I have pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis which is also known as seb­or­rhe­ic eczema or scalp eczema in some detail and I would high­ly rec­om­mend some extra read­ing links here and here for those of you who want some extra detail. It remains a very pop­u­lar top­ic as it can be dif­fi­cult to tack­le and can be very uncom­fort­able to live with. Here is a sum­ma­ry of what you need to know.

1. What is seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis
The word itis refers to inflam­ma­tion (pain, swelling, red­ness) and der­ma refers to skin there­fore der­mati­tis is inflam­ma­tion of the skin. Seb­or­rhe­ic refers to seba­ceous glands that pro­duce oil. There­fore putting it all togeth­er, seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis is inflam­ma­tion of areas of the skin that have many oil pro­duc­ing glands and rich in sebum (e.g scalp, face, upper back/chest).

2. What are the signs?
Inflam­ma­tion — pain, swelling, red­ness- is a key indi­ca­tor. Addi­tion­al­ly for the scalp, scal­ing and flak­ing sim­i­lar to dan­druff but which may be greasy and yel­low in colour.

3. What caus­es it?
It is not ful­ly under­stood but a type of fun­gus Malassezia (yes the same one that caus­es dan­druff) is thought to play a role. Now to be clear we ALL have Malassezia it is per­fect­ly nor­mal to have this fun­gus on skin, peo­ple with seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis are NOT dirty. Those with seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis appear to be very sen­si­tive to this fun­gus and there­fore devel­op the char­ac­ter­is­tic inflam­ma­tion.

4. How to treat seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis

Go to your doc­tor
It is real­ly impor­tant to get diag­nosed prop­er­ly by a doc­tor if you think you have seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis. This is because it has over­laps with oth­er skin con­di­tions such as pso­ri­a­sis or even sim­ple dan­druff. Addi­tion­al­ly steroid treat­ments or even pills may be nec­es­sary for some and this real­ly requires a doctor’s mon­i­tor­ing.

Avoid nat­u­ral oils
Ole­ic acid is a fat­ty acid(oil-like) which is found in almost all nat­u­ral oils includ­ing coconut, shea but­ter, olive and cas­tor oil. Ole­ic acid is the food that the fun­gus Malassezia loves. If you can­not part with your nat­u­ral oil pick one with low ole­ic acid con­tent e.g jojoba or cas­tor oil and avoid plac­ing the oil on the scalp.

Anti dan­druff sham­poos

The­se often real­ly do work. They con­tain effec­tive anti­fun­gal agents such as pyrithione zinc and keto­cona­zole. There are pre­scrip­tion strength sham­poos avail­able too if the over the coun­ter stuff is not work­ing for you.

Nat­u­ral solu­tions

As seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis has fun­gal involve­ment, the nat­u­ral route involves an anti­fun­gal approach. The catch here is that many nat­u­ral oils which con­tain ole­ic acid may also be anti­fun­gal in nature e.g neem and coconut oil. One study from sci­en­tists in Iran showed that hen­na extract­ed in water has some anti­fun­gal activ­i­ty on Malassezia — the cor­rect fun­gus to tar­get. The only down­side is that the hen­na was left for around 3 days at a time. This is typ­i­cal­ly not the norm for most hen­na users but it is not to say that it can­not work with­in a short­er time peri­od as this was not test­ed (JJmi­cro­bi­ol, p125, 2010). A sep­a­rate study showed that a raw hon­ey /water solu­tion left on hair for 3 hours dai­ly could stop itch­ing and flak­ing in 1–2 weeks (Eur J Med Res 2001, pg 306–308,2001).

Lifestyle fac­tors
Many peo­ple with seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis report flare ups when stressed (includ­ing depres­sion) or when unwell. Work­ing with your doc­tor is impor­tant as some med­ica­tion can also be a trig­ger.


Ladies, do any of you strug­gle with seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis? How do you cope?

