How to cure seborrheic dermatitis scalp

Updated June 13, 2017

Seborrheic dermatitis is commonly referred to as dandruff. It can affect other areas besides the scalp including face, chest and creases of the arms, legs and groin. It causes the skin to look greasy and flaky. The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by hormones or a fungus called malassezia. Other contributing factors include stress, fatigue, oily skin, harsh weather, infrequent shampooing, alcohol-based lotions or other skin disorders. Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos can help cure seborrheic dermatitis scalp flaking and itching.

Visit your family physician or a dermatologist to ensure what you are experiencing is actually seborrheic dermatitis. There are other skin conditions, such as eczema, that can mimic dandruff flakes and itching. If the doctor feels your seborrheic dermatitis is severe enough, they may prescribe a shampoo containing selenium, ketoconazole or corticosteroids.

Choose a medicated shampoo, such as Head & Shoulders, at the pharmacy. Active ingredients of medicated shampoos can vary per brand and include salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, resorcin, ketoconazole or selenium. If one particular ingredient does not work for you, you can move on to the next one.

Part your hair into small sections in the shower and apply the shampoo to one small area at a time, making sure to effectively cover the entire scalp.

Massage the shampoo into the skin. Use your fingers to loosen scales and leave the shampoo in for at least five minutes.

Rinse your hair thoroughly. Depending on the type and brand of shampoo, you may need to use it daily or just a few times a week. You may want to start with the maximum amount of shampooing allowed and slowly work your way down to the minimum (such as starting daily, then after a week or two reducing it to two or three times a week).


Switch shampoos with active ingredients every few months so your skin does not adapt to the ingredients, reducing its effectiveness.


Dandruff shampoos can be drying on your hair. Use a conditioner to counteract the drying effects, but do not rub it into the scalp. If you have blond or light-coloured hair, be wary of tar-based shampoos. The tar can rarely give light hair a temporary brownish discolouration.

Things You'll Need

  • Dandruff shampoo
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About the Author

Angie Briggs has been a health and fitness writer since 2006. Her articles have been published on eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and GardenGuides. She graduated from Thompson Institute with a diploma as a computer support specialist and received certification from CareerStep as a medical transcriptionist and medical language specialist.