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  5. Seborrheic Dermatitis On Scalp: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments
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Have you noticed any red, itchy, and scaly rashes on your scalp? If yes, there are high chances that you may have seborrheic dermatitis.

Not just on the scalp, you can see symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis even on other oily areas of your body, such as the face, upper chest and back.

In order to treat seborrheic dermatitis, it’s important to know what causes it, and the right ways to control it. Read on to find out all the details.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

"If ignored or not treated promptly, the patches from seborrheic dermatitis may grow larger, causing uncontrollable itching. As you pick or scratch at the affected areas, the infection spreads to the internal layers of your scalp skin, eventually resulting in severe hair loss.’’

Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

dysfunction of the sebaceous glands

Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrheic eczema or seborrheic psoriasis, is a kind of dandruff [1]. It is an inflammatory skin condition that appears in the form of scaly and red patches in areas where a large number of sebaceous glands [2] are present. This could include areas such as the scalp, face, upper body, etc.

Though it is not contagious, seborrheic dermatitis is often the result of an autoimmune reaction or an allergy. It is considered chronic.

The scalp, face, and chest are the most common sites on the body where seborrheic dermatitis can develop. According to a study, Seborrheic Dermatitis, the condition affects about 5% of the world’s population. India records more than 10 million cases of seborrheic dermatitis every year.

Who Gets Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Newborn infants younger than 3 months and adults between 30 to 60 years of age are more likely to contract seborrheic dermatitis.

It is often common in people with a dominance of Kapha dosha, oily skin or an oily scalp. Also, men are more prone to suffer from seborrheic dermatitis when compared to women.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

causes seborrhea skin hair dandruff seborrheic

One or more of the factors mentioned below can contribute to the development and aggravation of seborrheic dermatitis.

1. Auto-immune system response [3]

2. Yeast (fungus) called Malassezia [4] that feeds on the sebum or oil secretion on your skin

3. Skin mites such as Demodex brevis and Demodex folliculorum, which feed on excessive sebum secretion, can trigger your body’s immune response.

4. Stress

5. Cold and dry weather

6. Genetics

7. Certain medical conditions and drugs.

A study, The potential impact of routine testing of individuals with HIV indicator diseases in order to prevent late HIV diagnosis, reported that 35% of patients with early HIV had seborrheic dermatitis and the condition was more prevalent (85%) in those diagnosed with AIDS.

8. Excess sun exposure

9. A disrupted epidermal barrier

10. According to Ayurvedic experts, the lack of application of oil to your head (Kesha taila), sleeping during the day, hot and humid weather, and improper hair wash may increase the chances of having Darunaka or Seborrheic dermatitis. [5]

What Are The Symptoms Of Seborrheic Dermatitis?


1. Severe dandruff on your scalp, eyebrows, mustache, or beard.

2. Greasy skin patches containing flaky yellow or white scales in the oily areas of the body such as:

  • Along the hairline and on the scalp
  • Sides of the nose
  • Eyelids
  • Between the eyebrows
  • Ears
  • On the cheeks, above and around the mouth.
  • On the chest, under the breastbone.
  • Armpits
  • In the groin areas

3. Severe itching on the scalp and other affected areas

4. Red patches (on light-colored skin), light patches (on dark-toned skin) [6].

5. Skin rash

6. Skin peeling

7. Inflammation

8. Burning sensation in facial areas affected by seborrheic dermatitis

9. Erythematous plaques

These symptoms may be more severe and chronic when you undergo stress. Also, they tend to flare-up in cold and dry seasons. If untreated, there are chances of developing a secondary bacterial infection. [7]

As per Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, "If ignored or not treated promptly, the patches from seborrheic dermatitis may grow larger, causing uncontrollable itching. As you pick or scratch at the affected areas, the infection spreads to the internal layers of your scalp skin, eventually resulting in severe hair loss.

Treatments For Seborrheic Dermatitis

treatment seborrhea skin hair dandruff seborrheic

1. Ayurvedic Cure For Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp can be compared to 'Darunaka' in Ayurveda. Darunaka, caused by a Vata-Kapha aggravation, is a hair root disorder, and is one of the most prevalent causes of hair loss as per Ayurveda.

