Seborrheic Dermatitis



The exact cause is not known. Common skin yeast organisms or genetics may play a role.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in men. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • A weak immune system due to things like HIV infection or a recent organ transplant
  • Chronic health problems, such as hepatitis C
  • Genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome
  • Deficiency of the mineral zinc
  • Stress



Problems may be mild to severe. Symptoms may also come and go over time.

The skin may have:

  • Patchy scales that may look greasy or moist
  • Yellow to white scales that flake off
  • Redness
  • Itching and burning
  • Small pimples on the nose, eyebrows, chest, back, arm pits, or genitals

Newborns may have a thick, yellow, crusted scalp rash. This is known as cradle cap.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the rash. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. The person may be referred to a doctor who treats skin problems.



There is no cure for this condition. The rash may get better on its own in children. Baby shampoo, mineral oil, and anti-fungal shampoos can help.

In others, the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Options are:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter shampoos
  • Prescription or over-the-counter creams or lotions that contain:
    • Hydrocortisone or other cortisone (steroid) preparations
    • Antifungal medicines
    • Antibiotic medicine
    • Pimecrolimus or tacrolimus
    • Lithium salt


There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.