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"What is seborrheic dermatitis?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat is seborrheic dermatitis?


What exactly is seborrheic dermatitis? I saw my dermatologist recently and she said I have seborrheic dermatitis, alongside a case of severe acne. I thought they were the same thing. How does one treat both of these conditions at the same time?


Seborrheic dermatitis is a very common benign skin condition. Just like acne it is an inflammatory skin condition, but it is unlike acne in many other ways. Seborrheic dermatitis causes white, flaky scales to form on oily areas of the face and scalp including the hairline, eyebrows, nose and in the ears among others places. Whereas acne is thought to be related to excess production of a substance called sebum and overgrowth of bacteria, seborrheic dermatitis is caused by excess oil production and overgrowth of yeast called malessizia. A number of factors are related to seborrheic dermatitis including stress, infrequent shampoos, acne or obesity among others all of which may also be associated with acne. Treatment for seborrheic dematitis depends on the location of the problem. For symptoms in and around the hair shampoos containing coal tar, selenium, or ketoconazole are available. For the face medicated lotions are available with the same ingredients. One medication (available over-the-counter), salicylic acid is available in shampoos and lotions and can treat both seborrheic dermatitis and acne. There are many facial cleansers on the market that are designed especially for acne, and the most common ones contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. However, these can frequently cause dry skin. You can try products such as Cetaphil, Eucerin, or Basis skin cleansers which are designed to be much more gentle on skin. These products can help reduce irritation and inflammation and consequently help to prevent formation of clogged pores. In addition to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, topical retinoids like adapalene or tretinoin and topical antibiotics like clindamycin or erythromycin are frequently used as first line choices as prescribed by physicians, though these do not treat seborrheic dermatitis. A primary care physician or a dermatologist can discuss the best ways to help improve your skin and help you find products that are right for you.

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