Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea) is probably the single most common of all the rashes that affect adults. The disease tends to occur on your scalp, external ears, brows, eyelids, portions of your cheeks (nasal-labial crease), the middle of your chest, and the middle of your back, causing a scaling and flaking red rash. There is no treatment that provides a reliable cure, but on the other hand, the condition can improve spontaneously and disappear only to return at a later date.

Shampoos and over-the-counter products

When the rash affects your scalp, the use of nonprescription shampoos containing tar, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or zinc pyrithione are frequently sufficient to control most of your symptoms. Resistant scalp seborrhea or involvement of hairless skin is frequently treated with anti-inflammatory creams containing weak topical steroids like 1% hydrocortisone cream (available over the counter). Ketoconazole cream, a prescription medication, is also effective in controlling symptoms and signs. Stubborn cases may require more potent topical steroids. After the rash is controlled, then the frequency of use should be gradually tapered. Daily shampooing often minimizes recurrences.

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Medically reviewed by Norman Levine, MD; American Board of Dermatology


Dessinioti, C., and A. Katsambas. "Seborrheic Dermatitis: Etiology, Risk Factors, and Treatments: Facts and Controversies." Clin Dermatol 31.4 July-Aug. 2013: 343-351.