Inspecting the scalp for signs of dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis & Hair Loss | 2020 Guide

If you suffer from the itching, inflammation, and overall irritation associated with seborrheic dermatitis, you’re likely desperate to put an end to the condition.

This desperation can be compounded in those with alopecia, as some with seborrheic dermatitis can also experience hair loss.

So, what can you do if you’re battling this condition with no effective treatments in sight?

In this post, I’ll answer this question and more.

First, you’ll learn what seborrheic dermatitis is, including its causes and most common symptoms.

Second, you’ll learn how dermatologists typically treat the condition, and why such treatment methods may not be the best choice.

Finally, I’ll show you the natural way to treat seborrheic dermatitis and prevent hair thinning associated with the condition. You’ll learn how to remove the pesky flakes and scales, as well as how to prevent them from returning with a flake-fighting homemade shampoo.

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that leads to a scaly, inflamed rash on the affected skin. It also has a predilection for body sites with increased number of sebaceous glands, upper trunk, ears.

These rashes may appear reddish in color, and can be found in various places throughout the body.

A closeup of seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp
A closeup of seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp.

People of all backgrounds and ages can suffer from this skin condition, though there are groups of individuals who are more susceptible.

For example, infants 3 months of age and younger, as well as adults between the ages of 30 and 60.

Additionally, people with certain health conditions are at an increased risk of getting seborrheic dermatitis, including:

  • HIV
  • Psoraisis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Epilepsy
  • Alcoholism
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

This condition is not to be confused with dandruff, which is a milder form of seborrheic dermatitis but that only involves the scalp.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Sebaceous glands may create a favourable media for the growth of fungi such as Malassezia. This in turn creates inflammation characterised by increased redness and scaling characteristic of seborrheic dermatitis. So while researchers believe that fungal overgrowth is the main cause, there are a number of other factors that come into play. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Exposure to cold and dry climates
  • Overall health

And, while researchers are still trying to better understand the causes and why some individuals are affected while others aren’t, they do know what seborrheic dermatitis isn’t:

It’s Not Caused by Poor Hygiene

While the rash itself can appear to be greasy, this condition is not linked to poor hygiene. In fact, sometimes the rash can be irritated by overwashing.

It’s Not an Allergic Reaction

Redness and inflammation are typically the signs of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction caused by skin contact with the allergen.

Seborrheic dermatitis, however, is not an allergic reaction.

What are the Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The three most common symptoms associated with this condition are:

  • Scaly patches on the skin that appear reddish, and sometimes greasy or moist.
  • Skin flaking, resulting in yellowish or white flakes.
  • Itchy and burning skin, especially on the scalp.

As with many other skin conditions, symptoms will vary in severity from individual to individual.

Conditions Similar to Seborrheic Dermatitis

As mentioned above, dandruff is a milder form of seborrheic dermatitis, but is easily distinguished from it due to location (dandruff appears only on the scalp) and appearance.

However, there are two conditions which are similar in appearance to seborrheic dermatitis but that have their own causes and require different treatments.

Scalp Psoriasis

The condition most often confused with seborrheic dermatitis, scalp psoriasis is a condition characterized by horny scaling, itching, and general skin irritation.

There are two major distinctions between these two conditions, though.

First, skin that is affected by scalp psoriasis is typically drier than skin affected by seborrheic dermatitis.

Whereas individuals with seborrheic dermatitis may experience greasy, moist skin, those with psoriasis will not.

Second, and most important, scalp psoriasis is caused by an entirely different mechanism.

Essentially this condition is autoimmune in nature, and it involves an overgrowth of skin cells. This leads to the plaque commonly associated with the condition.


Yet another skin condition characterized by itchy, red patches of skin, eczema is more accurately characterized as a skin reaction.

The main difference between eczema and seborrheic dermatitis is the presentation of the rash. Eczema tends to be dry and appears on the limbs and trunk of the body.

Seborrheic dermatitis, however, is oily and appears on parts of the body with excess oil production, such as the scalp, face, and groin.

An area of eczema on the hand

There are different forms of eczema which can occur, including contact dermatitis and neurodermatitis. Each form has its own cause and, therefore, own treatments.

Common Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment Methods

When you visit a dermatologist for diagnosis, it’s likely that a number of treatment methods will be presented.

For some, the treatments are effective at keeping the condition at bay. For others, though, the side effects can be many and the results lackluster. Let’s take a look.

Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoos

There are a variety of shampoos – both over-the-counter and prescription-only – that can combat seborrheic dermatitis. These are the very same shampoos used to treat dandruff.

