Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"Why do I have Seborrheic Dermatitis?"


I have been having a lot of trouble with my scalp and face, and was just finally diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis. What is causing it? I had been worried that it was something worse, but just want to know if this could be caused by a serious disease of some sort. I'm a middle aged woman.


Seborrheic dermatitis is an extremely common medical problem which is usually isolated and does not indicate in any way a serious underlying medical problem. The condition usually shows up as scaly,flaky areas of redness and irritation in parts of the skin that are rich in oil glands, especially the scalp, hairline, forehead, and around the nose. There are numerous individual factors that contribute to a flare of seborrheic dermatitis, including a person's particular skin sensitivity and stress level.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Dermatologists near you

Probably most flares of seborrheic dermatitis, however, are related to an allergic reaction to a type of yeast that normal lives on the skin called Malassezia. Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis includes good skin hygiene and use of a dandruff-type shampoo for areas in the scalp and hairline. Additionally, over the counter antifungal medications and steroid creams may be of benefit. If these medications do not work for you, then it is time to talk with your primary care doctor or your dermatologist. Prescription strengths of selenium sulfide (the active ingredient in most dandruff shampoos) are available, as are stronger antifungal and steroid creams. Occasionally, in very stubborn cases, your doctor may prescribe oral steroid medications, but this is usually not necessary.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.