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The 7 Myths of Seborrheic Dermatitis (a.k.a., Dandruff)

The 7 Myths of Seborrheic Dermatitis (a.k.a., Dandruff)


Do you have unsightly greasy, scaly rashes on your face and scalp?  Do your eyebrows, nose, ears, chin, chest or scalp appear red and dry? You may have something called seborrheic dermatitis (pronounced seb-uh-ray-ick dur-muh-tie-  tis) – better known as dandruff. In babies, it is commonly referred to as “cradle cap.”

This is an extremely common condition that I see on a daily basis. It can be very challenging to have as well as tricky to treat. So often patients try to figure out what is wrong with their skin and are frustrated when their home remedy does not work. But, our board-certified dermatologists are experts at treating this skin problem and want to help! Here are some common misconceptions I hear regularly about seborrheic dermatitis. Hopefully, this will clear up any myths about it that you may have and help to make you feel more comfortable in your own skin!

1. Why do I have seborrheic dermatitis if I wash my face and hair every day?

Seborrheic dermatitis is absolutely not due to a lack of hygiene! Scalp dandruff is not a result of not washing your hair frequently enough. It’s also not due to a dry scalp from washing your hair too often! The exact cause of this issue can be complicated, as you'll see below. However, it is important to know that you may not be able to treat your seborrheic dermatitis on your own. Thick scale sometimes requires prescription-strength medications to slough it off. Make an appointment to ask us how if you don’t have enough improvement with the products I recommend in this article.  

2. Is seborrheic dermatitis a sign that I have an allergy?3

calmingzincThe cause of this skin problem is not completely understood, but we do know that it is associated with overgrowth of yeast (fungus) called malasezzia that is in oil-secreting areas of our skin. This leads to inflammation, scale and sometimes swelling of the skin from the inflammatory reaction malasezzia causes. Zinc-containing shampoos and cleansers are very important to use in order to cut down on the amount of yeast on the skin of people with seborrheic dermatitis.  At Advanced Skin Care & Dermatology, our patients love our Calming Zinc soap for the face and Foaming Zinc Cleanser for the scalp or body.  

3. My redness on my face is from rosacea, so why do you say I have seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis overlaps with two conditions. The most common overlap I see is with rosacea. People may have a combination of any rosacea subtype AND seborrheic dermatitis. Understand more about this correlation and rosacea in Dr. Bailey's free downloadable guide entitled Rosacea: Understanding What Rosacea Is and What You Can Do about It.

The second most common skin problem I see in combination with seborrheic dermatitis is psoriasis. When these two conditions overlap it is called “sebo-psoriasis.” Fortunately, the Calming Zinc bar mentioned above is good at treating both conditions, which makes things a bit easier.

4. Since seborrheic dermatitis is more common in greasy areas (the T-zone), should I avoid moisturizing my skin?

It’s actually very important to moisturize your skin when you have seborrheic dermatitis not only to 14soften those pesky flakes, but to also soothe your skin that is inflamed. One way of soothing the skin is by using a topical steroid, which you can buy over the counter or get a prescription from one of our dermatologists (Be careful, some prescription steroids should NOT ever be used on facial skin!). Steroids calm inflammation but don’t do much in the way of moisturizing the skin. But, before jumping to using topical steroids, why not try a natural antioxidant-containing moisturizer? Our Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy  is packed with antioxidants to soothe inflammation and put out the fire driven by seborrheic dermatitis!

5. Seborrheic dermatitis is only skin deep.

This is a false statement. When seborrheic dermatitis is very severe, it could actually be related to other internal causes. I keep certain medical problems in the back of my mind when I see stubborn, rampant cases of seborrheic dermatitis. Here is a list:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • HIV
  • Alcoholism
  • Nutritional Disorders

6. I love my favorite shampoo, so I can’t switch to anti-dandruff shampoo!

Guess what?  You can use both!  You can use your favorite shampoo first to clean your hair, and then your anti-dandruff shampoo second (make sure to leave it on for five minutes before washing off).  Of course, you can also use your favorite conditioner afterward. Problem solved - it's as simple as that!

7. Did I catch this from someone?

Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious, so there is no way to prevent it. It’s also not possible to “cure,” but we can certainly control it with the measures mentioned above.  If you are still having trouble, don’t hesitate to call us today and make an appointment to get your seborrheic dermatitis under control!