Seborrheic Dermatitis

With seborrheic dermatitis, flaky scales form in oily areas of the body, such as the scalp, face, and inside the ears. This chronic form of eczema is most common in infants and adults between 30 and 60 years of age.

The specialists at the Center for Excellence in Eczema at the Mount Sinai Health System have extensive experience diagnosing and treating this common form of eczema.

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

This condition is likely caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast (a substance normally found in the skin) that triggers inflammation, causing changes in the skin. In infants, the condition is often called “cradle cap” and typically resolves on its own. In adults, the condition can improve without treatment or worsen over a period of years.

Some underlying conditions can raise your risk for seborrheic dermatitis, such as HIV, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, eating disorders, and alcoholism. Triggers of the condition range from stress and hormonal changes to the use of certain detergents or medications.   

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis vary by age, and may include the following:

Infant symptoms: These include patches of greasy scales on the scalp or sometimes in the diaper area.

Teenaged and Adult Symptoms: Redness and scales can form on the scalp, as well as the eyebrows, sides of the nose, upper back, chest, groin, and armpits.

Treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Mount Sinai’s eczema specialists have extensive experience in treating seborrheic dermatitis, with the goal of alleviating itch and inflammation and eliminating the scaling this condition causes.

In infants, treatment typically involves loosening scales through the use of petroleum jelly or mineral oil.

In adults, treatment may involve ongoing skin care that includes cleanser and moisturizer regimens, as well as reducing stress and improving sleep. Some cases may require a medicated shampoo or antifungal cream. A more serious case may require the use of a corticosteroid applied topically.