Seborrheic dermatitis on the face
Seborrheic dermatitis causes a rash with yellowish and somewhat "oily" scales. In addition to the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can occur on the sides of the nose, in and between the eyebrows, and in other oil-rich areas.
Seborrheic (seb-o-REE-ik) dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects your scalp. It causes scaly patches, red skin and stubborn dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oily areas of the body, such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest.
Seborrheic dermatitis may go away without treatment. Or you may need many repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. And they may return later. Daily cleansing with a gentle soap and shampoo can help reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also called dandruff, seborrheic eczema and seborrheic psoriasis. For infants, the condition is known as cradle cap and causes crusty, scaly patches on the scalp.
Products & Services
Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp
Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disorder that mainly affects the scalp, causing itchy, yellow or white patchy scales or thick crusts that may attach to the hair shaft, as seen in the lower left side of the image.
Cradle cap on light skin
Cradle cap is characterized by scaly patches on a baby's scalp. You may notice thick, yellow patches of skin. The patches may be crusty or greasy.
Cradle cap on dark skin
Cradle cap appears as patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp and greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales. Cradle cap usually doesn't bother the infant.
Seborrheic dermatitis signs and symptoms may include:
- Skin flakes (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
- Red skin
The signs and symptoms may be more severe if you're stressed, and they tend to flare in cold, dry seasons.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
- You're so uncomfortable that you're losing sleep or being distracted from your daily routines
- Your condition is causing embarrassment and anxiety
- You suspect your skin is infected
- You've tried self-care steps without success
Doctors don't yet know the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis. It may be related to:
- A yeast (fungus) called malassezia that is in the oil secretion on the skin
- An irregular response of the immune system
A number of factors increase your risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis, including:
- Neurologic and psychiatric conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and depression
- A weakened immune system, such as seen in organ transplant recipients and people with HIV/AIDS, alcoholic pancreatitis and some cancers
- Recovery from stressful medical conditions, such as a heart attack
- Some medications
April 07, 2020
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 6, 2017.
- Clark GW, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. American Family Physician. 2015;91:185.
- Pizzorno JE, et al. Seborrheic dermatitis. In: Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2013. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Sasseville D. Seborrheic dermatitis in adolescents and adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Dandruff: How to treat. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/dandruff-how-to-treat. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Ramos-e-Silva M, et al. Red face revisited: Endogenous dermatitis in the form of atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. Clinics in Dermatology. 2014;32:109.
- Dessinioti C, et al. Seborrheic dermatitis: Etiology, risk factors and treatments: Facts and controversies. Clinics in Dermatology. 2013;31:343.
- AskMayoExpert. Seborrheic dermatitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- Public health advisory: Elidel (pimecrolimus) cream and Protopic (tacrolimus) cream. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm153941.htm. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Okokon EO, et al. Topical antifungals for seborrhoeic dermatitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008138.pub3/full. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Seborrheic dermatitis. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 4, 2017.
- Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Dermatologic disorders. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2017. 56th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2017. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed April 4, 2017.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Seborrheic dermatitis. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Products & Services