Seborrhea Dermatitis and Itchy, Oily Scalp: Shampoo and Dandruff Treatment

Updated on May 23, 2018
john000 profile image

John was a Navy hospital corpsman. He worked the general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.

An example of cradle cap, also known as infantile or neonatal seborrheic dermatitis.
An example of cradle cap, also known as infantile or neonatal seborrheic dermatitis. | Source

What Is Seborrhea?

Seborrhea, or seborrheic dermatitis, is a fairly common skin condition, ranging in intensity from light, white dandruff to more serious dandruff with thick scales. It is characterized by excess sebum production and affects millions of people in the United States—men more often than women. Adults from 30-60 are most likely to develop this condition, although it can occur at any age. In babies, it is called "cradle cap." It is also referred to as seborrheic eczema (with a sack full of misspellings).

More specific names for this condition are given based on the affected body part. The names are "seborrhea" followed by the following suffixes:

  • Capitis (Cradle Cap): Located on scalp
  • Congestive: Cutaneous lupus erythematosus
  • Corporis: Located on the trunk (torso)
  • Facier: Located on the face
  • Nigra or Nigricans: Dark-colored seborrhea
  • Oliosa: Seborrhea with an oily content
  • Rosacea: Middle-age seborrhea that reappears
  • Sicca: Dry form of seborrhea with scales

Itchy, flaking, greasy, red, and inflamed skin commonly occurs on the face, at the corners of the nostrils.
Itchy, flaking, greasy, red, and inflamed skin commonly occurs on the face, at the corners of the nostrils. | Source

What Does Seborrheic Dermatitis Look Like?

The first sign of seborrhea is excess production of body oil, or sebum. The skin can become itchy, flaky, and sore. Flakes can range in size; some may get very thick and take multiple washings with a special shampoo to remove. Seborrheic patches can be white or yellow and can occur in various body parts, including the scalp, behind the ears, face, back, chest, armpits, and groin.

Photo of an acute case of seborrhoeic dermatitis on the scalp.
Photo of an acute case of seborrhoeic dermatitis on the scalp. | Source

What Is Causing My Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The reasons for seborrhea are not known for sure. There could be a hereditary factor. Most physicians believe the condition is also tied to hormonal activity. It has been observed in babies and seems to vanish when puberty starts.

A common yeast occurring on the skin called Malassezia is also thought to be responsible by feeding off the oil on the skin and metabolizing it to form oily scales, or plaque (various thicknesses depending on buildup of cells).

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment and Care

Dandruff and other symptoms seem to improve when washing the scalp frequently. Typical dandruff shampoos should stay on the scalp for at least 5 minutes; most dermatologists and shampoo containers instruct to leave the lather on for at least 10 minutes.

In more serious cases, preparations may be applied to patches to help loosen them. For example, mineral oil can be applied to help loosen plaque at night, especially in children. I can attest to the effectiveness of mineral oil because one of my children was treated this way. Without such preparations, scratching off areas of heavy scaling can lead to bleeding, and as mentioned in other eczema articles, this can lead to crusting, and/or infection.

Hair preparations containing alcohol (grooming products) most frequently increase the inflammation and should be avoided.

Acute form of seborrhoeic dermatitis on scalp
Acute form of seborrhoeic dermatitis on scalp | Source

Medications for Seborrhea

Hydrocortisone 1%, available over-the-counter, is referred to as a keystone drug in treatment of seborrhea dermatitis. As with many skin ailments, itching and inflammation can be helped using low-strength corticosteroids. These medicines help reduce the inflammatory response. However, stronger corticosteroids are not recommended due to serious side effects that can occur. Higher concentrations are generally prescribed for intense flares.

Other, lower strength corticosteroids may also be prescribed:

  • Ketoconazole (e.g. Nizoral)
  • Loprox (Ciclopirox)
  • Clobetasol propionate
  • Fluocinolone

If the physician believes an anti-fungal is required for a severe case, Lotrimin cream, also known as clotrimazole, can be used for flares. Appy twice a day for up to two weeks after the rash decreases in intensity. However, there are varying intensities of flare-ups. If there is no improvement, you should see a dermatologist. Prescription strength anti-fungals can only be written by a physician.

