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Seborrhoeic dermatitis & cradle cap

Seborrhoeic dermatitis (also called seborrhoeic eczema) is a common and harmless, non-contagious skin condition that causes itchy, red, flaky or scaly patches on your skin.

It can affect any area of your body but mainly affects oily areas such as your face, scalp and chest.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is quite common and most common in males, teenagers and adults between the ages of 30 and 70.

It's common for babies under three months old to get a short-lived form of seborrhoeic dermatitis called cradle cap on their scalps. This usually clears up by the time the baby is six to 12 months old.

Causes of seborrhoeic dermatitis

Health professionals do not clearly understand why people or babies get seborrhoeic dermatitis but it's thought to be associated with a yeast on your skin called Malassezia. People with seborrhoeic dermatitis appear to have more of this yeast than others or are more sensitive to it. This causes an inflammatory reaction in areas of skin where there are lots of oil-producing glands (sebaceous glands).

Symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis

Symptoms in teenagers and adults include red, flaky or scaly patches on your skin which may be itchy and sore. The most commonly affected areas include:

Symptoms in babies include:

Diagnosing seborrhoeic dermatitis

Your GP can usually diagnose seborrhoeic dermatitis and cradle cap by looking at your skin. They will ask you questions about your symptoms.

Sometimes seborrhoeic dermatitis can look similar to psoriasis.

Self-care for seborrhoeic dermatitis

Keep your skin clean and dry. Do not use any soaps or lotions if they irritate your skin. Use soap substitutes such as Sorbolene. Ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.

Try to avoid scratching.

Sometime stress can make your symptoms worse. Read more about things you can do to help cope with stress.

Scalp seborrhoeic dermatitis:

If seborrhoeic dermatitis affects other areas of your baby's skin, such as where their nappy is, change their nappy frequently and use a barrier cream.

Getting help for seborrhoeic dermatitis

See your doctor if:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2021.


See also:

Treating atopic eczema in children

Page reference: 142835

Review key: HICOD-326084