Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seborrheoic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition commonly localized to the scalp, face, upper chest, and back. Common characteristics include scaling of the skin, reddish patches, and itch. 

Get effective treatments to reduce redness, itch, scaling and to restore healthier looking skin.

seborrhoeic dermatitis treatment
Moderately-Severe Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

What is seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a common chronic inflammatory disorder that affects mainly young adults in areas that are rich in sebaceous glands e.g. scalp, face, chest, underarms and back. It can range from mild red patches on the skin with dandruff to severe redness and yellow scaling over multiple body areas. In infants, it is better known as ‘Cradle cap’.  It is presents as yellowish scaly patch on the scalp, but mostly resolves on its own within a few months.

What causes seborrhoeic dermatitis?

The exact cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is unknown but multiple factors such as  stress, hormones, fungal colonisation, genetics, and environmental triggers may be involved. Here are some of the factors that may contribute or increase the risk of getting seborrhoeic dermatitis

  • Environmental triggers: low temperatures, changes in humidity.
  • Stress 
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Fungal colonisation by the Malassaezia species
  • Increased sebum production: The condition is seen in adolescence and young adults, affecting males more than females. 
  • Immunosuppresion: Seborrhoeic dermatitis is more commonly associated with a weakened immune system such as HIV
  • Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease may put an individual at higher risk.
  • Psychiatric conditions such as depression and mood disorders may increase risk of seborrhoeic dermatitis.

how is seborrhoeic dermatitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of seborrhoeic dermatitis is based on a clinical history and examination. Some skin disorders such as atopic eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections may resemble seborrhoeic dermatitis and should be differentiated from one another .

what does seborrhoeic dermatitis look like?

face seborrhoeic dermatitis
Seborrhoeic dermatitis affecting forehead and eyebrows
scalp seborrhoeic dermatitis
Scalp involvement

The skin often has a greasy scaling appearance on red inflammed skin. The area most commonly affected involves oil and hair bearing areas such as the:

  • Eyebrows
  • Laugh lines or naso-labial folds
  • Eyelashes
  • Behind the ears
  • Beard
  • Body: Chest, armpits, breast and groin areas.
  • Scalp: Mild dandruff and scaling to thick and hard crusts.

how do you treat seborrhoeic dermatitis?

The treatment of seborrhoeic dermatitis depends on your age,  severity of the condition and also the areas affected. As the nature of seborrhoeic dermatitis is frequently relapsing, good skin care with a maintenance regime is necessary to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

In addition to reducing the amount of fungi on the skin, anti-fungal creams have an anti-inflammatory effect. They reduce redness, itch and can be used for treatment of flares and maintenance.  Common anti-fungals include:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Ciclopirox
  • Sertaconazole

Intermittent use of a mild steroid can be helpful to bring down an acute flare of seborrhoeic deramtitis. However, as steroids are associated with side effects such as skin thinning, visible blood vessels and the appearance of shiny skin, their use is limited to short term use only.

Calcineurin inhibitors act by reducing the inflammatory component of seborrhoeic dermatitis. From studies, they have found to reduce redness, scaling and itchiness compared to baseline. They are considered safer to use on sensitive areas such as the face compared to steroids due to its steroid-sparing side effects. 

  • Pimecrolimus
  • Tacrolimus

For severe or cases not responding to topical therapy, oral anti-fungal therapy is effective at reducing inflammatory symptoms such as redness, scaling and itchiness.

  • Itraconazole
  • Terbinafine

Frequently Asked Questions About Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

No, seborrheic dermatitis can occur at any age, including infancy (where it’s often referred to as cradle cap) and teenagers. However, it is more common in adults, particularly in individuals between the ages of 30 and 60.

No, seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious. It is a non-infectious condition.


Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, meaning it can recur periodically. While there is no permanent cure, symptoms can often be managed effectively with appropriate treatment and lifestyle modifications.

While seborrheic dermatitis itself is not usually serious, it can sometimes lead to complications such as secondary bacterial or fungal infections if the skin becomes irritated and broken. Additionally, the condition may cause emotional distress or embarrassment due to its visible symptoms.

  • Seborrheic dermatitis has been associated with other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, rosacea, and certain neurological disorders. However, more research is needed to fully understand these associations.

Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include redness, itching, flaking, and greasy or oily patches of skin. These symptoms can vary in severity and may come and go over time.

Dr Moses Ng dermatologist

seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, scaly, and itchy patches, primarily affecting areas rich in sebaceous glands such as the scalp, face, and upper torso. This condition is common and can range from mild dandruff to more severe manifestations involving extensive inflammation and discomfort. As a medical professional, I understand the impact seborrhoeic dermatitis can have on patients' quality of life and self-esteem. My goal is to provide comprehensive care and effective treatment strategies to manage this condition and alleviate symptoms.

schedule a consultation for Seborrhoeic dermatitis treatment in singapore

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that often causes episodes of redness, itchiness and scaling. Treatments to reduce symptoms and a good maintenance skin care regime can help control this condition. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, so Dr. Ng can develop a personalized treatment approach for resolving your skin concerns and helping you to achieve long-term improvements in the health and appearance of your skin.

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  1. Dall’Oglio F, Nasca MR, Gerbino C, Micali G. An overview of the diagnosis and management of seborrheic dermatitis. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. 2022 Jan 1:1537-48.
  2. Gupta AK, Versteeg SG. Topical treatment of facial seborrheic dermatitis: a systematic review. American journal of clinical dermatology. 2017 Apr;18:193-213.