

How can it be prevented?

There is no way to prevent seborrheic dermatitis. Regular shampooing with a medicated shampoo can help to control it.


Medicate shampoos with zinc, ketoconazole, tar, selenium sulfide, sulfur, or salicylic acid are appropriate to try as the initial treatment for seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. If shampooing alone doesn’t work, then topical steroids would be the next therapeutic agent to add. A variety of over the counter products (OTC) are available. If the condition is severe or stubborn and resistant to OTC medications, then prescription medications can be used as the next step.

When to contact a professional

A dermatologist should be consulted when there is extreme itching, lack of comfort or embarrassment and OTC products don’t work.


Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp usually responds very well to treatment within a few weeks, however there is no cure for the condition. Therefore maintenance treatment is needed whenever flare ups occur or on an ongoing basis if it is persistently active.

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