Seborrheic Dermatitis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Seborrheic eczema

Among the numerous skin diseases, seborrheic eczema or seborrheic dermatitis is relatively common. Around 3 percent of the total population suffers from this skin inflammation. In babies and small children, this disease is also known as head gneiss .

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic eczema is a skin rash . It primarily affects the face and scalp. This usually leads to a yellowish and greasy scale formation . The skin under the scales is red.

Seborrheic dermatitis is commonly seen in newborns. According to this, seborrheic eczema usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. Men are affected more frequently than women. These often develop seborrheic eczema after menopause .

Other areas of the skin on the chin, eyebrows, and nose can also be affected. In particularly severe cases, seborrheic eczema was diagnosed on the back, along the spine. Seborrheic eczema also spreads to the breastbone or ears.


The origin of seborrheic eczema has not yet been fully researched. It is estimated that over 50 percent of the world’s population has a genetic predisposition to seborrheic dermatitis.However, it does not have to break out automatically. The immune or nervous system often plays an important role. The high number of Parkinson ‘s disease or AIDS patients suffering from seborrheic eczema is striking. Almost 80 percent of AIDS patients are affected by this disease. Other causes for the outbreak of seborrheic eczema can be psychological stress and heavy sweating .

The use of high-fat skin care products also promotes the occurrence of seborrheic eczema. Metabolic disorders can also play a role. Special mention should be made of the yeast “Malassezia furfur”. It belongs to the human skin flora. However, if its cells divide excessively, the development of seborrheic eczema can be promoted.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Seborrheic eczema is a scaly skin rash . This chronic inflammatory skin disease mainly occurs on the scalp. The disease should not be confused with conventional dandruff. These are dry, rather small and white. The scales typical of seborrheic eczema are larger, yellowish and mostly sticky.

Even infants can be affected by seborrheic eczema. Hence the name “head gneiss”. Men between the ages of 30 and 40 complain most frequently about the disease. The skin disease is also known as a side effect of Parkinson ‘s disease and AIDS . Clear symptoms are reddened areas of skin and yellowish scales on them.

There are sometimes massive foci of inflammation, which are aggravated by frequent scratching. Many patients experience increased dandruff formation. Seborrheic eczema can also spread to several skin areas. Itching rarely occurs. Those affected also do not feel any pain in the affected areas.

In addition to the scalp, the face can also be affected. Inflammation of the eyelids also occurs. The damaged areas of skin are an entry point for fungi and bacteria. In some cases, those affected also complain of hair loss . However, there is no direct connection to seborrheic dermatitis.

Diagnosis & History

Seborrheic dermatitis is relatively easy to diagnose. The skin doctor ( dermatologist ) often recognizes this disease at first glance. The characteristic, yellowish skin scales and the affected areas allow a fairly quick diagnosis in most cases.

However, reddening of the skin is often caused by allergies . For this purpose, the patient is subjected to an allergy test. This makes it clear relatively quickly whether an allergy or seborrheic eczema is the reason for the reddening of the skin. To rule out another skin disease, the dermatologist takes a skin sample from the patient under local anesthesia. The skin scales are examined under a microscope. Since seborrheic eczema is a chronic skin condition, it cannot be completely cured.

The course of seborrheic eczema is mostly dependent on the seasons. Patients get sick more often in winter than in the summer months. The increased UV radiation in summer inhibits the cell division of the yeast “Malassezia furfur”. As a result, seborrheic eczema occurs less frequently in summer.


When infested in infancy, seborrheic eczema often causes further fungal or bacterial infections of the affected skin areas. Such a superinfection can also occur in adults. In addition, the skin disease in infants can lead to severe fever with vomiting and diarrhea , often accompanied by dehydration, deficiency symptoms and severe circulatory problems.In adults, sebboriheic eczema can quickly develop into a chronic condition. This occurs in phases and often causes lifelong complaints – always in phases and therefore often very stressful for those affected. If the weakened skin is injured, inflammation and bleeding occur. Mentioned superinfections are among the most serious complications of the skin disease.

Adverse events can also occur during treatment. The ointments, lotions or shampoos used can, for example, trigger allergic reactions or cause side effects and interactions. Typically used drugs such as itraconazole and terbinafine often cause gastrointestinal symptoms, skin rashes and upper respiratory tract infections.

