Seborrheic dermatitis is a non-contagious condition that causes flaking and redness of the skin. It occurs when there is inflammation in areas of the skin where sebaceous (skin oil) glands are concentrated. It usually affects the scalp, but can also affect other parts of the body, such as eyebrows, eyelids, the folds of the nose, lips, behind or inside the ears, in the external ear, the forehead and the chin and the skin of the trunk, particularly around the navel, in the skin folds under the arms, in the groin, or under the breasts.
Seborrheic dermatitis appears to run in families. Stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning, use of lotions that contain alcohol, or skin disorders such as acne or obesity may increase the risk. Neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, head injury, and stroke can also be associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is also associated with higher incidence.
Seborrheic dermatitis can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, and is usually unattractive. It can disappear spontaneously and suddenly reappear, for no known reason. Or it can stubbornly linger, resisting treatment. But as frustrating as it can be, it is readily diagnosed and is treatable.