Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

    That red, itchy rash on your scalp that has flaky scales could be seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea. It's a common skin disease that looks similar to psoriasis, eczema, or an allergic reaction. And it can appear on your body as well as your scalp.

    Causes

    We don't know what exactly causes seborrheic dermatitis. It seems to be a combination of things, including:

    • Stress
    • Your genes
    • A yeast that normally lives on skin
    • Certain medical conditions and medicines
    • Cold, dry weather

    It doesn't come from an allergy or being unclean.

    Newborns and adults aged 30-60 are more likely to get seborrheic dermatitis. It's more common in men than women and in people with oily skin. These medical conditions can also raise your risk:

    Symptoms

    Dandruff and cradle cap are common names for seborrheic dermatitis. Babies 3 months and younger often get cradle cap: crusty yellow or brown scales on their scalp. It usually goes away before they're a year old, although it can come back when they reach puberty.

    You might get seborrheic dermatitis on your face, especially around your nose, on your eyelids, or behind your ears. It can show up on your body, too:

    • In the middle part of the chest
    • Around the navel
    • On buttocks
    • In skin folds under arms and on legs
    • In the groin
    • Below breasts

    On babies, seborrheic dermatitis might be mistaken for diaper rash.

    Skin can itch, burn, or look red. The scales that flake off could be white or yellowish and look moist or oily.

    Because it can look like other skin conditions, you should see your family doctor to get a diagnosis and the right treatment. The dermatologist will ask about your medical history and look at your skin. You may need other tests if the doctor thinks it's related to another medical condition.

    Treatment

    Sometimes, seborrheic dermatitis will clear up by itself. More often, it's a lifelong issue that clears and flares. It can last for years at a time, but you can usually control it with good skin care.

    Today on WebMD

    chafing
    Pictures and symptoms of the red, scaly rash.
    woman with dyed dark hair
    What it says about your health.
     
    woman with cleaning products
    Top causes of the itch that rashes.
    atopic dermatitus
    Identify and treat common skin problems.
     
    itchy skin
    Article
    shingles rash on skin
    Article
     
    woman with skin tag
    Quiz
    Woman washing face
    Video
     
    woman washing her hair in sink
    Video
    close up of womans bare neck
    Tools
     
    Feet
    Slideshow
    woman with face cream
    Quiz