This is more common than you think. You might not have heard of it but it’s common. Caused by a tiny fungus (Malessezia) that commonly lives on our skin, it can even affect babies. In infants, it is called cradle cap, and appears as yellowish, greasy, bran like scales that peel off (see cradle cap). It can happen in the diaper area too. In adults it affects oily areas of the body including the scalp, mid-face, ears, and chest. On the face it is commonly around the nose, in the eyebrows, and between the eyebrows. It is flaky, red, and greasy. Many of my patients try to use moisturizer to get rid of the scale but that may just exacerbate it. You can’t scrub the scales off either. In the scalp, it may present as dandruff without itching or inflammation but it can also be very severe and incredibly itchy. Sometimes it can overlap with psoriasis- meaning that people with psoriasis also can have seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is diagnosed clinically by a dermatologist. Some conditions may mimic seborrheic dermatitis including psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, tinea versicolor among others. It is important to be evaluated by your friendly and knowledgeable dermatologist.
As I mentioned earlier, the cause is thought to be a superficial yeast but other factors come into play:
Many patients suffer from two main issues with seborrheic dermatitis- the appearance (red, flaky) and the itching. Itching tends to be worse on the scalp and in the ears. Flaking and greasiness is also problematic as it gives an unclean appearance. Fortunately, there are remedies to help control these symptoms but unfortunately, we cannot completely cure it. It will wax and wane depending on the factors mentioned earlier. Some home remedies will help including olive oil and mineral oil to the scalp. Tea tree oil containing products seem to have a positive effect as well. Anti-dandruff shampoos and washes are helpful especially those with tar, pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, or selenium.
However, not everyone is able to control the flaking or itching on their own and will require diagnosis and treatment by a dermatologist.
NOTE: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition