Seborrheic Dermatitis: Dandruff & More!

Justin Creel, MD, FAAD

One of the most common conditions we come across both in clinic and throughout the community is seborrheic dermatitis, with inflammation of oily skin. Its most recognizable feature is likely dandruff or seborrhea which is yellowish scale. Symptoms primarily feature the scalp, ears, and/or central face but may also involve the beard, neck, and central chest (think “hair-bearing areas”). Further, another “seb derm” variant includes cradle cap seen in newborn babies.



The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not completely clear, but it is suspected to involve an inflammatory reaction to a yeast naturally present on the skin. The yeast is believed to feed off our body’s natural oils, which explains the areas of involvement and other corresponding features. For instance, symptoms may come and go, and may be worse during particular seasons (eg, during cold weather); flares can also occur during periods of stress, hormonal changes, or illness; finally, severe involvement can be seen in those with certain neurologic conditions, such as Parkinson’s - all of these features can be explained by fluctuations or changes in oil-gland activity.

It should be noted that seborrheic dermatitis is NOT related to diet and is NOT considered contagious (though it does commonly run in families).  Symptoms may appear at any age, either gradually or suddenly, and may last for many years or even disappear by itself. Often, symptoms may periodically worsen or improve without any apparent reason.



This skin condition is considered treatable but not curable. With proper treatment, one can expect considerable improvement or even temporary resolution. Treatment strategies involve removal of your skin’s yeast and reducing its inflammatory response. Speak with your dermatologist about the numerous available options to determine the ideal treatment plan for you.


For more information or to schedule your appointment, please call our office at 225.654.1124!