Seborrheic Dermatitis: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation


Seborrheic dermatitis (say "seh-buh-REE-ick der-muh-TY-tus") is a rash with greasy, flaky skin patches. The patches can look whitish. With lighter skin, the skin under the patches can look reddish. With darker skin, the skin can also look darker or lighter than the usual skin color.

The rash may appear on many parts of the body. It may be on the scalp, face (especially the eyebrow area and near the nose and mouth), ears, underarms, or genital area or under the breasts. The flaky skin on the scalp is called dandruff.

This rash is often a long-term (chronic) condition, with symptoms that come and go. It may get worse with cold, dry weather or stress. Treatments include antifungal shampoos and medicines that are put on the skin.

What causes this isn't fully understood. It may involve the oil glands in skin. A type of skin fungus, or yeast, may also be linked with this condition.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribes a steroid cream, dandruff shampoo, or antifungal cream or medicine, use it as directed. If your doctor prescribes other medicine, take it as directed.
  • Use a dandruff shampoo if seborrheic dermatitis affects your scalp. You may need to try a few kinds of shampoo to find the one that works best for you.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the rash.
    • Pus draining from the rash.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The rash gets worse or spreads to other parts of your body.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter X477 in the search box to learn more about "Seborrheic Dermatitis: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.