Alexander K. C. Leung, Barankin B (2015) Seborrheic Dermatitis. Int J Pediat Health Care Adv. 2(1), 7-9. 7
International Journal of Pediatric Health Care & Advancements (IJPA)
Alexander K. C. Leung1*, Barankin B2
1 Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Pediatric Consultant, Alberta Children's Hospital, Canada.
2 Dermatologist, Medical Director and Founder, Toronto Dermatology Centre, Canada.
Alexander K. C. Leung MBBS, FRCPC, FRCP(UK & Irel), FRCPCH,
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Pediatric Consult-
ant, Alberta Children's Hospital, #200, 233 – 16th Avenue NW Calgary,
Alberta, Canada T2M 0H5, Canada.
Fax: (403) 230-3322
Received: June 01, 2015
Accepted: July 22, 2015
Published: July 24, 2015
Citation: Alexander K. C. Leung, Barankin B (2015) Seborrheic Derma-
titis. Int J Pediat Health Care Adv. 2(1), 7-9.
Copyright: Alexander K. C. Leung© 2015. This is an open-access ar-
ticle distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common chronic inammatory skin
disease characterized by erythema and greasy scales . The con-
dition typically affects areas rich in sebaceous glands such as the
scalp, eyebrows, glabella, nasolabial folds, postauricular area, and
intertriginous areas [2, 3]. In general, scaling tends to predominate
on the scalp whereas erythema tends to predominate in the ex-
ural folds and intertriginous areas .
Seborrheic dermatitis has two incidence peaks, the rst in the rst
three months of life and the second beginning at puberty, reach-
ing its apex at 30 to 40 years of age [5-7]. The condition affects
up to 70% of infants in the rst 3 months of life [3, 5] and 3 to
5% of young adults [7-9]. Seborrheic dermatitis is more common
in males than females, presumably because androgens stimulate
sebum production [6, 8].
Seborrheic dermatitis might result from excessive sebaceous
gland activity with sebum overproduction as the dermatitis usu-
ally develop in areas with the highest density of these glands .
The high prevalence of infantile seborrheic dermatitis in early in-
fancy can be explained by a transient surge of gonadotropins with
a resulting rise in testosterone levels which peaks at 1 to 3 months
of age. It is believed that the sebum permits growth and prolifera-
tion of commensal yeasts of the Malassezia (formerly known as
Pityrosporum) family which, through the action of lipases, degrade
lipids on the skin surface with production of unsaturated and
saturated fatty acids [7, 9]. The inammation which causes hy-
perproliferation of stratum corneum (scaling) results from non-
immunogenic irritation due to unsaturated fatty acids and the cel-
lular immune response to these yeasts [2, 7, 9]. There is a genetic
predisposition; there is an increase in the frequency of HLA-A32,
HLA-AW30, HLA-AW31, HLA-B12, and HLA-B18 in patients
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common chronic inammatory skin disease characterized by erythema and greasy scales affecting
areas rich in sebaceous glands. Seborrheic dermatitis has two incidence peaks, the rst in the rst three months of life and
the second beginning at puberty, reaching its apex at 30 to 40 years of age. Infants with seborrheic dermatitis often present
with focal or diffuse scaling and crusting of the scalp. Erythematous or salmon-colored sharply demarcated patches with
yellow-white scales may involve the face, postauricular areas, trunk, and intertriginous and exural areas of the body. In the
diaper area, infantile seborrheic dermatitis presents as a sharply demarcated, erythematous, scaly eruption with a tendency
to coalesce, resulting in the formation of a large conuent lesion. Pruritus is characteristically absent. In adolescence and
beyond, seborrheic dermatitis usually presents as greasy scaling of the scalp. It may also present as ill-dened erythema-
tous patches with yellow-white, greasy scales affecting the nasolabial folds, eyelids, eyebrows, glabella, postauricular area,
anterior chest, and less commonly the upper back. Mild periodic pruritus is common in adolescent seborrheic dermatitis.