Addi­tion­al Ref­er­ences for this arti­cle
1. Cur­rent Sci­ence, pp1336-1345, 2002
2. J Inves­tig Der­ma­tol Symp Proc, pp 15–19, 2007
3. J Inves­tig Der­ma­tol Symp Proc ‚pp194–7, 2005
4. Sci­ence ‚pp304–307, 2004
5. JEADV, pp 16–26, 2014
6. Annales de Der­ma­tolo­gie et de Vénéréolo­gie, pp 833–837, 2007

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26 Comments on "Scalp Care: How to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis"

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Temickab b
I learned the hard way to stay away from oils. So what the hell do us nat­u­ral girls do to keep our hair mois­tur­ized with­out seal­ing with oil? I was seal­ing with oil and my wash and goes were beau­ti­ful but the hair that hung down on my face, neck and ears. Thats when my Sebb­hor­e­ic der­mati­tis start­ed to attack my face and ears. I was peel­ing out scabs and crusts from inside and behind my ears OMG it was hor­ri­ble. The sebb­hor­e­ic der­mati­tis attacked my face because the oils i was using was using to seal my ends touched… Read more »
I’ve had seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis for 7 years and at first it was real­ly rough. The symp­toms I had at first were that my hair would shed like crazy if I didn’t wash it every 4 days and it would stink as well. I didn’t have any flakes at that point. The med­icat­ed sham­poos didn’t real­ly help because I still had to wash my hair every 4 days and they dried my hair out like crazy. I did some research and found out that gar­lic sham­poo could help the prob­lem. So, I start­ed using Queen Helene Gar­lic sham­poo and it worked… Read more »
First time post­ing. I want­ed to help any­one who needs it. I have bat­tled this for 1 year and my hair was thin­ning and break­ing from this. It was bad. I tried EVERYTHING from sel­sun blue, then, head and shoul­ders, Jason organ­ics, to expen­sive med­icat­ed fun­gus sham­poos. I even tried nat­u­ral essen­tial oils and near­ly every and any kind. I mean I tried Brag­gs apple cider.…I searched online you say it I DID IT! TILL FINALLY…I FOUND OUT WHAT HELPED ME! It’s a bit crazy to say but if you need the help here you go. I bought Tal­i­ah Waa­jid… Read more »

What do you mean you no longer wash your hair? how do you han­dle pro­duct buildup?

Tye yIII

I’m a young guy notice I’m los­ing my hait in the front of my hairline/back of my head also. I got flak­ing, red scalp, n want­ed to know the best method to fix this prob­lem


I had this same exact prob­lem! All I had to do was put coconut oil. It works this made my hair grow from lit­tle hair to bra length. Coconut oil is also good for dry skin, nails and eczema.

Dont Care
Hi guys, After hav­ing acne (12 years), seb derm (5 years), oily skin (don’t know since when), dry skin (occa­sion­al­ly) I final­ly cured them all 100%. How? By not doing ANYTHING. And by learn­ing not to care. At all. Seri­ous­ly. While the heal­ing of all the­se did not occur overnight, one thing changed imme­di­ate­ly — I was feel­ing a free hap­py man after I stopped giv­ing a rat’s ass about such super­fi­cial prob­lems; after I stopped look­ing myself in the mir­ror 5 times a day; after I start­ed liv­ing with­out car­ing if I have a pim­ple if my face was peel­ing, if it felt oily or dry,… Read more »
Katherine Woods
I had this prob­lem my whole life. I nev­er knew what it was until I was 19 thanks to hair styl­ist at the time. I’ve always had ter­ri­ble real­ly dark dan­druff and patch­es until I went nat­u­ral. When I used to get my hair pressed and stuff my hair would stay dirty ALL of the time! I could nev­er under­stand why peo­ple thought that greas­ing your scalp was the answer. Oils/grease just sits on my scalp. Every time it felt like. I’m just now get­ting to a point where cas­tor oil and tea tree oil works only oil­ing my scalp… Read more »
Taylor Jamerson
I use Argan oil to seal my hair and try not to direct­ly put any oills on my scalp this works for me and I stay very Very Very far from shea but­ter it makes my scalp go insane.  Using those oils like coconut, olive oil, or and oth­er will help for a while but slow­ly feed the yeast which will cause your break out to worse in the end and make it hard­er to treat. That came from my doc­tor and when she said it I was like thats exact­ly whats been hap­pen­ing. Ive had SD since a child… Read more »
Ana Trebmal
I have been diag­nosed with this con­di­tion by a tri­chol­o­gist. The build up of oils was so bad it clogged the pores and caused sev­ere hair loss. She rec­om­mend­ed Soft­sheen Carl­son Dan­druff Con­trol which worked won­ders! I loved it! Now that is off the mar­ket :( . I can’t believe they stopped cater­ing to peo­ple with this issue. I start­ed using WOW cas­tor oil made in Jamaica which is some­how dif­fer­ent from the pop­u­lar ones sold online. That was fan­tas­tic at mois­tur­iz­ing AND keep­ing scalp prob­lem free. Now that is off the mar­ket too. I have tried sev­er­al oth­er brands… Read more »
Lady Dee Cee