The active ingredients will vary, and some ingredients may be more effective than others. Some of the more common ones include zinc pyrithione, tar, ketoconazole, and selenium sulfide.

Find out more about ketoconazole shampoo for hair loss here.

Head and Shoulders contains selenium sulfide, an ingredient shown to cause hair loss.
Head and Shoulders contains selenium sulfide, an ingredient that may damage your scalp & hair.

Before use, however, I recommend you try an all-natural homemade shampoo. Its use can be just as effective as chemical-laden shampoos, and side effects are much less likely (and typically less of an issue if they do occur).

Corticosteroid Lotions

Corticosteroid lotions are synthetic steroid hormones. They’re used in the short term to treat inflammation, and may prove to be helpful in controlling a particularly painful seborrheic dermatitis flare up.

Of course, such a treatment method doesn’t come without its risks

Consistent use can cause thinning of the skin, damage to the hair follicles, stretch marks, and allergic reaction.

Antifungal Creams

As mentioned above, one of the contributing causes of seborrheic dermatitis is an overgrowth of a common skin fungus, known as Malassezia.

If you’re having trouble keeping this fungus at bay, then your dermatologist may suggest an antifungal cream. Some side effects include skin irritation, redness, numbness and tingling, as well as rash.

Is Seborrheic Dermatitis Linked to Thinning Hair?

Similar to dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis is not a direct cause of hair shedding. However, the inflammation and irritation associated with the condition can certainly lead to hair thinning and loss.

This is mostly due to the excessive itching and scale picking that many sufferers do.

Does this mean that all sufferers of seborrheic dermatitis will experience hair problems?

Absolutely not!

But they are at an increased risk of such issues, especially when the condition is left untreated.

How to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis Naturally

While your dermatologist may recommend a medicated treatment route, there are natural methods to try first. Of course, it’s always best to perform such treatments under the direction of a doctor.

Use Oil to Soften and Remove the Flakes

As flaky buildup is the main contributor to itchiness, irritation, and hair loss associated with seborrheic dermatitis, the softening and removal of said flakes can help to lessen the conditions effects.

All you need is the oil of your choice (I recommend olive for its moisturizing and hypoallergenic properties).

The olive plant contains Oleuropein


Apply a palmful of oil to your scalp, massaging in gently for 2-3 minutes. Leave on scalp for at least an hour (though overnight is best).

Before rinsing, take a fine-toothed comb and gently lift the flakes and scales from your scalp. Once all flakes are removed, rinse the oil from your scalp thoroughly and then shampoo as usual.

Use Homemade Tea Tree Oil Shampoo to Prevent Flare Ups

Once the flakes and scales have been removed, it’s important that you treat your scalp in order to prevent future flare ups.

This five-ingredient shampoo can get you started, but feel free to tweak the recipe as you see fit.

What You’ll Need:


Boil 1 cup of water. Add the rosemary, remove from heat, and allow to steep until cool. Mix the remaining ingredients in the container of your choice.

Once the rosemary water has cooled, remove and discard the rosemary and combine the water with the other ingredients.

Lather on to wet hair, massaging deeply into your scalp. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.

Hair Benefits:

Apple cider vinegar is the cleansing agent in this shampoo. It gently removes the buildup of dead skin and oil, keeping the scalp free of the irritating, inflaming scales associated with the condition.

Learn more about apple cider vinegar for thin hair here.

Apple cider vinegar shampoos gently cleanse the scalp

Rosemary is anti-inflammatory, treating the effects of the condition in order to prevent further irritation and itching.

Last, tea tree oil is antifungal. This helps to control the fungal overgrowth associated with seborrheic dermatitis, and can prevent new flare ups from occurring.

Changing Your Diet To Get Rid Of All Skin Problems

Given the right building blocks the body can heal itself. Having seborrheic dermatitis should be a sign to you that your diet needs improving.

This is my favorite resource for skin problems.

The first thing is to get rid of all processed foods and replace them with plant based foods.

You may also want to consider getting rid of gluten in your diet.

Also, remove yeasty products from your diet, these include beer and bread. Again, replace these with plant foods.

I used to have eczema, but I cured it with good diet. If I did have seborrheic dermatitis I would take immediate action by removing all processed foods from my diet – this would naturally get rid of gluten and yeast foods.


If you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, you may be concerned that the condition can lead to hair damage and loss. While the condition itself isn’t a cause of hair loss, the itching and inflammation associated with it certainly can be.

Fortunately, there are treatment methods available for this condition that can target the route cause – fungal overgrowth – and prevent future flare ups from taking place.

