Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can lead to dandruff

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can lead to dandruff
beginning of content

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

3-minute read

What is seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis (also spelled seborrheic dermatitis) is a form of skin inflammation that usually occurs on the scalp, face or torso, in or around areas that naturally produce an oily substance known as sebum.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is also called seborrhoeic eczema, and can lead to dandruff. If it happens in infants, it causes cradle cap.

What causes seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis may be caused by an immune reaction to a microscopic fungus called Malassezia.

Malassezia is normally present on healthy skin, around the areas where oil is produced, but some people develop an immune reaction to Malassezia for reasons that remain unknown. It is not contagious, nor a sign of poor hygiene.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis looks like patches of oily, flaking or scaly skin. Crusting yellow sores may develop on the scalp, particularly in infants with cradle cap. Affected areas may also be red and itchy, or may sting.

How is seborrhoeic dermatitis treated?

In infants, seborrheic dermatitis and cradle cap usually clear naturally within 6 to 12 months, but seborrhoeic dermatitis that appears during adolescence or adulthood can be a long-term condition, which may flare up from time to time.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can often be managed effectively at home with over-the-counter treatments, including anti-dandruff shampoos when the scalp is affected. Crusting yellow sores, often found on infants with cradle cap, can be removed by softening them with baby shampoo or baby oil and warm water, and then gently wiping with a cotton bud, soft toothbrush or cloth. Sometimes the skin underneath the cradle cap can become infected. If the cradle cap isn’t getting better or spreads to other parts of the body, speak to your doctor, local chemist or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.

For other areas, anti-fungal or corticosteroid creams may relieve symptoms. An exfoliating body or face wash containing salicylic acid may also help remove flaking skin. Treatments may need to be used frequently initially, and then occasionally when symptoms reappear.

Ask for help if symptoms persist, or if you experience a sudden increase in the severity of your symptoms, increased discomfort, or if your condition is causing anxiety or embarrassment, or if it’s interfering with your daily routine.

You can speak to your pharmacist or your doctor who may in a few cases refer you to a dermatologist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

ACD A-Z of Skin - Seborrhoeic Dermatitis and Cradle Cap

Seborrhoeic dermatitis and Cradle Cap is inflammation of the skin that usually occurs on areas of the body such as the head and trunk where there are a greater number of oil glands.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Cradle Cap

A-Z OF SKIN Cradle Cap BACK TO A-Z SEARCH Cradle cap also known as Seborrhoeic dermatitis in infants, is inflammation of the skin that usually occurs on areas of the body such as the head and trunk where there are a greater number of oil glands

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Dandruff and itching scalp - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Dandruff -

Dandruff is when your scalp sheds excessive amounts of larger-than-normal skin flakes. These flakes stick to the hair shafts, eventually falling on the collars and shoulders of clothes.

Read more on myDr website

Dandruff in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Dandruff is common and normal in children and teens. You can usually treat it with anti-dandruff shampoo. Read more about dandruff treatment and causes.

Read more on website

Cradle cap: symptoms, causes and self-care -

Cradle cap usually gets better on its own, within a few weeks of appearing.There are several things you can do at home (self-care) to try to improve cradle cap and treatments are available from your doctor.

Read more on myDr website

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is the name given to the yellowish, greasy scaly patches that appear on the scalp of young babies. It is very common, harmless and doesn't cause discomfort.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Post-inflammatory hypopigmentation

Damage to the skin from trauma or inflammation may result in discolouration of the affected area. Compared with normal skin, these areas may appear slightly lighter (hypopigmentation).

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Flushing

Flushing is a term used to describe transient and episodic reddening of the skin. It occurs most commonly on the face and neck but less conspicuous changes may occur over the entire body.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Rosacea - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo