What are the Different Types of Sebaceous Dermatitis Treatment?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 April 2019
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Sebaceous dermatitis is a skin condition that typically affects the scalp and face although it may sometimes affect the trunk area of the body as well. This skin condition often causes itching and red, scaly skin. The direct cause of sebaceous dermatitis is not known, but many patients who suffer from this condition appear to have an overgrowth of a specific type of yeast living on the body. Sebaceous dermatitis treatment options typically include the use of medicated shampoos, lotions, or creams. These items used in treating sebaceous dermatitis are available both in over-the-counter and prescription strengths.

In most cases, sebaceous dermatitis creates itching and flaking of the skin on the scalp known as dandruff. This irritation may also affect the eyebrows and other areas of the face. In more severe cases, small bumps that resemble pimples may develop, especially along the hairline. Mild to moderate hair loss may occur in the more serious cases, and pain may begin to accompany the itching.


The most commonly used sebaceous dermatitis treatment involves the use of an over-the-counter medicated shampoo. There are several ingredients, such as salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione which may be listed as the active ingredient in these shampoos. This type of treatment is typically used twice per week until symptoms disappear. Shampoos containing coal tar are also available and can be used up to three times per week. It should be noted that the use of coal tar is a bit controversial, as it is believed by many to potentially cause cancer.

If an over-the-counter remedy does not provide adequate symptom relief, a doctor may be able to prescribe a stronger medicated shampoo. In some cases, a steroid lotion or cream may also be prescribed. These two treatment methods tend to work well together, though it is important to follow the doctor's orders precisely.

Some patients may prefer to use more natural sebaceous dermatitis treatment options instead of using chemicals. Adding a zinc supplement to the diet is believed to help treat this type of skin condition. Tea tree oil is known to be effective in treating many different types of skin irritation. The tea tree oil can be applied directly to the affected areas, though many complain about the strong odor. If this is a concern, tea tree oil can be added to a favorite shampoo in order to help mask the odor.


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Post 5

I have been through a several months-long bout of seborrheic/atopic dermatitis (as best my dermatologist could determine) that peaked with a rapid spreading of infection from my ears to scalp, forehead, and neck. I was looking pretty zombie-like at my worst (right around Halloween, for better or worse).

The dermatologist was able to get the worst of my symptoms under control, initially with a course of sulfa antibiotics, Prednisone (short term), and various steroid creams, which I used judiciously. Although my scalp eventually cleared up completely through the use of dandruff shampoos and a couple applications of "scalp oil" with a powerful steroid, I finally settled into a pattern where the areas behind my ears, on my earlobes, and my

forehead continued to be inflamed and shedding, sometimes to the point of almost bleeding.

The inflammation did rise and fall somewhat over the course of the last few months, but never completely receded, and over the past month started getting substantially worse, perhaps further irritated by the cold, dry winter air we have had, despite constant treatment with commercial moisturizers.

I was becoming very desperate for relief, but reluctant to go back to the steroid creams, which I still have in large supply from previous prescriptions. After much searching about dermatitis on the internet, particularly looking through "natural" treatments, I decided that I would give the coconut oil treatment a try. I went to our local health food store and purchased a jar of "organic/virgin" coconut oil, and started applying on the affected areas of my ears and forehead three times daily.

Within a couple of days I had already noticed a big difference, and after four days, all affected areas were 95 percent more clear than before using the coconut oil. After a week of this treatment, I tried taking a couple days off and begin to notice my irritation returning. Back on the coconut oil again, and my symptoms are receding.

So, at least for my particular type of dermatitis, which from all information collected thus far and from the dermatologist’s original tests seems to be mainly due to a bacterial colonization, the coconut oil has been really effective, and more so than most of my prescription remedies. I will wait to see whether this trend holds for the long term, but for now I am enjoying some very welcome relief.

Post 4

I've suffered with this most of my adult life. I've tried conventional treatment via my doctor in the way of steroid creams, then saw a skin specialist who gave me a month's worth of antibiotics and more cream.

Eventually after researching, I found a company in America that sells a product called Skinzinc which I buy in spray form and it clears my skin in a couple of days. I just spray at the first signs of itchiness or redness. It's great. It won't stop it from coming back in times of stress, etc., but is better than tablets and steroids. I strongly recommend it.

Post 3

@feruze-- Have you tried coconut oil? My sister uses this. She has really blotchy, red, irritated and flaky skin and scalp. She also tried many different seborrheic dermatitis treatments like you, both prescribed and over-the-counter without results. Then she heard about coconut oil on some seborrheic dermatitis forum and gave it a try. Her face and scalp cleared up in several days of using it.

She buys 100% coconut oil and applies it on her scalp and hair and keeps it on for about half an hour and then showers. She does this once or twice a week and all her flakes are gone.

She's used it on her face several times as well and it also worked

for her face. But she doesn't do it as much anymore because she has oily skin.

I think you should give this a try. I don't think that coconut oil could irritate your skin since it's all natural. You should also keep away from stress and junk food because I heard that makes seborrheic dermatitis worse.

Post 2

@feruze-- It's too bad that you can't use tea tree oil because it really works great. Both my face wash and shampoo has tea tree oil and it's the only thing that's worked for me.

I agree with you that harsh chemicals tend to make seborrhea worse. Have you been to a doctor? Your doctor can also prescribe a shampoo for seborrhea. I used one for a couple of years and it worked much better than the dandruff shampoos did.

I've also heard that rinsing scalp and hair with apple cider helps although I've never tried it myself.

Post 1

I have tried several different kinds of medicated shampoos to treat my seborrheic dermatitis but its made it much worse.

I think that seborrheic or sebaceous dermatitis is also an irritation and the treatment should be soothing and comforting. These medicated shampoos and creams have harsh chemicals in them which seem to irritate my skin and scalp even worse.

I am just hearing about tea tree oil but unfortunately I'm allergic to that as well. Are there any other natural treatments out there that someone with really sensitive skin like me can use to treat sebaceous dermatitis?

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