How is seborrheic dermatitis treated?
Adult seborrheic dermatitis occasionally goes away without treatment. However, most people have it for years, during which it may flare up and clear, only to flare again. Treatment is usually needed to control it in most people. It’s important to watch for symptoms and start treating it as soon as symptoms first occur.
Regularly washing with a mild soap and water will often help the oily places on your skin that are itching and flaking. Using a dandruff shampoo regularly can also improve the condition. However, if you are so uncomfortable that it’s interfering with normal activities or you’re embarrassed by it, see your dermatologist. While treatment cannot cure seborrheic dermatitis, it can help loosen and remove the scales, reduce swelling and itching, and prevent a skin infection.
If over-the-counter shampoos and lotions aren’t helping, you may need a prescription treatment such as:
- Inflammation controlling shampoos, creams or ointments include prescription-strength hydrocortisone, fluocinolone, clobetasol, and desonide. While these corticosteroid preparations are effective, if they are used for many weeks or months without a break, they can cause thinning skin or lines on the skin.
- Creams or lotions with calcineurin inhibitors are also effective, and have fewer side effects. However, they are more expensive, and may be linked to cancer.
- Antifungal shampoos, gels and creams (ketoconazole and ciclopirox) may be prescribed to be used alternately.
- Antifungal oral medications may be prescribed if you’re not getting better. They are not the first choice for treatment because of drug interactions and other side effects.
Cradle cap on infants usually goes away without treatment within six months to a year. You can use a baby shampoo on the baby’s scalp daily, or gently brush it away with a washcloth or baby hairbrush. It will also go away if it’s on the baby’s skin.
These home-care methods can help keep it under control:
- Wash your scalp daily with dandruff shampoo until symptoms start to lessen. Then use it one to three times a week as long as you have symptoms. If your shampoo stops working effectively, alternate between two or more brands of dandruff shampoo. These shampoos may also be rubbed gently on the face, ears and chest if you’re having symptoms on your skin. Be sure to rinse it off completely.
- Mineral or olive oil, applied to the scalp, will soften the scales. Leave it on for at least an hour and then comb out loose scales and wash your hair and scalp.
- Shampoo beard and mustache daily until symptoms lessen. Shaving facial hair can also reduce symptoms.
- Try an antifungal cream with ketoconazole if corticosteroids don’t work.
- Don’t use hair styling products (especially those with alcohol) while treating seborrheic dermatitis.
- Wear cotton clothing to keep air circulating around your skin.
- If eyelids are affected, wash gently with baby shampoo and wipe away scales; rinse completely. Warm compresses may help.