Do you have any questions about seborrheic dermatitis or the natural treatments you can use to treat it? Leave it in the comments below!

*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri

18 thoughts on “Seborrheic Dermatitis & Hair Loss | 2020 Guide”

  1. Is betadine and shampoo is useful for seborrheic dermatitis and how much time it will take to come in normal skin?

    • Hi Akshay, no I wouldn’t add betadine to your shampoo. Honestly, the best option is to focus on your diet. This way you can heal your scalp SD from the inside out. This is the best option for the long term.

  2. I have 2 years of hair loss. I’ve noticed the round hair shaft that can only be removed with a nail. Also, the bottom of the hair that sinks, I see a small white spot (smaller than the root of hair). My doctor did not recognize the type of illness. How can I send the picture to you? Can you help me to diagnose?

    • Hi Roya, I’m not quite sure what you are describing. A picture would make it easier to understand. BTW, I’m not a doctor so I can only give you my opinion, but I’ll try to help.

  3. Hi, I’ve had hair loss for almost three months and was diagnosed yesterday (seb derm) although I already worked this out a while ago myself. I used Nizoral yesterday and today as my doctor said, and it has worked wonders, my pain is almost completely gone. I’ve read a lot of your articles and want to go with the natural approach in future. Can I do this after using Nizoral? I want to switch to a tea tree shampoo after a couple of weeks but don’t know how this would work after the ketoconazole

    • Hi Eleanor,

      Thanks for your question!

      In general, it shouldn’t be a problem to switch from Nizoral to a more natural formulation down the line. You may want to taper use of the Nizoral (go from three times a week to twice per week, etc.) but other than that you should be fine to do so.



  4. Hi there….i have had seborrheic dermatitis for about 4 years. Tried lots of shampoos….currntly using ketoconzale shampoo and alternating everyday with a conditioner. I have read that applying oil to scalp reduces the seborrheic dermatitis but when I apply at some portions where I kind of feel the hair is grain when I touch over them…it is at these places on oil massage hair comes out with the follicle. So is it better to stop the oil application since sebum overproduction is the main cause for SD or can I still continue?

    • Hi Shyam,

      The application of oils can actually increase seborrheic dermatitis as it feeds the yeast which causes the condition in the first place.



  5. Well, to be honest I’m not sure what I have. An area about 3 inches in diameter on the right side of my head is sensitive to the touch. I don’t have any redness, no sores, no itching — nothing but the sensitive skin. It’s been going on for about 5 days now. My doctor gave me Triamcinolone Acetonide which I tried for 3 days showing no results. I’m assuming that the med is pretty harsh so I have stopped. I am trying some tea tree oil now. Any input would be appreciated.

  6. You should never put olive oil on your scalp if you have seborrheic dermatitis. The yeast(fungus) on your scalp needs food in order to survive and you’re literally feeding it by putting olive oil on your head. Up to 85% of olive oil is a fatty acid called Oleic Acid. Oleic acid is literally food for the yeast.

    • I was prescribed a corticosteroid lotion to treat my sebborheic dermatitis. I noticed after using the product that my hair became thinner after a few weeks of use.My skin became thinner too. My hair has always been fine, but never thin. I am going to try treating my scalp with something natural. I am at a loss for words about the devastation this condition has upset me.
      If anyone has a good home made way of getting sebborheic dermatitis under control, I would appreciate it. I am desperate!

  7. Have tried Castor Oil,Coconut Oil,Jojoba Oil rubbed gently on my scalp too
    for my hair fallout but I think that if oil is one factor in my hair falling out cause of a oily scalp then that would only make things worse cause of blocked pores.

    • Hi Jessica,

      Yes, it’s correct that oil application isn’t a good idea for individuals with seborrheic dermatitis.

      Unfortunately, the only way to treat hair loss caused by seborrheic dermatitis is to treat the condition directly. This may require a physician consultation.



  8. Firstly thanks for this information sir I have major problem is that ( seborrheic dermatitis ) I think from 5 years ago , and I thought that this one type of dandruff and I didn’t take any action of that . And i didn’t know about seborrheic dermatitis , sir last past 10 months have major problem and hair lose are more from beginning and and I had one question there is a chance regrow hair and how to regrow sir and suggest shampoo

    • Hi Darshan,

      The answer to whether you can regrow your hair or not will depend on many factors.

      If the hair follicles are still alive (i.e. producing hairs, even if they are vellus), then the chance of regrowth is good.

      I recommend you check out this in-depth guide on the topic:




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