I use ACV dilut­ed w/ water. Spray then Mas­sage into scalp. rin­se out after 15 min­utes. Then wash w/ your nor­mal dan­druff sham­poo. The ACV kills the fun­gus that caus­es sebor­ro­he­ic der­mati­tis & dan­druff.


I was wash­ing my hair every three days with Nizo­ral and for the first time since I can remem­ber, my scalp was clear. I went about a week with­out it and now Nizo­ral doesn’t work. I have no idea what to do as I have tried most every­thing out there. I do not have health insur­ance so going to a doc­tor is out of the ques­tion. I have no idea what else to do. I leave flakes every­where I go.


Hi! Organ­ic Root Stim­u­la­tor sham­poo worked ok for me for a while, but now I have been using Ker­acare Anti-Dan­druff Mois­tur­iz­ing Sham­poo and Con­di­tion­er and this has made a HUGE dif­fer­ence! (I wash every 2 weeks). My scalp is calmer and clear. Hope it helps!

Hi Kaitlin, I know that they say nat­u­ral oils are bad, but I use them any­way. I use a hot oil treat­ment on my scalp that I made up, before I wash my hair. It kept my hair flake free for almost a mon­th, but after a lit­tle while the itch­ing slow­ly came back before the flakes. 1. 1 cup of dis­tilled water 2. 1 cup of aloe vera gel 3. 2–3 scoops of coconut oil 4. 1–2 tsp. of pure hon­ey 5. 10–15 drops of pure tea tree oil 6. 15–20 drops of pure pep­per­mint oil 7. warm it up to melt the coconut… Read more »
I have dealt with this all my life and there is one thing that worked for me as a child. It is called Cuti­c­u­ra med­icat­ed oint­ment. It used to be avail­able in small, local drug­stores and apothe­caries. I recent­ly found their web­site and found that I can order it from I sham­poo, deep con­di­tion my hair, then grease my scalp with the oint­ment. It will tin­gle and you don’t need to put too much. If you use it, you will prob­a­bly need to sham­poo your hair once a week. That’s what I do. One tube usu­al­ly lasts me quite… Read more »

I should also change my diet. I’ve always had a pret­ty ter­ri­ble diet (lots of sweets and not enough fruits and veg­eta­bles). My scalp health may be anoth­er one of the many things I could improve my mak­ing more nutri­tious healthy choic­es.

