Seborrheic Dermatitis - Western SummaryWestern Medicine Summary

Western Medicine

Western Summary

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common rash that affects people of all ages. It leads to flaking and scaling on many parts of the body and is thought to be associated with the overgrowth of naturally occurring fungi on the skin. 


Seborrheic dermatitis is a red, scaly rash that typically appears on the hair-bearing areas of the face, around the nose and mouth, scalp, behind the ears, and on the chest. Less commonly affected are the armpits and the neck. In some cases, the scale associated with seborrheic dermatitis is described as “greasy-looking" with a yellowish tinge. Seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp causes flaking and is also known as dandruff.


It has been proposed that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the Malassezia family. A yeast overgrowth differs from an infection in that it normally and naturally occurs on the skin. This overgrowth can lead to the buildup of certain skin oils that can potentially trigger inflammation.  


Typical therapies typically include creams, lotions, and washes that fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Antifungal creams which reduce the levels of Malassezia on the skin, and antifungal shampoos which help with dandruff on the skin or scalp
  • Sulfide- and sulfur-based creams can have anti-inflammatory effects
  • Zinc-based ingredients, such as pyrithione zinc, in shampoos for reducing flaking
  • Topical steroids may be prescribed by a physician to help control inflammation

This is not an exhaustive list of treatments; seborrheic dermatitis can be chronic and intermittently recurrent for some individuals, requiring multiple or prolonged treatments.