Seborrheic Dermatitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?




SD and dandruff respond to the same treatments. Unfortunately, symptoms often recur. This is a frustrating reality for those who deal with these conditions but a combination of diet, topical treatments, and dietary supplements can help keep symptoms under control.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms

Typically, SD affects the scalp, forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, nasal folds, moustache, lips, beard, ears, upper back, chest, underarms, navel and/or groin. A person might notice:

Itchy, burning scalp rash

Yellowish, greasy scales or flakes

Greasy, swollen or reddish skin

Sores, damaged skin or scaly patches

Hair loss



Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Unlike other forms of eczema, SD isn’t caused by an allergic reaction. The root cause of SD remains unknown but several factors may play a role.

Yeast and Bacteria

A recent study suggested that the cause of SD may be a whole-body condition, and not just limited to the visibly affected skin areas. For example, people with dandruff have higher levels of various naturally present bacteria and fungi all over their skin. This increase may change the whole-body immune system’s response and damage the skin’s protective barrier.


Candida albicansMalasseziaCandida

Staphylococcus aureusMalassezia

Other Factors

Hormones and genes


Parkinson’s disease

Diet seems to affect the production of sebum in the skin.



Environmental and emotional circumstances can bring about flare-ups of SD. Known triggers include:

Cold, dry weather


Hormonal changes or illness

Strong detergents, soaps and chemicals

Some medications, including lithium, psoralen and interferon

Stressful events


Cradle Cap

“Cradle cap” describes SD that occurs in infants. Despite the name, it can affect other areas of the body like the face, skin folds, and diaper area. While it may look uncomfortable, it’s not believed to cause babies any distress. To treat it, the scales can be gently brushed after being softened with a mild shampoo. Topical treatments can also be recommended by a pediatrician.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Remedies and Supplements


Alternatively, specific dietary changes and the use of natural remedies can help limit fungal and bacterial overgrowth and reduce SD symptoms.

As with all supplements meant to promote general well-being, the remedies listed here are by no means a substitute for legitimate medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor if you are experiencing problems with your health before taking any supplements.


Many studies show that dietary changes can have a beneficial effect on seborrheic dermatitis as they affect weight, blood sugar, and skin conditions. Certain foods, like sugar and processed foods for example, exacerbate inflammation and fungal growth. By contrast, low-sugar and plant-based foods can help combat them.

Foods to include:

Lean meats



Seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon

Sunflower seeds


Whole grains



vitamin A



Lactobacillus paracasei

Foods to avoid or limit:

Fatty and processed meats

Oily and greasy foods

Animal fats, lard, and full-fat dairy products

Processed foods and trans fats

Starchy foods such as potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice

Refined flours

Sugar, sweetened drinks, sugary snacks

Foods with yeast and mold such as bread, cheese, beer and wine

Ginger Root Extract

gingerZingiber officinalecurcumin

Ginger had significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.


Ginger showed excellent antibacterial effects against staphylococci and even methicillin-resistant staphylococci (MRSA).


High insulin levels boost sebum production. Ginger helps to control blood sugar and insulin levels.

Dosage: 1,000 mg once a day.


Warnings: Take with water to avoid heartburn. Ginger may lower blood sugar. Diabetics and pregnant or nursing women should consult with a physician before using it.

Garlic Extract

GarlicAllium sativum

CONDITIONSYeast Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Garlic has an effect on almost every part of the body. When eaten, it benefits the immune system and circulation in the skin.

garlic extract powder


It was effective against many other fungi and may also fight viral infections.

Garlic extract boosts the immune system by increasing virus-fighting natural killer cells and other immune responses.

Extracts were shown to have antidandruff activity.

Dosage: 650 mg once or twice a day.

Possible side effects: Pungent breath, stomach upset, gas buildup or other gastrointestinal problems. Applying garlic to the skin may cause irritation, burns or sores.

Warnings: Excessive garlic can interfere with protease inhibitors. Pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, people scheduled for surgery and those taking blood thinners should consult with a physician before taking a garlic course.

Curcumin (Turmeric)

CurcuminCurcuma longa


turmeric extractMalassezia

It reduced inflammation of the skin and triggered the destruction of damaged cells, thereby increasing the production of healthy cells.

It boosted several of the immune system’s defense responses.

An animal study suggested that curcumin improves skin recovery.

Dosage: 1,000 mg or less a day.

Possible side effects: Applying curcumin to the skin can cause local hair loss.

Warnings: Take with water or a meal. The powder may stain surfaces and fabrics. Pregnant or nursing women and people with blood-clotting problems or who are taking blood thinners should not use curcumin. When first taking it, people with gastrointestinal disorders or sensitive stomachs may experience stomach upset. People with a ginger allergy should consult with a physician before taking it. Anyone with high blood pressure or unstable blood sugar levels should exercise caution before using it.

Fish Oil

Fish oil

fish oil softgels

A deficiency can cause rough, scaly skin and dermatitis.

Both oral supplements and application to the skin were beneficial in showing antibacterial and infection-healing effects.

Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake reduced SD-related inflammation.


Dosage: Two capsules, two to three times a day.

Possible side effects: Overuse may cause diarrhea, heartburn and stomach upset.

Warnings: These supplements should be immediately refrigerated. People who are allergic to fish or taking blood thinners should consult with a physician before taking fish oil.

The Bottom Line

SD symptoms can be distressing and also difficult to treat. As an alternative to medications with unpleasant or serious side effects, natural remedies are generally safe to use and can reduce symptoms. Certain dietary changes have also been proven effective in improving symptoms and reducing the risk of flares.

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