Treatment

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 don't help, talk with your doctor about trying these treatments.

  • Creams, shampoos or ointments that control inflammation. Prescription-strength hydrocortisone, fluocinolone (Capex, Synalar), clobetasol (Clobex, Cormax) and desonide (Desowen, Desonate) are corticosteroids you apply to the scalp or other affected area. They are effective and easy to use, but should be used sparingly. 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.

    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 the Food and Drug Administration has concerns about a possible association with cancer. In addition, tacrolimus and pimecrolimus cost more than mild corticosteroid medications.

  • Antifungal gels, creams or shampoos alternated with another medication. Depending on the affected area and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe a product with 2 percent ketoconazole (Nizoral) or 1 percent ciclopirox. Or you doctor may prescribe both products to be used alternately.
  • Antifungal medication you take as a pill. If your condition isn't improving with other treatments, your doctor may recommend an antifungal medication in pill form. These aren't a first choice for treatment because of possible side effects and drug interactions.

Alternative medicine

Many alternative therapies, including those listed below, have helped some people manage their seborrheic dermatitis. But evidence for their effectiveness isn't conclusive. It's always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding any alternative medicines to your self-care routine.

  • Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil, either alone or in a shampoo, may be used on the affected area. Some studies suggest that tea tree oil may trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Fish oil supplements. These types of pills contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Aloe vera. Apply to the affected area aloe vera gel, either in a product or directly from a cut leaf of the plant.