What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis Flare Ups?

Posted on by Pablo Apartin

Rashes and flaking skin often make people feel concerned about their health and appearance. Seborrheic dermatitis is one of those rashes that makes you feel like something is amiss and can make you self conscious. Indeed, people with this rash often have greasy, swollen skin that is accompanied by skin discoloration and scaling. Not only is it unpleasant to look at during a flare up, but it can also be quite itchy. Let’s take a look at what causes seborrheic dermatitis flare ups and discuss ways to prevent them.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a prevalent skin condition that usually manifests as a rash on your scalp. In infants, this rash is known as cradle cap and tends to go away between 6 months and one year. In adults, seborrheic dermatitis tends to be a long-lasting condition that can flare up or go into remission.

The following frustrating symptoms accompany seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Dandruff (or flaking skin) on the scalp, eyebrows, and facial hair
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Greasy patches of skin with white or yellow crust or scales found on the scalp, in or around the ears, face, chest, armpits, and groin.
  • Itching that intensifies during a flare up (bleeding can occur if you frequently scratch a seborrheic dermatitis patch)

What causes seborrheic dermatitis? 

There is much speculation among dermatologists (doctors that specialize in skin and hair health) about what exactly causes this condition. Some theories suggest that it is caused by a type of fungus called Malassezia that is harbored in the oil-secreting glands of your skin. It may also be an inappropriate response by your immune system.

In general, seborrheic dermatitis seems to occur when multiple factors work together, including your genes, the yeast that naturally occurs on the skin, overall health, stress, and where you live. Interestingly, people who live in cold, dry climates are more prone to seborrheic dermatitis.

Certain people are at higher risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis. For example, it is common in people with

  • A weakened immune system like those living with HIV/AIDS or an organ transplant
  • Neurological diseases like Parkinson’s
  • Psychiatric conditions such as depression
  • Recent trauma or severe medical events like a heart attack
  • Alcoholism
  • Eating disorders

Seborrheic dermatitis may also begin or worsen with the use of certain medications, although it is difficult to discern whether the underlying health condition or its treatment is the cause.

While we do not have a precise answer about what causes seborrheic dermatitis, we know that it is not caused by an allergy and poor personal hygiene (even though it sometimes can look greasy and unhygienic). It can affect people of all skin colors, it is not contagious, and it does not cause harm to your body.

What causes seborrheic dermatitis flare ups?

People with seborrheic dermatitis can suffer from this condition throughout their life. Often, it is in remission, which is where your symptoms are controlled or even non-existent. However, certain circumstances can cause seborrheic dermatitis flare ups.

Cold, dry climates can cause seborrheic dermatitis to flare up. If you live in a place with changing seasons, you may notice that your dermatitis flares when the weather turns cold. Similarly, dry arid climates can also trigger flare ups. People often report seborrheic dermatitis flare ups in the dry months of the year.

Stress is often the most common trigger of a seborrheic dermatitis flare up. Your body can undergo various types of stress that can wreak havoc on your whole body, including your skin. Different types of stress that can cause a seborrheic dermatitis flare up include:


  • Physical stress from a health condition or an event that causes hormone fluctuations or compromises your immune system. Pregnancy, trauma, autoimmune flare ups, pain, surgery, medication changes, and severe health events like a stroke or heart attack can cause a seborrheic dermatitis flare up.
  • Mental stress, such as addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and psychiatric conditions.
  • Emotional stress from loss of a loved one or major life changes, such as moving, divorce, or career switches.

How to prevent seborrheic dermatitis flare ups

Good self-care is one of the best things you can do to keep flare ups at bay. Self-care involves several steps, including:

  • Stress management
  • Good hygiene practices
  • A healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep

Because stress is often one of the biggest triggers of flare ups, it is essential to find ways to reduce and manage your stress. For example, try to lighten your calendar, make space in your day for exercise, learn meditation, and get help when needed.

While seborrheic dermatitis is not the result of poor hygiene, it is best controlled when you use clean, gentle products on your skin. It is helpful to use a shampoo with 2% Zinc Pyritione to combat yeast that causes itching and flaking on your scalp. Some shampoos must stay in your hair for 2-3 minutes before rinsing for the best results.

Our diet plays a crucial role in our overall health and wellbeing. And when we do not get enough essential nutrients to support our body’s needs, the signs can be quite visible in our skin and hair. Ensure you are getting enough zinc, biotin, iodine, niacin, and vitamins A, C, and E in your diet, as these nutrients are essential to skin health. You can also support your immune system by eating healthy, wholesome foods high in protein, zinc, selenium, iron, and vitamins C and D.

Finally, getting plenty of sleep is crucial to prevent seborrheic dermatitis flare ups. Often, we experience flare ups because of stressful events, which are usually accompanied by poor sleep. Indeed, we tend to compromise our rest when we need more time in the day to get things done, but this can be detrimental to our health. Prioritizing sleep can help keep your seborrheic dermatitis under control.

Medication can help treat seborrheic dermatitis flare ups

If you do experience a flare up and the symptoms are aggravating, meet with a dermatologist to have your skin evaluated. Your doctor may prescribe a topical corticosteroid to help you manage your dermatitis during flare ups, especially if they become moderate to severe. However, using an anti-dandruff shampoo with 2% Zinc Pyritione is one of the best ways to curb flare ups and keep itching and flaking at bay.


Sold out
Sold out
Your Cart