Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (Dandruff Eczema)

Medically reviewed by The Dermatologists and written by Dr. Alexander Börve

Very Common 

  • Requires medical diagnosis
  • Symptoms: Scaly scalp, rashes
  • Color: Typically orange-pink, red
  • Location: On the scalp, eyebrows and the diaper area
  • Treatment: Anti-yeast shampoo, salicylic acid, mild steroid solution
ICD-10: L21.9 ICD-9: 690.10  

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can be formed on the scalp and anywhere on the body that as a lot of sebaceous glands (oil glands), including the sternum, armpits and groin. It also causes dandruff and itching.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis often occurs in adolescence or adulthood, but even small children can get seborrhoeic dermatitis on the scalp, eyebrows and the diaper area. Oily skin and increased incidence of the common skin yeast (Malassezia furfur) are the main aggravating factors. Another reason may be hypersensitivity to mushrooms.

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The affected area is marked by red and scaly scalp, present as an orange-pink rash affecting the hair line, eyebrows, sides of nose, and behind the ears. The rash may be itchy. Small children can get dandruff, eczema of the scalp, eyebrows, and in the diaper area. The rash is known as cradle cap, which looks like fat, slightly yellowish scales that resemble seborrhoeic dermatitis.


What can I do?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis usually heals on its own. The symptoms can be alleviated if you air the affected area and expose your skin in the sun. It may be helpful to avoid stress, as it can make the dermatitis worse.

If you have severe symptoms, you can try to treat it with drugs. For the scalp, you can use a an antifungal prescription shampoo. In other parts of the body, you can use non-prescription cream containing both an antifungal agent and corticosteroid.

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Should I seek medical care?

If you have severe symptoms or it happens on a small child, you should seek medical advice from your healthcare provider.



Anti-yeast shampoo such as Ketoconazole shampoo, sometimes combined with salicylic acid (for heavy scaling) and mild steroid solution for the scalp, can reduce redness and itching. Diprosalic scalp application (steroid and salicylic acid combination) or mild steroid and imidazole may be used for the face.


British Association of Dermatologists. Seborrhoeic Dermatitis. Available at:

American Academy of Family Physicians. Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis. Available at:

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