What is seborrheic dermatitis and how does it arise?

What is seborrheic dermatitis and how does it arise?
What is seborrheic dermatitis and how does it arise?

A seborrheic dermatitis It’s a skin disease better known as dandruff.

Little pieces of peeling skin on the body, redness and itching. It is likely that you have already experienced these discomforts at least once in your life. Or, know someone who deals with them.

These are the classic signs of the condition, which, with no known cause, It can appear at any age and on various parts of the body. In general, it affects scalpeyebrows, corners of the nose, ears, chest and back.

“As the name suggests, seborrheic dermatitis is linked to the production of sebum, that is, the environments conducive to the disease are the most oily areas of the skin”, explains Ademir Carvalho Leite Jr., dermatologist and member of the International Association of Trichologists .

Next, understand what this dermatitis is and learn how to prevent and treat it.

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What is seborrheic dermatitis

Contrary to what many think, seborrheic dermatitis is not necessarily caused by lack of hygiene.

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“ANDthere is one chronic inflammation that originates in the sebaceous glands of the skin, responsible for the production of sebum in our body”, explains Gustavo Martins, dermatologist and member of the Brazilian Hair Restoration Association (ABRC).

Sebum is an oily secretion that helps prevent water loss and dry skin. However, with inflammation of the gland, its production goes off track.

In this overload situation, the life cycle of the epidermis cells (skin layer) happens faster than it should and their remains are eliminated in greater volume. These are the visible bits of dandruff.

Not infrequently, a fungus called Malasseziawhich feeds on fat, takes advantage of it to proliferate in the affected regions and worsen inflammation.


In excess, sebum leads to the appearance of peeling of the skin (the famous dandruff), erythema (redness) and pruritus (itching).

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According to an estimate by the Brazilian Society of Dermatology (SBD), around 40% of the population has had episodes of dandruff.

The condition can affect men and women of all ages, but it tends to appear more intensely in males and is more common during childhood and between the ages of 40 and 60.

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When presented in the first weeks of life, seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap and is characterized by the appearance of yellowish crusts on the scalp of babies.

In general, conditions are easily controlled with topical care. However, lack of treatment can favor the emergence of complications, such as bacterial infections, which can intensify symptoms.

Causes and risk factors

The causes of dandruff are still unknownbut many factors favor its emergence.

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In the case of cradle cap, even maternal hormones have an influence.

“The mother’s hormonal levels and the baby’s genetic predisposition can lead to hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands in the first weeks of life”, explains Ana Carolina Sumam, member of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology (RJ).

Hormonal issues also help to understand the prevalence of the condition among adult men, as testosterone funds gland growth and sebum production.

“O stress is another crucial factor”, says Sumam. “It can both trigger and worsen episodes of seborrheic dermatitis in some people.” The condition tends to worsen during periods of cold, dry weather.

Family history predisposes to the onset of seborrheic dermatitis.

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Other factors that even influence the severity of the conditions are:

  • Allergies
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Fungal infections by Pityrosporum ovale It is Malassezia sp.
  • Alcoholism
  • Use of certain medications

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The diagnosis is usually made clinically by the doctor, based on the complaints and symptoms presented.

Advanced cases that have progressed to complications may require laboratory tests.

Dandruff treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic disease, but it can be easily controlled in most cases.

The main measures are changes in habits, shampoos and lotions with specific composition and medications.

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“Products are used that have active ingredients capable of reducing inflammation of the glands, redness and dandruff secretion”, explains Gustavo Martins.

Fighting fungus Malassezia

Depending on individual risk factors and the severity of inflammation, control may involve the use of antifungals (to control the proliferation of the Malassezia and other fungi involved), corticosteroids and even topical immunomodulators.

If you have symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, see a dermatologist to outline the best treatment for your case.

+ Read also: Dandruff treatment is reinforced with botulinum toxin

Prevention requires constant care

The emergence or worsening of seborrheic dermatitis can be prevented by following some habits.

Wash your hair regularly It is essential for the health of the scalp, but not with very hot water. Avoid wearing hats, caps and helmets for long periods, so as not to smother the area. Tying up wet hair is also a bad idea.

It is also necessary to pay attention to certain substances. Those used in aggressive hair procedures, such as progressive hair treatments, favor scalp peeling. And even natural essences, such as aloe vera, can cause irritation.

Massages, on the other hand, are fine. “They they can help remove dead cells and blood circulation from the scalp, preventing the increase in sebum”, explains dermatologist Ana Carolina Sumam.

Finally, manage stress It is very important for those who have dandruff frequently.

In this regard, it is worth seeking psychotherapy, avoiding stressful situations and focusing on activities such as physical exercises or meditationas doctors suggest.

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