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Seborrhoeic dermatitis

What is seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that causes greasy, yellow or red scaling on hairy areas of the body, including the scalp or genitals. It can also appear in skin creases on the arms, legs, breasts and elsewhere. While it isn’t contagious and doesn’t affect your overall health, seborrhoeic dermatitis can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Dandruff is a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis. When it affects infants, it’s called cradle cap. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is often treated with hydrocortisone creams, dandruff shampoos and salicylic acid-containing treatments.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis symptoms

Common symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis include:

  • Inflammation or redness of the skin
  • Crusts or patches of scaling on the scalp
  • Yellow or white flakes on scalp, eyebrows, ears or nose
  • Itching or soreness
  • Red, greasy skin
  • Yellow or white flakes in creases of arms, legs, breasts and groin


Seborrhoeic dermatitis causes dandruff

Dandruff is a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis, which mostly affects the scalp. Dandruff can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms are white or gray flakes of skin on your scalp and in your hair. The flakes may also fall onto your shoulders. Your scalp may feel dry and itchy. Cold, dry winters can trigger dandruff. Stress may also make it worse.

Causes of seborrhoeic dermatitis

The cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is not known. It is not caused by poor personal hygiene. Excessive sebum from the oil glands of the skin, especially on the scalp and face, is a key feature. Seborrhoeic dermatitis gives the skin a greasy look and feel and appears to be common in people with oily skin or hair, acne, or psoriasis.

These factors may also play a role:

  • Seasonal changes – symptoms worsen in dry winter air
  • A fungus called Malassezia which grows in the skin’s oily secretions
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
  • HIV/AIDS - the condition is more severe in people with HIV
  • Fatigue or stress which appears to trigger episodes or make them worse

Seborrhoeic dermatitis home remedies

Some home remedies may help ease symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis:

  • Wash hair with medicated dandruff shampoo
  • Avoid harsh detergents or soaps
  • Avoid cosmetic products containing alcohol
  • Avoid any known dietary triggers
  • Avoid scratchy woollen or synthetic clothes
  • Do not scratch affected area as this can increase risk of infection
  • Remove beards or moustaches if the areas are causing discomfort

When to seek medical advice about seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seek medical advice if:

  • Skin appears to be infected
  • You are losing sleep
  • You are unable to carry on normal daily routines
  • The condition is causing you stress and anxiety
  • Home remedies are having no impact
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