Scalp lesions in infantile seborrheic dermatitis usually respond to simple daily shampooing alone or in combination with
non-prescription mild shampoos specic for seborrheic dermatitis. For infantile scalp seborrheic dermatitis that does not
respond to the above measures, for seborrheic dermatitis lesions elsewhere, and for adolescent or adult seborrheic derma-
titis, the use of topical antifungals, calcineurin inhibitors, and low to mid potency corticosteroids should be considered. A
compounded mixture of these ingredients is also often employed.
Keywords: Erythema; Greasy Scales; Cradle Cap; Diaper Rash; Topical Antifungals.
Alexander K. C. Leung, Barankin B (2015) Seborrheic Dermatitis. Int J Pediat Health Care Adv. 2(1), 7-9. 8
with seborrheic dermatitis [7, 9].
In adolescence and beyond, predisposing factors include HIV
infection, stress, medications (haloperidol, chlorpromazine, bus-
pirone, lithium), trisomy 21, and familial amyloidosis with poly-
neuropathy [3, 5, 6].
Histological ndings in the acute stage include spongiosis, focal
parakeratosis, plugged follicular ostia, and supercial perivascular
and interstitial lymphocytic inltration [2, 7]. In the chronic stage,
changes include in addition to the aforementioned ndings, ir-
regular acanthosis, a poorly formed or absent granular layer, and
psoriasiform hyperplasia with dilatation of the capillaries and
venules of the supercial plexus .
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis usually develops within the rst
month of life . Infants with seborrheic dermatitis often pre-
sent with focal or diffuse, white or yellow, greasy scaling and
crusting of the scalp (Figure 1) [1, 2]. The lesion may become so
thickened that it forms a cap, meriting its description as cradle cap
. Cradle cap is usually the initial and at times the only manifes-
tation of infantile seborrheic dermatitis . Not uncommonly,
erythematous or salmon-colored sharply demarcated patches with
yellow-white scales may involve the face, external ear, postauricu-
lar folds, trunk, and intertriginous and exural areas of the body
. In the diaper area, infantile seborrheic dermatitis presents as
a sharply demarcated, erythematous, greasy, scaly eruption with
a tendency to coalesce, resulting in the formation of a large con-
uent lesion; it may be mistaken for candidal dermatitis . In
infantile seborrheic dermatitis, oozing, weeping and pruritus are
characteristically absent .
In adolescence and beyond, seborrheic dermatitis usually presents
as greasy scaling of the scalp (dandruff). It may also present as
ill-dened erythematous patches with yellow-white, greasy scales
on the nasolabial folds, eyelids, eyebrows, glabella (Figure 2), pos-
tauricular area, anterior chest, and less commonly the upper back
[11, 12]. In contrast to infantile seborrheic dermatitis, pruritus is
common in adolescent seborrheic dermatitis, especially with scalp
involvement . Involvement of the eyelids may lead to blephari-
tis with erythematous eyelids and potential destruction of eye-
lid follicles [7, 8]. The upper chest and back are less commonly
affected . Generalized seborrheic dermatitis is uncommon
which, if present, should lead to the suspicion of an underlying
The diagnosis is mainly clinical, based on the characteristic clinical
morphology of scaling and erythema in typical sebum-rich areas.
If necessary, the diagnosis can be aided by dermoscopy which
shows atypical red vessels, arborizing vessels, and structureless
red areas . If tinea capitis is suspected, a potassium hydrox-
ide wet-mount examination of scalp scrapings may help in the
diagnosis. Referral to a dermatologist should be considered if the
diagnosis is in doubt.
Seborrheic dermatitis should be differentiated from atopic der-
matitis, irritant diaper dermatitis, tinea capitis, psoriasis, rosacea,
Langerhans cell histiocytosis X, and immunodeciency . In-
fantile seborrheic dermatitis is distinguished from atopic derma-
titis by its earlier age of onset, involvement of the scalp, diaper
area, and exural rather than extensor surfaces, well-dened le-
sions with dry ne scaling, absence of oozing or weeping, and
absence of pruritus .