"Darunaka is associated with tvak sphutana (scalp scaling), rukshata (dryness and roughness of the scalp), kandu (itching), keshachyuti (diffuse hair fall), svapa (loss of touch sensation) and daruna (difficulty in tolerance) according to Ayurveda," says Dr. Zeel.

As per ancient Ayurvedic scripts, below are some of the most effective ways to treat Darunka or seborrheic dermatitis with natural medicinal herbs.

A. Ayurvedic Hair Care Regimen

Incorporate a natural Ayurvedic hair care regimen with products containing the following ingredients to balance your vitiated doshas and control seborrheic dermatitis.

1. Amla (Indian Gooseberry): It acts as a natural antioxidant that boosts immunity levels to control seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups.

2. Guduchi (Giloy): It is a herb with significant anti-inflammatory properties, and it helps soothe elevated Pitta levels in your body.

3. Nimba (Neem): It is best known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. While it calms pitta, neem in your hair care products relieves itching and burning.

4. Daruharidra (Berberis aristata): It is well known for curbing fungal and bacterial growth in the affected area while imparting a calming effect by bringing down Pitta levels.

5. Yashtimadhu (Mulethi): It is instrumental in preventing flare-ups as it helps balance your

Choose Ayurvedic hair care products with the above herbal ingredients based on your current dosha levels.

B. Ayurvedic Diet

Include foods that control the vitiation of Vata and Kapha doshas in your diet to reduce seborrheic dermatitis.

Foods that taste bitter such as bitter gourd, works best to control seborrheic dermatitis. Consume foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and plenty of leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and almonds regularly.

You also need to avoid foods that are excessively salty or sour, dairy, and cold items.

C. Ayurvedic Therapies

You can regularly undergo Ayurvedic panchakarma therapies such as Abhyangam, Virechan, Murdha thailam, Nasyam, etc. with dosha-specific herbal formulations to heal seborrheic dermatitis.

Hot oil treatment with Marichyadi thailam is also one of the most effective Ayurvedic therapies to treat seborrheic dermatitis. However, it needs to be administered after examining your body's doshic predominance.

Vedix Tip:

Avoid traveling to regions with dry and cold weather conditions. At least, protect your scalp and skin with the necessary accessories to reduce the effects of such weather on your body.

2. Natural Treatments And Home Remedies

A. Tea Tree Oil

Mix eight to twelve drops of tea tree oil in a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil. Apply this mixture to the affected area. This may provide relief from itching and also heal the scaly patches on your scalp or skin.

B. Fish Oil Supplements

Consuming fish oil supplements is highly recommended for overall immune function as it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements can help you effectively reduce flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis.

C. Aloe Vera

Apply freshly extracted aloe vera gel to the affected area and leave it on. Aloe vera is well known for its natural anti-inflammatory properties and works well in treating seborrheic dermatitis.

D. Apple Cider Vinegar

Soaking the patches of seborrheic dermatitis in apple cider vinegar will loosen the scales. Also, apple cider vinegar reduces inflammation in the flare-up area.

To treat seborrheic dermatitis on your scalp, wash your hair with a mild Ayurvedic shampoo first. Then, apply the diluted apple cider vinegar solution to your scalp. Let the solution sit on your scalp for about 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off with normal water.

E. Olive Oil

Apply olive oil to the affected area on your scalp and leave it on for about an hour. Then, remove the loosened scales with the help of a soft brush. Later, wash your hair using a mild Ayurvedic shampoo.

3. Other Medications

A. Antifungal Skin & Hair Care Products

Antifungal creams and medicated shampoos that contain chemicals such as selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, ketoconazole, etc. are often prescribed by doctors to treat seborrheic dermatitis.

‘’However, although these chemicals efficiently control the symptoms of the condition, they tend to return with seasonal changes,’’ says Dr. Zeel.

B. Corticosteroids

In the case of chronic seborrheic dermatitis, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids for oral ingestion, which significantly help to calm skin inflammation.

