Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrhea, is a common non-contagious condition of skin areas rich in oil glands (the face, scalp, and upper trunk). Seborrheic dermatitis is marked by flaking (overproduction and sloughing of skin cells) and sometimes redness and itching of the skin. It can vary in severity from mild dandruff of the scalp to scaly red patches on the skin. The normal skin yeast, Pityrosporum ovale, lives in oil-rich skin regions and plays a role in this disorder; the changes seen in the skin are due to the body’s inflammatory response to the yeast found on the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis seems to worsen with stress, winter, and infrequent shampooing. Although there is no “cure” for seborrheic dermatitis, control is usually possible with medicated shampoos and topical steroid solutions, if inflammation is prominent.
Dandruff occurs in 15–20% of the population, and seborrheic dermatitis (with redness and flaking) occurs in 3–5%. The problem affects all races and maybe a bit worse in men. It typically starts after puberty (although babies have a version called cradle cap). Seborrheic dermatitis peaks around the age of 40 and then may improve. Severe seborrheic dermatitis is seen frequently in people with Parkinson’s disease, central nervous system problems, and HIV infection.
Anytime a dry, itchy scalp is interfering with daily activities patients should seek the advice of their trusted clinicians at Smart Skin Dermatology.