What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the seborrheic areas of the skin and the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants, also called cradle cap, is a harmless, temporary condition. It appears as thick, crusty, yellow or brown scales over the child's scalp. Similar scales may also be found on the eyelids, ear, around the nose, and in the groin. Cradle cap may be seen in newborns and young children.  Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy, and it is not contagious or dangerous. Cradle cap may or may not itch. If it itches, excessive scratching of the area may cause additional inflammation, and breaks in skin may cause mild infections or bleeding.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition, which may appear as white spots on the skin, along with other symptoms. Stress, fungus or other issues are contributing factors for dermatitis in adults. Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms are typically managed with treatments such as medicated shampoos, creams and antifungal agents.

When infants develop seborrheic dermatitis it's called cradle cap; it causes itchy, red skin on the scalp, face and chest. 

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
Also called cradle cap when it affects newborn infants, seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the face and scalp. It can also appear on the upper chest and back, or on other parts of the body that tend to produce excess oil. It causes red scaly patches of skin that look oily and may have white or yellow flakes. It is most common among newborn infants and middle-aged men.

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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.