Typically, irritant contact dermatitis presents as conuent erythe-
ma and maceration on the convex skin surfaces in contact with
the diaper. The skin has a shiny, glazed appearance. In contrast to
infantile seborrheic dermatitis, the intertriginous folds are usually
Tinea capitis typically presents as ne scaling with patches of cir-
cular alopecia; diffuse or patchy, ne, white, adherent scaling of
the scalp resembling generalized dandruff; or patches of well-de-
marcated areas of alopecia with ne scales, studded with broken-
off, swollen hair stubs, resulting in a “black dot” appearance.
In infants and young children, psoriasis often present as sharply
demarcated erythematous plaques in the diaper and intertriginous
areas. The classic silvery scales are usually absent. Compared to
infantile seborrheic dermatitis, the response to topical corticoster-
oid is much slower, and there is no response to topical antifungals.
Rosacea is characterized by telangiectasia, persistent erythema of
the central face, small, dome-shaped erythematous papules, and/
or tiny pustules on the central aspects of the face. The perioral
and periocular areas are typically spared. Facial ushing, dryness,
scaling, edema, or burning/stinging (“sensitive skin”) sensation
may be present.
Figure 1. Infantile seborrheic dermatitis presenting as yellowish adherent scales and crusting of the scalp.
Figure 2. A 16-year-old boy with seborrheic dermatitis presenting as white scales on the eyebrows and glabella.
Alexander K. C. Leung, Barankin B (2015) Seborrheic Dermatitis. Int J Pediat Health Care Adv. 2(1), 7-9. 9
Langerhans cell histiocytosis X is a multisystem disease that can
be distinguished by the presence of 1 to 3 mm discrete yellowish
to red-brown crusted papules, purpuric lesions, lymphadenopa-
thy, and hepatosplenomegaly. The cutaneous lesions are resistant
to topical corticosteroid .
Various immunodeciency states may present with an intractable
seborrhea-like dermatitis. Immunodeciency should be suspected
if there are constitutional ndings such as fever, anemia, diarrhea,
and failure to thrive.
Although scalp hair loss is not usually associated with seborrheic
dermatitis, alopecia may result if the scalp involvement is chronic
and severe . Infantile seborrheic dermatitis may be compli-
cated by superimposed infection with Candida species. Postinam-
matory pigmentary changes may occur, particularly in more pig-
mented individuals . Blepharoconjunctivitis may also occur .
In adolescence, the condition can be socially embarrassing and
may have a substantial adverse effect on the quality of life [3, 8].
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis is usually self-limiting, resolving
within several weeks to several months . The majority of cases
clear by 12 months of age [11, 12]. In adolescent and adult sebor-
rheic dermatitis, the disease runs a chronic course with relapses
and remissions .
Treatment should be individualized, taking into consideration the
age of the patient, location of the lesion, response to previous
treatment, preference of the patient, and adverse effect of the
medication. Scalp lesions in infantile seborrheic dermatitis usu-
ally respond to more regular shampooing alone or in combination
with the non-prescription mild shampoos specically labelled for
seborrheic dermatitis. For infantile scalp seborrheic dermatitis that
does not respond to the above measures, for seborrheic dermati-
tis lesions elsewhere, and for adolescent or adult seborrheic der-
matitis, the use of topical antifungals (ketoconazole, ciclopirox),
calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus and pimecrolimus), and low to
mid potency corticosteroids should be considered, alone or in
combination [2, 15-19]. Topical antifungal agents (ketoconazole,
ciclopirox, sertaconazole) which are available in different formu-
lations such as creams and shampoos are the mainstay of treat-
ment [2, 5, 6]. Shampoos with different active ingredients (e.g.
zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, selenium sulphide, tar, salicylic
acid) have been used with success [20, 21]. In this regard, zinc
pyrithione-based shampoos are effective, affordable, and have ex-
cellent cosmetic and hair conditioning effects; all of which will
encourage long-term compliance. More frequent shampooing is
often helpful .
Oral antifungals (itraconazole, ketoconazole, terbinane, ucona-
zole) or isotretinoin are rarely indicated but may be considered in
selected cases of extensive and severe lesions resistant to topical
treatment [8, 22].
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