What Is Seborrheic Eczema?
Seborrheic eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that causes redness, scaly patches, and
dandruff. It most often affects the scalp, but it can also develop in oily
areas of the body, such as the face, upper chest, and back. When infants
develop this condition, it’s known as crib cap. It typically
develops within the first few weeks of life and gradually disappears over
several weeks or months.
The exact cause of seborrheic eczema isn’t known. However,
doctors believe there are two main factors that can contribute to the
development of the condition. The first factor is an overproduction of oil. An
excess amount of oil in the skin might act as an irritant, causing the skin to
become red and greasy. The second contributing factor is Malassezia, which is a type of fungus that’s naturally found in the
skin’s oils. It can sometimes grow abnormally, causing the skin to secrete more
oil than usual. The increased production of oil can lead to seborrheic eczema.
The condition might also develop in infants due to hormonal
changes that occur in the mother during pregnancy. The fluctuating hormone
levels are believed to stimulate the infant's oil glands, leading to an
overproduction of oil that may irritate the skin.
Seborrheic eczema is a long-term skin condition that requires
ongoing treatment. However, developing a good skin care routine and learning to
recognize and eliminate triggers can help you manage the condition effectively.
Are the Symptoms of Seborrheic Eczema?
The symptoms of seborrheic eczema are often aggravated by various
factors, including stress, change of seasons, and heavy alcohol use. The types
of symptoms that develop can vary from person-to-person. It’s also possible for
symptoms to occur in different parts of the body.
Seborrheic eczema tends to develop in oily areas of the body. It
most often affects the scalp, but it can also occur in the following areas:
- in and around the ears
- on the eyebrows
- on the nose
- on the back
- on the upper portion of the chest
Seborrheic eczema has a distinct appearance and set of symptoms:
- Skin develops scaly patches that flake off. The
patches may be white or yellowish in color. This problem is commonly known
as dandruff. It can occur
in the scalp, hair, eyebrows, or beard.
- Skin in the affected area tends to be greasy and
- Skin in the affected area may be red.
- Skin in the affected area may be itchy.
- Hair loss may occur in the affected area.
Is at Risk for Seborrheic Eczema?
Doctors aren’t exactly sure why some people develop seborrheic eczema
while others don’t. However, it does appear that your risk of developing the
condition increases if a close family member has it.
Other factors thought to increase risk include:
- poor skin care
- environmental factors, such as pollution
- the presence of other skin issues, such as acne
- the use of certain skin care products,
particularly those containing alcohol
- certain medical conditions, such as a stroke,
HIV, or Parkinson’s disease
Is Seborrheic Eczema Diagnosed?
The symptoms of seborrheic eczema are similar to those of other
skin conditions, including rosacea and psoriasis. To make an
accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical examination and
carefully inspect the affected areas. They’ll also ask you about your symptoms,
including when they started and how often you experience them.
Your doctor may also want to perform a biopsy before making a
diagnosis. During this procedure, your doctor will scrape off skin cells from
the affected area. These samples will then be sent to a laboratory for
analysis. The results will help to rule out other conditions that may be
causing your symptoms.
Can You Treat Seborrheic Eczema at Home?
Your doctor will likely recommend that you try home remedies
before considering medical treatments. Dandruff shampoos are frequently used to
treat seborrheic eczema on the scalp. They usually need to be used every day
for optimal results. Make sure to follow all instructions on the bottle carefully.
Other home treatments that may help you manage seborrheic eczema
- using over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal and
- using hypoallergenic soap and detergent
- thoroughly rinsing soap and shampoo off the skin
- shaving off a mustache or beard
- wearing loose cotton clothing to avoid skin
Is Seborrheic Eczema Treated?
If your symptoms don’t improve with the home remedies listed,
talk to your doctor about trying the following treatments:
shampoos and ointments for seborrheic eczema contain hydrocortisone,
fluocinolone, or desonide. These medications can be applied directly to the
affected area. While these medicines are very effective in treating seborrheic
eczema, they may cause side effects when they’re used for an extended period.
- In some
cases, an antifungal medication called terbinafine
might be prescribed. However, this drug usually isn’t recommended since it can
cause serious side effects, including allergic reactions and liver problems.
is another type of treatment that can relieve symptoms by fighting bacteria. It
comes in both cream and gel forms. The medication can be applied to the skin
once or twice daily until symptoms improve.
doctor can use a combination of psoralen and light therapy to
help manage your seborrheic eczema symptoms. Psoralen may be taken by mouth or
applied directly onto the skin. After psoralen has been ingested or applied,
the affected skin area is exposed to
ultraviolet light for a short period.
Crib cap usually doesn't require medical treatment. It often goes
away without medical treatment within six months. In the meantime, you can try
the following daily routine to help manage your child’s symptoms:
- Loosen scaly patches by massaging your baby’s
scalp or using a soft-bristled brush.
- Wash your baby’s hair with a mild shampoo.
- Rinse the hair and scalp thoroughly.
- Brush your baby’s hair with a clean,
If it’s difficult to loosen and wash off scales, massage your
baby’s scalp with olive oil before shampooing.
Make sure to check with your child’s doctor before using any OTC
cortisone or antifungal creams. Some can be toxic for infants when they’re
absorbed through the skin. Dandruff shampoos that contain salicylic acid aren’t
usually recommended for infants either.
Should You See Your Doctor?
Not all cases of seborrheic eczema can be managed solely through
the use of OTC dandruff shampoos. Oral medications, prescription shampoos, and
medicinal creams or gels for the scalp and other areas of the body can be used
for severe symptoms and more serious cases.
In general, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor
- you aren’t getting relief from a regular
- you have areas that are extremely red
- you have areas that are very painful
- you have areas that are producing pus, draining
fluid, or crusting
- you’re experiencing significant discomfort and
believe medical intervention may be needed
You should also contact your child’s doctor if crib cap symptoms
are severe or persist. They may recommend certain medicated shampoos or
Is the Outlook for People with Seborrheic Eczema?
Seborrheic eczema is a long-term condition, so you’ll need to
cope with it on some level for the rest of your life. You may go through
extended periods where there are little to no symptoms. You will also likely
experience flare-ups, which are episodes when symptoms become more severe.
Over time, you can find a skin care routine that works for you
and that minimizes the impact of the condition. Learning to recognize and
eliminate triggers can also help you manage seborrheic eczema effectively. The
condition doesn’t lead to any serious medical conditions or other
Crib cap usually goes away without treatment within six months.