Seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss


Seborrheic dermatitis is a fungal skin condition that causes scaly, white, or yellowish scales to form on oily areas, such as the scalp, face, or inside the ear. Also called seborrheic eczema, it can occur with or without reddening of the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis is known as cradle cap in infants.

Seborrheic dermatitis primarily affects the scalp, but it can also develop in other parts of the body. In rare cases, seborrheic dermatitis can cause hair loss by damaging hair follicles and preventing hair growth. Fortunately, it’s usually reversible with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription treatments.

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Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis can be confused with other conditions, especially in young children. It is often confused with diaper rash and eczema.

It often forms where the skin is oily or oily. Common areas include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, nasal folds, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and in the middle of the chest.

In general, the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Skin lesions with scales
  • Plates over a large area
  • Oily and oily areas of the skin
  • Scales of the skin, usually white and scaly or yellowish, oily and sticky
  • Itching
  • Slight redness

How does this cause hair loss?

Hair loss is associated with seborrheic dermatitis because increased production of sebum can create irritation and inflammation of the scalp, resulting in intense itching. Scratching the scalp can damage the hair follicles, hampering natural hair growth and causing your hair to fall out.

However, hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis is rare and usually reversible. However, it can occur due to the growth of the yeast Malassezia. This type of yeast can cause inflammation and further damage the hair follicles if a large amount is produced and left untreated. Just like increased oil production, increased production of Malassezia can cause hair loss.

When to consult a doctor

If you notice symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis in you or your child, contact your doctor for evaluation and possible referral to a dermatologist.


Treatment is not always necessary with seborrheic dermatitis. Sometimes the condition clears up on its own. However, it can also be chronic.

Treatments will depend on the location and severity of seborrheic dermatitis and the age of the person. Your healthcare provider will prepare a treatment plan for you or your child based on these factors, but treatment usually begins with over-the-counter medications and home remedies.

Treatment for infants

For infants, the symptoms of cradle cap often go away on their own without medication. If treatment is needed, over-the-counter products will usually work. The over-the-counter treatment for infants includes a mild shampoo applied to the scalp along with something to loosen the scales, such as baby oil, olive oil, or petroleum jelly.

To prevent recurrence, doctors recommend continuing a daily regimen of washing the hair with baby shampoo.

If over-the-counter treatments do not relieve symptoms, a prescription may be required. Although rare, infants may need a prescription to treat cradle cap. Usually this is a prescription antifungal cream.

Treatment for adults

For adults, mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis may also go away on their own. If treatment is needed, an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo or other over-the-counter medications can be used to treat it.

Treatment for adults may include:

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo: ingredients include coal tar, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione
  • Creams or ointments: hydrocortisone, fluocinolone, clobetasol or desonide
  • Antifungal medication: a pill may be prescribed

For adults, a prescription anti-dandruff shampoo such as Nizoral 2% Shampoo may be recommended.


Seborrheic dermatitis is not associated with serious conditions or known to cause severe symptoms. In the rare event that hair loss occurs as a result of seborrheic dermatitis, the hair loss is temporary.

Since seborrheic dermatitis can be chronic, a diet recommended by your doctor may need to be followed to control the flare-ups.

Seborrheic dermatitis doctor’s discussion guide


Losing your hair isn’t fun, but it’s reversible with seborrheic dermatitis. You can treat it with an over-the-counter shampoo, cream, or ointment. If these remedies don’t work, talk to your doctor. Prescriptions can be helpful.

A word from Verywell

The appearance of dandruff on your or your child’s scalp can be alarming. If you have seborrheic dermatitis, you may be worried and embarrassed. This is even more true if it causes your hair to fall out. Although seborrheic dermatitis can lead to hair loss in some cases, the outlook is optimistic and treatments are available to help. If you have symptoms of skin disease, contact your doctor for evaluation and treatment.

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