What Is The Difference Between Dandruff And Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are common scalp disorders. They're usually not serious and can be controlled with treatment. But sometimes they can be complicated by yeast infections, skin disorders or other medical conditions.
Dandruff is a condition characterized by flakes of skin on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is a more severe form of dandruff. It's marked by red, oily patches of skin with scales that may extend to the hairline, forehead, eyebrows, sides of the nose or inside the ear.
The exact cause of dandruff is unknown. It's thought to be related to a fungus that lives on the scalps of healthy people. This fungus is called malassezia. In people with dandruff, the fungus may grow out of control and cause the skin cells on the scalp to shed more than usual.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also thought to be related to malassezia, but it may be made worse by other factors such as stress, cold weather, certain medical conditions (such as Parkinson's disease) and changes in hormones.
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are both common scalp disorders. They have many similarities, but there are also some important differences. Here’s a closer look at dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, including their symptoms and treatment options.
Dandruff can usually be controlled with over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos. Seborrheic dermatitis often requires prescription-strength shampoos and other treatments.
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis often cause similar symptoms, including:
- Itchy scalp
- Flaky skin on the scalp
- Greasy, oily skin on the scalp
- Redness or irritation of the scalp
The exact cause of dandruff is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to a fungus called malassezia. This fungus is found on the scalps of most people, but it’s unclear why it causes problems for some people and not others. Seborrheic dermatitis is also thought to be related to malassezia, as well as hormones and a genetic predisposition.
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis can often be treated with the same over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos. Look for shampoos that contain one or more of the following ingredients:
- Zinc pyrithione
- Selenium sulfide
This ingredient kills fungi and bacteria. It’s often found in anti-dandruff shampoos.
This ingredient helps reduce the production of skin cells. It can help treat dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and other scalp conditions.
This ingredient is an antifungal agent. It’s effective against several types of fungi, including those that cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
If OTC treatments don’t work, you may need a prescription-strength shampoo. Your doctor may also recommend other treatments, such as:
- Antifungal medication
- Light therapy
These anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken orally or applied directly to the affected areas. They may be used to treat severe cases of dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.
These drugs can be taken orally or applied topically. They’re often used to treat seborrheic dermatitis that doesn’t respond to other treatments.
Also called phototherapy, this treatment involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light. It may be used to treat psoriasis, another condition that’s similar to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
(This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.)