Seborrheic (seb-o-REE-ik) dermatitis is a common skin disorder that mainly affects the scalp which causes scaly, itchy, red skin and stubborn dandruff. 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. Cradle cap may be seen in newborns and small children up to age three.
Seborrheic dermatitis can occur on many different body areas. Typically it forms where the skin is oily or greasy. Commonly affected areas include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, behind the ears, in the external ear and along skin folds on the middle of the body.
Seborrheic dermatitis isn't harmful but it can be uncomfortable and unsightly. You may be able to treat seborrheic dermatitis yourself by recognizing its signs and symptoms and by using a combination of self-care steps and over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications.
Cradle cap is not contagious, nor is it caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy and it is not dangerous. Cradle cap may or may not itch. Cradle cap usually clears up on its own within a few months. If it itches, excessive scratching of the area may cause additional inflammation and breaks in skin may cause mild infections or bleeding.
In general, symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include skin lesions, plaques over large area, greasy, oily areas of skin, skin scales (white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and adherent dandruff), itching-may become more itchy if infected, mild redness and hair loss
You can treat flaking and dryness with over-the-counter dandruff or medicated shampoos. Shampoo the hair vigorously and frequently (preferably daily). Loosen scales with the fingers, scrub for at least five minutes, and rinse thoroughly. Active ingredients in these shampoos include salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, resorcin, ketoconazole, or selenium.
Shampoos or lotions containing selenium, ketoconazole, or corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe cases. To apply shampoos, part the hair into small sections, apply to a small area at a time, and massage into the skin.