Go to AAD Home
Donate For AAD Members Search

Go to AAD Home

Seborrheic dermatitis: Who gets and causes

What causes seborrheic dermatitis?

Researchers are still studying what causes this common skin disease. From what they have learned, it appears that the cause is complex. Many factors seem to work together to cause seborrheic dermatitis. These factors may include the yeast that normally lives on our skin, our genes, living in a cold and dry climate, stress, and a person’s overall health.

By studying seborrheic dermatitis, researchers have learned the following:

  • It is not caused by poor personal hygiene

  • It is not an allergy

  • It does not harm the body

Who gets seborrheic dermatitis?

People of all colors and ages get seborrheic dermatitis. You have a higher risk if any of the following apply to you.


People in these two age groups are most susceptible:

  • Infants 3 months of age and younger

  • Adults between 30 and 60 years of age

Medical conditions

Your risk increases if you have any of these medical conditions:

  • HIV (About 85% of people infected with HIV develop seborrheic dermatitis)

  • Acne, rosacea, or psoriasis

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Epilepsy

  • Stroke or heart attack (recovering from)

  • Alcoholism

  • Depression

  • Eating disorder

Medical treatments

If you are taking any of the following medicines, your risk for seborrheic dermatitis increases:

  • Interferon

  • Lithium

  • Psoralen

Habif TP, Campbell JL, et al. “Seborrheic dermatitis.” In: Dermatology DDxDeck. China, Mosby Elsevier: 2006, p. 40.

Plewig G Jansen T. “Seborrheic Dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al. editors. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed. United States of America, McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p.219-25.