Treatment of seborrheic dermatitis: a comprehensive review

J Dermatolog Treat. 2019 Mar;30(2):158-169. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2018.1473554. Epub 2018 May 24.


Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) is a chronic, recurring inflammatory skin disorder that manifests as erythematous macules or plaques with varying levels of scaling associated with pruritus. The condition typically occurs as an inflammatory response to Malassezia species and tends to occur on seborrheic areas, such as the scalp, face, chest, back, axilla, and groin areas. SD treatment focuses on clearing signs of the disease; ameliorating associated symptoms, such as pruritus; and maintaining remission with long-term therapy. Since the primary underlying pathogenic mechanisms comprise Malassezia proliferation and inflammation, the most commonly used treatment is topical antifungal and anti-inflammatory agents. Other broadly used therapies include lithium gluconate/succinate, coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, sodium sulfacetamide, glycerin, benzoyl peroxide, aloe vera, mud treatment, phototherapy, among others. Alternative therapies have also been reported, such as tea tree oil, Quassia amara, and Solanum chrysotrichum. Systemic therapy is reserved only for widespread lesions or in cases that are refractory to topical treatment. Thus, in this comprehensive review, we summarize the current knowledge on SD treatment and attempt to provide appropriate directions for future cases that dermatologists may face.

Keywords: Malassezia sp; Seborrheic dermatitis; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / therapy*
  • Homeopathy
  • Humans
  • Phototherapy


  • Antifungal Agents