Visual disturbances , ringing in the ears or hair loss can occur very rarely . Complications such as serum sickness or cardiac insufficiency are also conceivable after taking the appropriate preparations.

When should you go to the doctor?

This disease should always be treated by a doctor. It cannot heal on its own, so the affected person is dependent on treatment by a doctor. Only early and correct treatment of this disease can prevent further complications and symptoms. Therefore, at the first sign of this disease, a doctor should be consulted. A doctor should be consulted if the person affected suffers from a severe skin rash. This spreads over the entire body and significantly reduces the affected person’s sense of feeling.

Scales can also form, which can also cover the entire skin, and itching can also indicate the disease. In some cases, hair loss also indicated this disease and should be examined by a doctor. In the first place, a general practitioner or a dermatologist can be consulted for this disease . This then usually carries out the treatment. Since the disease can also lead to mental upsets or depression, a psychologist should also be consulted in these cases to treat them.

Treatment & Therapy

Seborrheic eczema is treated during an acute attack and the period between two illnesses. In the case of an acute flare-up, the patient receives an antimyotic from the doctor. It can be included in creams or shampoos. Here, hair shampoos with the active ingredients salicylic acid and selenium disulfide have proven their worth.

Creams with urea are also a means of choice. If the symptoms are severe, the patient is given antimyotics in tablet form. In the case of acute symptoms, so-called phototherapy is also used. The patient is injected with a drug. After a few hours, the light treatment takes place. The cells of seborrheic eczema are irradiated for a few minutes. The cells are then destroyed together with the previously injected drug. Treatment between diseases should be applied consistently.

The care products already described should be used regularly. Since psychological factors also promote the occurrence of seborrheic eczema, relaxation exercises or autogenic training can help . In the case of seborrheic eczema, washing the affected areas of skin with a saline solution has also proven effective. A gentle peeling of the skin flakes with a washcloth can also help with seborrheic eczema.


Regular care and sufficient UV radiation are preventive measures. Rest and stress reduction also inhibit the onset of seborrheic eczema. In this way, the disease can be effectively prevented.

Medical follow-up is rarely necessary for seborrheic dermatitis. Babies and small children, for example, can be expected to heal without consequences, so that further measures are not necessary.


For all other affected persons, aftercare is based on any consequential damage and the level of suffering due to seborrheic eczema. In excessive cases, severe scratching can result in wounds and ultimately infections. Individual areas of skin that are heavily infected with bacteria are possible and require intensive wound care even after treatment of seborrheic eczema.

A distinction must be made here as to whether antibiotics are necessary or not. In this context, aftercare also includes stopping scratching. The itching caused by self-oozing sores from scratching is sometimes indistinguishable from eczema.

Otherwise, correct treatment of the skin is the best aftercare. Factors that could lead to a recurrence of seborrheic dermatitis should be minimized. These are probably mainly certain skin fungi whose growth is hindered by UV radiation and dryness. Avoiding greasy creams and soaps on the skin can better maintain the protective acid layer and promote healing.

You can do that yourself

In addition to the itching, seborrheic eczema also causes inconveniences in everyday life due to the visual conspicuousness. However, patients should definitely resist the sometimes severe itching, since touching the diseased areas of skin or even scratching is in no way conducive to healing. The shampoos or ointments prescribed by the doctor must be used. Without such medicinal agents, seborrheic dermatitis in adults is difficult to heal.

If the diseased areas on the scalp are noticeable as a cosmetic blemish, changing the hairstyle can possibly partially or completely conceal the seborrheic eczema. Because the majority of those affected not only suffer from the physical symptoms, but also from shame in view of the eczema. If seborrheic eczema affects the skin behind the head, long clothing can mask the condition and thereby reduce embarrassment. At best, patients choose loose clothing that does not additionally irritate the skin. The clothing should be made of natural materials or other skin-friendly fibers and should not emit any irritating dyes.

Extreme caution is also required when shaving diseased skin areas in order not to injure the seborrheic eczema and not to infect other parts of the body. Finally, seborrheic eczema requires patience and long-term use of medicinal ointments.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.