I diag­nosed myself with this con­di­tion a few months ago, though from what my moth­er has described, I’ve had it for my whole life. I haven’t tried any drugstore/prescription reme­dies because I want­ed to try some­thing nat­u­ral first. I use DEAD SEA SALT (not reg­u­lar sea salt). I bought 10lbs of it from an online retail­er. After I shampoo/condition/deep con­di­tion, I take some dead sea salt (just a lit­tle) in an appli­ca­tor bot­tle with some warm water and basi­cal­ly rin­se my scalp with it and rub it in a lit­tle before I rin­se. I def­i­nite­ly notice a dif­fer­ence. I still… Read more »


I am some­body who has not just flaky but kind of a sca­ly scalp sit­u­a­tion PLUS so much itchi­nes after like 1 or 2 days after wash­ing.
I have tried EVERYTHING and noth­ing worked. my doc­tor pre­scribed clo­be­ta­sol pro­pi­onate foam to me and it was like my whole life changed. I can tru­ly go weeks w/ out wash­ing my hair with­out itch­i­ness & flak­ing.

**word to the wise , when you apply to your scalp there is like 2 sec­onds of a tin­gling burn but just rub it into your scalp & you’ll be fine**

Thea D. Parker

OMG!! When I was first diag­nosed 12 years ago a der­ma­tol­o­gist pre­scribed me this foam. I moved from IL and total­ly for­got what the name of it was. I have been search­ing FOREVER for some relief! You have saved your life by telling me the name of this foam. Noth­ing I have tried has soothed my burn­ing flak­ing or itch­ing like it. Eter­nal peace, love & light my sis­ta!

I’ve been bat­tling with SD for a while now and I find that what has been help­ing is once a week using Ben­tonite clay with ACV as a pre­poo deep con­di­tion­er and then Trader Joe’s tea tree tin­gle sham­poo and con­di­tion­er or SheaMoisture’s African Black Soap and Con­di­tion­er. To keep my hair from being stripped if it’s feel­ing extra dry I detangle/prepoo with coconut oil before using the clay mix. I know that because the­se items are used to clar­i­fy I make sure to deep con­di­tion week­ly to make sure my hair stays mois­tur­ized. Also I am very con­scious about… Read more »
Great arti­cle! This is exact­ly what my der­ma­tol­o­gist told me! I mas­sage coconut oil on my scalp a few times a week dur­ing flare ups and it helps (a lit­tle). I also wash week­ly like Zoopath…I’ve been on the Clear Scalp for Men anti-dan­druff sham­poo for a few months now and it so far it seems to work as a anti-dan­druff sham­poo that’s non-dry­ing. I use the men’s ver­sion because it’s a sham­poo and con­di­tion­er in one (which is prob­a­bly why it’s less dry­ing). My der­ma­tol­o­gist also pre­scribed a steroid that I can rub on the prob­lem areas if the… Read more »
Chala Brooks

I have this con­di­tion. I con­trol it with wash­ing with pre­scrip­tion sham­poo, Sul­fur 8 sham­poo, and Sul­fur 8 grease. The grease helps calm my scalp down when it flares up in like 15 min­utes and I can wear my hair­styles longer than a few days. By alter­nat­ing between the­se meth­ods, my life isn’t con­trolled by this med­ical con­di­tion. I am also think­ing about doing a juice cleans to see if detox­ing my body can help. If it doesn’t work at least I will be health­ier. I am hope­ful it will work.


I have strug­gling with SD/persistent itchy/oily dan­druff for about 15 years now. I have tried pre­scrip­tions, over-the-coun­ter reme­dies and nat­u­ral remedies–all to no avail. I haven’t given up on find­ing a solu­tion though.


Have you tried dead sea salt?


arti­cles like this are what keep me com­ing back to this web­site. I have pso­ri­a­sis and while it nev­er com­plete­ly dis­ap­pears the tips on nat­u­ral prod­ucts and oth­er sug­ges­tions have helped me con­trol the symp­toms and feel less embar­rassed about it. Good job, BGLH xx


I have SD and its a bal­anc­ing act to con­trol it with­out dry­ing my hair out. I have to wash my hair week­ly or it flares up. I pre­poo my scalp with raw manuka hon­ey and I use an oil free/or very low oil sham­poo. I nev­er cow­ash. I tried the raw hon­ey out of des­per­a­tion because my pre­scrip­tion steroid was becom­ing inef­fec­tive.