C. Topical Medications

Topical lotions or creams that contain pimecrolimus (Elidel) and calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus (Protopic) are effective against seborrheic dermatitis and may have fewer side effects when compared to corticosteroids [8].

D. Oral Antifungal Medication

Though these are rarely prescribed for their harmful effects on the liver and high chances of triggering an allergic reaction, they may be prescribed in severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

E. Light Therapy

This involves treating your seborrheic dermatitis lesions with ultraviolet light. The skin is made more sensitive to the UV rays through the use of psoralen, which can either be taken orally or applied topically.

4. Treatments For Cradle Cap

Cradle cap refers to seborrheic dermatitis that affects the scalp of infants within the age of 3 months. While medications are not recommended, the following treatments can help the condition:

  • Gentle oil massage can loosen the crusty flakes on your child’s scalp.
  • This can be followed by a mild baby shampoo once a day to clear off residues.
  • For severe cases of cradle cap your pedestrian can prescribe a low-dose Antifungal cream or a mild topical hydrocortisone.

What Are The Risk Factors For Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Some of the predominant factors which can increase the risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis are as follows:

1. Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease [9] and psychiatric conditions like clinical depression.

2. A weakened immunity system. It is usually observed in people with alcoholic pancreatitis, HIV/AIDS, some types of cancers, and organ transplant recipients.

3. Post-traumatic stress disorders that occur after experiencing medical conditions such as heart attack.

4. Some medications including drugs such as psoralen, lithium, and interferon.

How Is Seborrheic Dermatitis Diagnosed?

Seborrheic dermatitis can be similar in appearance to other skin conditions like dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, tinea versicolor, or rosacea.

A brief guide to understanding the difference between seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff :

Seborrheic Dermatitis


Affects about 40% infants; 1-3% of the adult population [10].

Dandruff affects about 50% of the adult population.

Affects various areas of the body that have a high number of sebaceous glands.

Affects only the scalp.

Erythematous, greasy patches

No erythema. White or yellow flakes on the scalp.

Perifollicular and perivascular infiltration.

Mild to no infiltration.

Through close examination of your skin, your doctor can accurately be able to diagnose your condition. For further analysis, you may be recommended to undergo a biopsy test [11].

When To See A Doctor About Seborrheic Dermatitis?

You should contact your dermatologist if you experience a flare-up of symptoms or your existing conditions get worse. You might need a change in dosage, medication or treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Seborrheic Dermatitis

1. Does Seborrheic Dermatitis Go Away?

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis can be treated with home and herbal remedies. However, often considered a chronic condition, it may return if the causes recur.

2. How Often Can You Wash Hair With Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Washing your hair every day is recommended by experts when dealing with seborrheic dermatitis. Add a few drops of an antifungal essential or herbal oil for rapid treatment.

3. What Foods Trigger Seborrheic Dermatitis?

While there is a lack of medical research stating a certain type of diet as a trigger factor for seborrheic dermatitis, the elimination of yeast/mold-based diets [12] can benefit those with the condition.

Hence, it is advisable to avoid the following foods to prevent triggering your seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Bread
  • Fermented alcoholic beverages
  • Cheese
  • Cakes
  • Fried foods coated with breading

Also fatty, sugary, oily items and dairy products should be avoided as per Ayurveda.

4. How Long Does Seborrheic Dermatitis Last?

According to the research Seborrheic Dermatitis: Diagnosis And Treatment, in infants the condition may disappear as the child reaches 6 months to 1 year of age and return during puberty.

As for adults, seborrheic dermatitis may get cured without any treatment. However, it can last for years, cleaning and flaring up in the presence of trigger factors.

Important Note:

Please consult your doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner before undergoing any of the treatments mentioned in this article to treat seborrheic dermatitis.

The Last Word

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory, auto-immune disorder that can affect both children and adults.
  • Though conventional medical treatments are effective, Ayurvedic treatments and home remedies to control seborrheic dermatitis can limit your exposure to strong and harsh chemicals.
  • Often, doctors suggest natural remedies apart from medical treatments to relieve seborrheic dermatitis more quickly and with lesser side effects.

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