Treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis

There is no known cure for seborrheic dermatitis; treatment, therefore, is directed toward symptom management and controlling the frequency of eruptions.

For infants with cradle cap, warm olive oil applied to the scalp and gently rubbed in will loosen the scales, and mild corticosteroid preparations can minimize inflammation. Shampoos with zinc or ketoconazole also can help.

It is recommended that affected adults shampoo daily with an anti-dandruff shampoo, using zinc, tar, ketoconazole, or salicylic acid shampoos. Antifungal creams offer a good nonsteroidal approach.

For inflamed areas, mild hydrocortisone creams (0.5 to 1.0 percent), available over the counter, can be added. Corticosteroid creams can be used temporarily in the ears as well. Long-term use of these products is discouraged, however, because they cause side effects, such as breaking out in acne-like lesions and thinning of the skin. Also, the skin becomes accustomed to the steroid and an intense flare may occur when the medication is stopped.

Aloe vera gel can be as effective as a mild cortisone cream, without the potential side effects.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Prevention

Frequent shampooing, bathing, and regular use of antifungal creams can minimize the intensity and frequency of future flare-ups. Frequency and intensity of flares also can be minimized by nutritional supplements of essential fatty acids as well as MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2000

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015