Have you ever suffered from itching and flaking of your scalp that simply won’t go away? Perhaps you’ve found these same flaky, oily patches elsewhere on your body, such as in your armpits or groin area, behind your ears or across your eyebrows? 

If so, you may be suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis.

What do you need to know about this skin condition to stop it in its tracks and prevent it from coming back?

What Is Seborrhoeic Dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis (or seborrhoeic eczema) is a skin condition that results from an excess of Malassezia yeast on the body. It’s characterized by inflamed skin that becomes itchy and sensitive with flaky scales, most commonly appearing on the scalp, upper back, and nose area. This condition tends to cause redness in lighter-skinned people or light patchy marks on darker skin. 

Malassezia yeasts are found on all humans’ skin surfaces, making up part of our natural microflora. However, these fungi are also considered to be “opportunistic pathogens”; they can colonize areas with high concentrations of sebaceous glands given the right conditions. Malassezia yeasts are responsible for several skin conditions, including pityriasis versicolor, folliculitis, dandruff, and of course, seborrhoeic dermatitis.

Interestingly, seborrhoeic dermatitis, while most commonly caused by Malassezia yeast, can also result from acute stress, a genetic predisposition, or even an immune response to a certain trigger. Additionally, it can also look like other skin disorders, so it’s important to get the right diagnosis.

Who Is Most Likely to Suffer From Seborrhoeic Dermatitis?

While everyone has the capacity to suffer from seborrhoeic dermatitis, some people are more susceptible than others. Adult men between the ages of 30 and 60 are statistically more likely to suffer from this condition than women. However, trichologists at the Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic see an equal spread across male and female patients and have observed first occurrences of the condition commonly being triggered by high periods of stress during exams, moves to university and new job starts as a few examples.

Other common factors that tend to make people more sensitive to seborrhoeic dermatitis than others. These include:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions such as HIV, Parkinson’s disease, or psoriasis
  • Lifestyle factors such as alcoholism or eating disorders
  • Ongoing depression or stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Recovery from a heart attack or a stroke
  • The frequent use of cleaning products or soaps with strong chemicals
  • Certain medications

As noted, this disorder can look like other skin issues so it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with before treating the problem. 

What Treatments Are Available?

If you are one of the many people that are prone to seborrhoeic dermatitis, you may experience a pattern of flare-ups and clearing over the years. As we’ve seen, your body responds to triggers such as stress or illness in various ways, resulting in a weakened immune response to the pathogens causing your dermatitis. 

Nevertheless, following a careful and thorough skin and scalp care routine is the first step toward controlling seborrhoeic dermatitis. The right scalp and hair care products suggested by a qualified trichologist are the best way to manage inflammation, remove the scaly build-up on the scalp and control the symptoms ongoing, whilst the triggers are identified and managed.

Whilst corticosteroids and anti-fungal shampoos are often reached for, the Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic has developed a treatment plan that is not only effective at controlling this flaking and itching condition, but is also at caring for the hair, whilst avoiding, steroids, antibiotics or harsh shampoos.

Remember though, that seborrhoeic dermatitis is not caused by poor hygiene, although it is best rectified and prevented by a good cleansing routine with the right products to allow the skin barrier to heal properly.

Certain ingredients can assist in this arena such as:

Coal Tar and Cade Oil

Coal tar and Cade Oil are classified as a keratoplastic which works by shedding dead skin cells and slowing down the growth of new skin cells. It reduces dryness and scaling and it can relieve itchiness associated with dermatitis. 


Cetrimide is an antiseptic ingredient that helps to effectively cleanse the surface of the skin to ensure the skin barrier can heal and recover without further impact from infection.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid works as a peeling agent to break down and shed dead skin cells which makes it effective for treating dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis. Found naturally in the bark of willow trees, this acid helps to exfoliate the outer layer of skin and break down the waxy sebum that produces flaky, itchy skin. It also has mild antibacterial and anti-fungal properties

Selenium Sulfide

Selenium sulfide is an anti-infective agent that works to relieve itching and flaking of the scalp. When applied in a shampoo, it helps to remove scaly skin and as an anti-fungal agent, it also helps to prevent the growth.

Zinc Pyrithione

Zinc pyrithione has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties which makes it an excellent treatment for inhibiting the growth of yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Remember, it’s never a smart move to leave a skin disorder and hope that it gets better on its own. In some cases, seborrhoeic dermatitis can clear up by itself. However, it can also worsen and become painful, swollen, and start to secrete pus. 

Seeking Treatment

As qualified trichologists, we are acutely aware of the variety of disorders that can cause problems with your scalp and hair. This is our key area of focus so we know exactly what we are looking for, and can offer a quick, accurate diagnosis. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with seborrhoeic dermatitis, or you recognise these symptoms mentioned above, please feel free to contact us. We assist both men and women in our clinic and specialise in delicate Afro hair and we’d love to help you.

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