How To Get Rid Of Seborrheic Dermatitis

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis, characterized as a chronic form of eczema, typically manifests in areas of the body abundant in oil-producing (sebaceous) glands, such as the upper back, nose, and scalp. Symptoms range from dandruff to a rash in the affected regions.

While seborrheic dermatitis often resolves spontaneously in many infants and some adults, persistent symptoms may necessitate treatment. Fortunately, numerous effective treatments are available to alleviate symptoms and prevent future flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis may include:

  • Flaking skin (dandruff) on your scalp, hair, eyebrows, beard, or mustache
  • Patches of greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales or crust on the scalp, face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, chest, armpits, groin area, or under the breasts.
  • Rash that may appear darker or lighter in individuals with brown or Black skin and redder in those with white skin.
  • Ring-shaped (annular) rash, observed in a type called petaloid seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Itchiness (pruritus)

The signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis often exacerbate with stress, fatigue, or a change of season.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is typically caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The primary trigger is often an inflammatory response to an excess of Malassezia yeast, also known as pityrosporum. This organism, which normally inhabits the skin’s surface, is likely responsible for seborrheic dermatitis. When Malassezia overgrows, the immune system may overreact to it, leading to a fungal infection that manifests in skin changes.

Certain medical conditions can elevate the risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis, including psoriasis, HIV, acne, rosacea, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, and recovery from a stroke or heart attack.

Common triggers for seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Stress
  • Recovery from a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one or a heart attack
  • Hormonal changes or illness
  • Exposure to harsh detergents, solvents, chemicals, and soaps
  • Cold, dry weather or seasonal changes
  • Certain medications, including psoralen, interferon, and lithium
  • Specific medical conditions, such as HIV and Parkinson’s disease

Like all forms of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Instead, it arises from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

How to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is not curable, but it can be managed effectively. Medicated shampoos containing ingredients like ketoconazole, corticosteroids, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, sulfur, coal tar, or others can help control symptoms on the scalp. These shampoos should be left on the scalp for several minutes before rinsing. In cases where shampoos alone are not effective, prescription corticosteroid creams, ointments, gels, solutions, oils, or foams may be recommended.

Depending on the severity of the condition, seborrheic dermatitis may respond to a simple shampoo change, or it may resolve without treatment. However, if symptoms persist for more than two weeks, consulting a healthcare provider for guidance on over-the-counter and prescription treatment options is advisable. Most adults with this condition will require a treatment regimen to effectively manage symptoms.

Maintaining a proper skincare routine can also help control symptoms. Daily washing of affected areas with a gentle cleanser containing 2% zinc pyrithione, followed by the application of a moisturizer or lotion, is recommended.

For scalp involvement, using dandruff shampoo and hair products designed for sensitive skin can be beneficial. Effective non-prescription dandruff shampoos often contain active ingredients such as pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole 1%, tar, or salicylic acid. Popular brands offering products with these active ingredients include DermaZinc, Head & Shoulders, Selsun Blue, Nizoral, and Denorex Extra Strength.

How to Prevent Seborrheic Dermatitis

You may need to alternate different medicated shampoos since they tend to lose their effectiveness over time.

When to see a doctor

See your health care provider if:

  • You’re so uncomfortable that you’re losing sleep or are distracted from your daily routines.
  • Your condition makes you feel embarrassed or anxious.
  • You think your skin is infected.
  • You’ve tried self-care steps, but your symptoms persist.

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