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This is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease, which manifests as red patches covered by greasy scales in specific locations. Its cause is not fully understood, but the role of a fungus from the Malassezia family in its onset has been clearly identified. There are two main forms: one affects infants in the first days of life and the other affects adults, with a course of flare-ups and remissions. It is a benign but very troublesome disease.

What is
seborrhoeic dermatitis?

On the scalp, it cause diffuse dandruff. It can extend to the chest in the intermammary cleft and the interscapular area. In very rare case, the groin folds and genitals can be affected. Itching is common, especially on the scalp, but not always present.
It progresses in flare-ups triggered by stress, fatigue, overexertion and emotional problems. Conversely, the sun and holidays promote remission.

What causes seborrheic dermatitis?

It is not fully understood, but several factors indicate that lipophilic yeasts in the Malassezia family play a prominent role. In fact, these yeasts are more numerous in people with seborrheic dermatitis, and antifungal treatments are effective.

The current hypothesis is that there is thought to be, rather than excessive Malassezia growth, an abnormal host response to these fungi. It would also appear that there is a predisposition to this dermatosis, probably involving an immune disorder, although this has not yet been able to be demonstrated.

The very high frequency of seborrheic dermatitis in immunocompromised patients (especially HIV) and Down’s syndrome supports this hypothesis.

This dermatosis is also more common in Parkinson's disease, although there is no clear causal relationship.

Treatment of seborrheic dermatitis

As with many types of chronic inflammatory dermatitis, no treatment can offer a definitive cure. However, topical antifungal treatments are effective and can be repeated.

crème anti-inflammatoire

Antifungal treatments

There are different forms depending on the site to be treated: creams for the face and trunk, lotion for body folds, shampoo for the scalp. Topical corticosteroids are not usually recommended for this condition except in very rare cases. If there is very significant involvement, use of an oral antifungal may be helpful.

photo de Avene


Hydrotherapy is a beneficial complementary treatment that allows the patient to rest and receive appropriate topical care.

crane de bébé atteint de dermite séborrhéique

Treatment of infants

Treatment in infants is also based on antifungals, combined if necessary with an oil and limestone liniment or copper and zinc-based preparations, particularly when the bottom is affected.