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How do medications treat seborrheic dermatitis?

Over-the-counter shampoos containing active ingredients like tar, sulfur, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, and antifungal drugs can treat scalp outbreaks of seborrheic dermatitis. For facial outbreaks, antifungal medications can reduce inflammation and scaling. For both scalp and facial issues that don't respond to over-the-counter remedies, corticosteroids or oral medications such as terbinafine may be prescribed. As a last resort, medications called immunomodulators that have antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties may be prescribed.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Topical medications are often used to treat seborrheic dermatitis (also known as dandruff). These medications generally contain one of several  ingredients. For example, some dandruff shampoos contain zinc pyrithione, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties and can help control the yeast fungus that causes some cases of seborrheic dermatitis. Other shampoos contain coal tar, which slows the death of skin cells on your scalp so they flake off less often.

Still other dandruff shampoos contain salicylic acid, which helps scrub your scalp of scaly flakes. Some dandruff shampoos contain selenium sulfide, which, like coal tar, slows the death of skin cells on your scalp so they flake off less often. It may also fight yeast fungus.

Some prescription-only dandruff shampoos contain ketoconazole, an anti-fungal agent. Your doctor may also prescribe a lotion that contains a steroid, which can help reduce the inflammation that makes your skin itchy and red.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.