Skip to content

Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Font Size
A
A
A

Dandruff. Cradle cap. That red, itchy rash with 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 will also raise your risk:

  • Acne
  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart attack or stroke recovery
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea

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 a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin problems) 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 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
 

Itching for Relief?

Get Help With the

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman washing her hair in sink
Video
close up of womans bare neck
Tools
 
Feet
Slideshow
woman with face cream
Quiz