Is exfoliation always step one on wash day? If so, you might have seborrheic dermatitis.

“Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic, and recurring, rash that affects areas of the body with a high concentration of sebaceous glands,” dermatologist, Christopher Chu M.D., told 21Ninety.

The condition commonly shows up as well-defined red areas with greasy yellowish scales on the scalp, face, and upper torso. Symptoms include dandruff, red skin, itching, and scaling.

While there is not yet a defined cause for seborrheic dermatitis, there are a few strong theories. 

“It’s likely an interplay of sebum production, Malassezia (a common yeast found on the body), and the genetics of an individual that result in an immune response/inflammation to the yeast,” Chu explained.

Basically, a person’s immune system is having an inflammatory reaction to the combination of yeast and fungus on the scalp – or other areas with excess sebum.  

What Are the Best Ingredients To Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The best ingredients to treat seborrheic dermatitis are antifungals and anti-inflammatories. Chu prefers to have patients use a combination of both ingredient categories in order to control seborrheic dermatitis and prevent it from flaring up.

“I often recommend continuing to use ketoconazole shampoo once a week, even after the seborrheic dermatitis is well-controlled, to reduce the amount of Malassezia on the body and to prevent flares,” Chu stated. “A non-steroidal anti-inflammatoy is also an option for long-term maintenance treatment of severe facial seborrheic dermatitis.”

In terms of antifungal shampoos, Chu recommends looking for products that highlight ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide. As for anti-inflammatories, look for a treatment with one percent of hydrocortisone. However, the dermatologist suggests visiting your local medical provider to ask about prescription anti-inflammatories such as topical steroids or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that are prescription-based (such as tacrolimus or roflumilast).

Best Budget Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Head & Shoulders Bare Anti Dandruff Soothing Hydration Shampoo 

The Head & Shoulders Bare Anti Dandruff Soothing Hydration Shampoo contains one percent of the dermatologist recommended ingredient zinc pyrithione. It’s also a sulfate-free shampoo with no silicones or dyes. 

Best Conditioner

Nizoral Deep Moisturizing Conditioner

Nizoral’s Deep Moisturizing Conditioner is designed to moisturize your hair and scalp without removing the brand’s anti dandruff shampoo (below). Nizoral is a brand Chu personally recommended to help with seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. 

Best Expert-Recommended Shampoo

Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo with 1% Ketoconazole

The Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo with 1% Ketoconazole is Chu’s top-recommended shampoo to try if you’re dealing with seborrheic dermatitis. “I really like Nizoral shampoo (ketoconazole), I usually recommend patients use it 2-3x/week,” the board certified dermatologist said.

Best Hydrocortisone Cream

CVS Health Maximum Strength Hydrocortisone 1% Anti-Itch Cream

CVS Health’s Maximum Strength Hydrocortisone 1% Anti-Itch Cream is a treatment to use around the hairline. It helps reduce inflammation and itch when seborrheic dermatitis flare ups happen.

Best Hydrocortisone Serum

CVS Health Anti-Itch 1% Hydrocortisone Scalp Treatment

CVS Health’s Anti-Itch 1% Hydrocortisone Scalp Treatment uses the dermatologist-suggested ingredient to give inflamed scalp quick relief. It also has aloe and vitamin E to lock in moisture while calming the scalp. 

Best Moisturizing Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue Antidandruff Shampoo Moisturizing

Selsun Blue Antidandruff Shampoo Moisturizing contains one percent of selenium sulfide, an ingredient Chu recommended looking out for. It’s a moisturizing anti dandruff shampoo that also fights itch. 

Best Pre-Shampoo

Nizoral Pre-Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Remover

Nizoral’s Pre-Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Remover clears product buildup and excess skin cells so that your medicated shampoo can work more effectively. This product is not medicated. 

Best Shampoo Set

RHRI NEOKETRAMIN Medicated Anti Fungal Shampoo

The RHRI NEOKETRAMIN Medicated Anti Fungal Shampoo helps fight flakes. It includes a scalp scrubber and a zinc-infused shampoo. 

Best Selenium Sulfide Treatment

Nutricology Selenium Sulfide Treatment

Photo Courtesy of iHerb

Nutricology’s Selenium Solution contains selenium sulfide, an antifungal ingredient. You can pour it into a spray bottle as a topical treatment between washes. 

Best Zinc Pyrithione Cream

Exederm Flare Control Cream for Eczema & Dermatitis

Exederm’s Flare Control Cream for Eczema & Dermatitis is another treatment to use around the hairline when you want to stop the itch from seborrheic dermatitis. It also helps to heal skin after a flare up.

Best Zinc Pyrithione Shampoo

Vanicream Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Vanicream’s Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo contains two percent of zinc pyrithione. It’s also free of gluten, parabens, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates.

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