For a list of 76 medications for seborrheic dermatitis, see the Drugs.com page on seborrheic dermatitis treatment.

Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis

There are four fundamental types of shampoos for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp: coal tar shampoo, selenium sulfide shampoo, tea tree oil shampoo, and zinc pyrithione shampoo.

Some popular dandruff shampoos are:

  • Selsum: contains selenium sulfide (kills fungus and yeast)
  • Head & Shoulders: contains zinc pyrithione
  • Sebulon: contains zinc pyrithione
  • Sebutone: contains coal tar
  • Tegrin: contains coal tar
  • Nizoral: which contains ketoconazole (medication)

For treatment seborrhea on other parts of the body, daily washing with a mild cleanser containing 2% zinc pyrithione followed by a moisturizing lotion is recommended. Creams with salicylic acid and sulfur or coal tar can help to loosen scales on the body.

It should be noted that oily, sebum-rich areas of the body other than the scalp can be treated by using the shampoos as lotions. Most shampoo instructions call for daily use. When scales have gone away and inflammation has decreased, most shampoos direct the patient to use them 2-3 time per week. The patient can adjust the frequency of use based on their needs. For loosening scales, the patient can use oil-based preparations. Wearing a swim cap can keep the oil in place while sleeping at night.

Moisturizers, Lotions, and Creams for Seborrhea

Using moisturizing lotions or creams after washing have been recommended in many reviews to reduce flaking and irritation. The creams most commonly referred to are:

  • Aveeno
  • CeraVe
  • Cetaphil
  • Eucerin
  • Lubriderm

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, there are several positive notes about seborrheic dermatitis. A doctor or pharmacist can direct you to the most common medications, which can often be found over-the-counter. This also means the cost for treatment can be reasonable. Even though this can often be a long-lasting problem in adolescents and adults, these meds can control the symptoms well.

If symptoms do not get better with treatment, contact your doctor immediately because several other skin disorders can have similar symptoms, such as rosacea or psoriasis.

Sebhorrheic Dermatitis - Symptom Relief

Sources

Gary W. Cole, M.D., MedicineNet.com, Sebhorrheic Dermatitis, http://www.medicinenet.com/seborrheic_dermatitis/article.htm#seborrheic_dermatitis_facts

Staff, WebMD, What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?, 2005-2018, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/seborrheic-dermatitis-medref#1

National Eczema Association, 2002 - 2018, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/seborrheic-dermatitis/

List of Corticosteroids, 13 April 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_corticosteroids

Dr. Cynthia Bailey Skin Care, Dr. Cynthia Bailey, February 5, 2018, https://www.drbaileyskincare.com/info/blog/dr-cynthia-baileys-tips-for-facial-seborrheic-dermatitis-control

Drugs.com, Know More, Be Sure, 2000 - 2018, https://www.drugs.com/condition/seborrheic-dermatitis.html

Betty Ann Johnson, M.D, PH.D and Julia R. Nunley, May 1, 2000, treatment of Sebhorheic Dermatitis. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0501/p2703.html

Dr. Axe, Food is Medicine, 2018, 7 Natural treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis, https://draxe.com/seborrheic-dermatitis/

Dr. Ira Ruben, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, July 11, 2014, https://www.healthtap.com/user_questions/1399154-what-is-recommended-for-sensitive-skin-atopic-dermatitis-for-daily-use-after-work-outside-cream

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 John R Wilsdon

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • john000 profile image
        Author

        John R Wilsdon 6 years ago from Superior, Arizona

        GregFitz

        How great of you to share about Shielo Hydrate Shampoo. Your comment adds greatly to the hub's usefulness. Thanks a lot!

      • profile image

        GregFitz 6 years ago

        I have used multiple products for my dandruff problem (Neutrogena, Garnier, Head and Shoulders etc) and Shielo Hydrate Shampoo has been the most effective I have found, from the first wash there is great relief, and a few washes afterwards it effectively clears up all the dandruff.

        I usually apply it twice in each shower to clean the scalp thoroughly. It smells and feels great on the head.

      • daviddwarren22 profile image

        daviddwarren22 6 years ago

        Useful information.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healdove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://healdove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)