Seborrheic Dermatitis

Also known as: cradle cap, seborrheic eczema, seborrheic psoriasis, dandruff.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin (a type of eczema) that comes and goes and causes a greasy, white, crusty, scaly red rash that usually affects the scalp (but can affect eyebrows, eyelids, behind the ears and forehead and other parts of the body).

It is mostly not painful.

When it occurs in babies, it is known as cradle cap (in mild form it’s called dandruff).

What causes seborrheic dermatitis?

The exact cause is unknown however it may be related to genetic factors, hormonal changes, or a fungal yeast overgrowth in oily skin. Dry air in the winter or early spring, stress, oily skin, obesity and other factors tends to exacerbate seborrheic dermatitis and cause it to occur more frequently.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is characterized by red skin, as well as patches of yellow scaly skin that can be greasy and flake off in the form of dandruff. These commonly affect the scalp but can also involve the chest, face, armpits or scrotum. It may be painless, or itchy or sting and may come and go.

What are seborrheic dermatitis care options?

Cradle cap in infants requires shampooing the scalp daily or a prescribed medicated shampoo.

In older infants and children over-the-counter shampoos, creams or ointments that contain one of coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione or ketoconazole can help to manage the symptoms. Other treatments are available and your pediatric dermatologist will discuss these with you if required.

In some children the disorder will clear by itself though it may wax and wane over time.


Reviewed by: Jose R. Rosa-Olivares, M.D.

This page was last updated on: August 16, 2021 10:50 AM

Children's Dermatology

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