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Seborrheic dermatitis: Tips for managing

Dermatologists recommend the following to help keep seborrheic dermatitis under control.

Infants: Diaper area and elsewhere

If your baby may have seborrheic dermatitis in the diaper area or elsewhere, it is best to see a dermatologist for a diagnosis. This common rash can look a lot like eczema, psoriasis, or an allergic reaction. Each of these conditions requires a different treatment plan.

Adults and adolescents: Scalp

Woman lathering shampoo in hair
On the scalp, many people can get relief by a dandruff shampoos.

When using a dandruff shampoo, always read and follow the directions on the bottle. Some shampoos you need to leave on scalp for a few minutes.

What you need

  • Shampoo (without dandruff control)

  • Dandruff shampoo

If you are African American, follow the plan for African American hair, shown below.


  1. On day 1, use the dandruff shampoo, and continue to use it every other day.

  2. On day 2, use your regular shampoo, using it every other day.

As the seborrheic dermatitis lessens, you can decrease how often you use the dandruff shampoo, using it only 1 or 2 times a week.

Not getting relief?

Trying a dandruff shampoo with a different active ingredient may help. The active ingredients in dandruff shampoos are:

  • Zinc pyrithione

  • Salicylic acid and sulfur

  • Coal tar

  • Selenium sulfide

  • Ketoconazole

African American woman smiling
African Americans: How to control seborrheic dermatitis on your scalp

What you need

  • Dandruff shampoo (See a dermatologist for a product recommendation.)

Shampoo once a week using the dandruff shampoo

Adults and adolescents: Skin care

What you need

  • Soap (or cleanser) that contains 2% zinc pyrithione

  • Fragrance-free moisturizer

  • Scale softener, such as a cream that contains coal tar or salicylic acid and sulfur

Petroleum jelly is NOT recommended if you have seborrheic dermatitis. Using it tends to worsen seborrheic dermatitis.

Dermatologists recommend the following to remove scale from your skin:

Wash your skin daily, as follows:

  1. Wet your skin thoroughly

  2. Wash, using the soap that contains 2% zinc pyrithione

  3. Rinse well

  4. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer after every shower and bath

If you need more help softening the scale, apply a scale-softening cream that contains salicylic acid and sulfur or coal tar. When using these, follow the instructions on the product.

When to see a dermatologist

Seborrheic dermatitis can be stubborn. If these tips fail to bring relief, you should see a dermatologist. Some people need the expertise of a dermatologist to control seborrheic dermatitis.

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