Seborrheic dermatitis: Signs and symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?
The signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis vary with age. The following describes how it affects people at different ages.
Adults and adolescents
Seborrheic dermatitis causes:
Scaly patches on the skin
The skin beneath these patches is reddish
Although scaly, patches often look greasy or moist
Scales can flake off and tend to be yellowish to white
Scalp and face
Reddish, oily-looking patches often appear on the scalp and face.
Signs on the scalp
A patch of seborrheic dermatitis on a man’s scalp.
In adults and adolescents, the skin can:
Itch, especially on the scalp and in the ear canal
Patches form where the skin is oily:
Ears (around and in the ear canal)
Eyebrows (the skin beneath)
Center of the face
Patches form where the skin is oily, such as on the scalp, face, and in the ear canals.
The pinkish skin on this woman’s forehead, eyelids, and nose is seborrheic dermatitis.
People who are HIV positive
When a person is HIV positive, seborrheic dermatitis is often widespread.
People with Parkinson's disease
People with Parkinson’s disease often have widespread seborrheic dermatitis, as shown here.
When an infant gets seborrheic dermatitis, it tends to form on the scalp and is known as cradle cap. Signs and symptoms of cradle cap include:
Yellow, greasy scale on the scalp
A thick layer of scale can cover the entire scalp
Scale is often yellow to brownish in color
With time, the scale becomes flaky and easily rubs off
In infants, seborrheic dermatitis also can form on the face, usually on a baby’s eyelids, around the nose, or ears. It also forms in the diaper area. In a few babies, seborrheic dermatitis covers most of the body.
Most infants seem unbothered by seborrheic dermatitis. Cradle cap sometimes itches.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
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.