Seborrhoeic dermatitis in adults is a chronic dermatitis thought to be caused by an inflammatory reaction related to a proliferation of a normal skin inhabitant, a fungus called Malassezia furfur (formerly known as Pityrosporum ovale). It is common, affecting around 2% of the general population.


  • Incidence: 500.00 cases per 100,000 person-years
  • Peak incidence: 30-40 years
  • Sex ratio: more common in males 2:1
Condition Relative
Seborrhoeic dermatitis in adults1
Periorificial dermatitis0.40
<1 1-5 6+ 16+ 30+ 40+ 50+ 60+ 70+ 80+


Associated conditions include
  • HIV
  • Parkinson's disease

Clinical features

  • eczematous lesions on the sebum-rich areas: scalp (may cause dandruff), periorbital, auricular and nasolabial folds
  • otitis externa and blepharitis may develop


Scalp disease management
  • over the counter preparations containing zinc pyrithione ('Head & Shoulders') and tar ('Neutrogena T/Gel') are first-line
  • the preferred second-line agent is ketoconazole
  • selenium sulphide and topical corticosteroid may also be useful

Face and body management
  • topical antifungals: e.g. ketoconazole
  • topical steroids: best used for short periods
  • difficult to treat - recurrences are common