Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Medicated shampoos, creams and lotions are the main treatments for seborrheic dermatitis. Your doctor will likely recommend you try home remedies, such as over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, before considering prescription remedies. If home remedies haven't helped, talk with your doctor about trying these treatments:

  • Creams, shampoos or ointments that control inflammation. Prescription-strength hydrocortisone, fluocinolone or desonide (Desowen, Desonide) are corticosteroids you apply to the scalp or other affected area. They're effective and easy to use. But if used for many weeks or months without a break, they can cause side effects, such as thinning skin or skin showing streaks or lines.
  • Antifungal shampoo alternated with a stronger medication. Ketoconazole shampoo may be effective when alternated with a clobetasol scalp product (Temovate) twice weekly.
  • Antifungal medication you take as a pill. Your doctor may recommend the antifungal medication terbinafine (Lamisil). This option is not often used because it can have serious side effects, such as allergic reactions and liver problems.
  • Medications that affect your immune system. Creams or lotions containing the calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) may be effective and have fewer side effects than corticosteroids do. But they are not first-choice treatments because of a potential increased risk of cancer. In addition, they cost more than mild corticosteroid medications.
  • Cream or gel that fights bacteria. You apply metronidazole (Metrolotion, Metrogel) as a cream or gel once or twice daily until you see improvement.
  • Light therapy with medication. This treatment combines psoralen with light therapy (photochemotherapy). After you take psoralen by mouth or apply it to the affected skin, you're exposed to ultraviolet light. This therapy may not work for people with thick hair.
May 30, 2014