Seborrheic Dermatitis (Flaky Scalp): Reasons and How to Solve It?

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Seborrheic dermatitis, often called flaky scalp, is a common skin condition that affects the scalp and other oil-rich areas of the body, such as the face, ears, and chest. While it’s not a serious medical condition, it can cause discomfort and embarrassment and affect self-esteem. This blog will delve into the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for seborrheic dermatitis and dry flaky scalp helping you manage this condition and achieve a healthier scalp and hair.

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The exact seborrheic dermatitis or flaky scalp causes are not fully understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of factors discussed below.

  • Malassezia Yeast: This yeast is naturally present on the skin and usually doesn’t cause problems. However, in some people, an overgrowth of this yeast can lead to inflammation and flaking.
  • Excessive Sebum Production: ¬†Excessive sebum (skin oil) production especially during cold and dry environmental conditions can contribute to developing seborrheic dermatitis. Moreover, the yeast feeds on sebum, leading to overgrowth of yeast and an inflammatory response.
  • Genetics: Family history may play a role in predisposing individuals to seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Environmental Factors: Cold, dry weather and stress can exacerbate the condition of a flaky scalp.

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis can vary in severity and may include:

  • Flaky Scalp: One of the most noticeable symptoms is the presence of white or yellowish flakes on the scalp.
  • Redness: The affected areas may become red and inflamed.
  • Itching: Itchy and irritated skin is a common complaint.
  • Greasy Appearance: While it may seem counterintuitive, the affected areas can appear greasy due to excess sebum production.
  • Scaling: Apart from the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis can also affect the face, particularly around the eyebrows, nose, and ears, causing flaky skin and redness.
  • Inflammation in Hair Follicles: Hair follicles may be inflamed causing irritation on cheeks or the upper part of the torso.

Treatment Options

Managing seborrheic dermatitis involves a combination of self-care and, in severe cases, professional medical intervention. Here are some of the effective flaky scalp treatment options:

  • Over-the-Counter Shampoos: Shampoos containing ingredients like zinc, pyrithione, ketoconazole, or salicylic acid can help control flaking and reduce inflammation.
  • Medicated Creams and Lotions: Over-the-counter or prescription creams and lotions containing corticosteroids or antifungal agents can be applied to affected areas.
  • Regular Cleansing: Regularly cleansing the affected areas can help remove excess oil and prevent the yeast from proliferating.
  • Avoid Triggers: Identify and avoid triggers that worsen the condition, such as stress, harsh skincare products, and extreme weather conditions.
  • Consult a Dermatologist: If symptoms persist or worsen, consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Preventing Recurrences

While seborrheic dermatitis may recur, you can take steps to prevent flare-ups:

  • Maintain Good Hygiene: Regularly cleanse and moisturize your skin to keep it healthy and prevent excess oil buildup.
  • Use Mild Products: Opt for gentle skincare and haircare products that won’t exacerbate inflammation.
  • Manage Stress: Practice stress-relief techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Dietary Changes: Some individuals find that reducing sugar and processed foods can help manage the condition.


Seborrheic dermatitis, or flaky scalp, can be managed effectively through proper haircare routine, medication, and lifestyle adjustments. By understanding the underlying causes and adopting the right treatment approach, you can enjoy a healthier scalp and healthy hair. If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms, consult a dermatologist for personalized guidance and recommendations.

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