Home  »  Blog  »  Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Eczema: Know The Difference

Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Eczema: Know The Difference

Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Eczema

Seborrheic dermatitis and eczema may both belong to the dermatitis family and look similar due to the redness and dryness they cause. But in reality, they are different skin conditions.

Whether you are experiencing one of these conditions or are curious to know about these skin conditions, we have got you covered. In this blog, we will take a closer look at seborrheic dermatitis vs eczema, and discover their causes, symptoms, differences, and the most effective treatment options. 

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition. It is characterized by itching, flaking, scaling, and redness. It can appear anywhere on the body where there are oil-producing glands. But it is more common on the scalp, face, nose, ears, eyebrows, and chest. 

Seborrheic dermatitis is also referred to as cradle cap in babies. In babies, it is most common on the scalp, but can also show up on the diaper area, face, ears, and neck folds. Seborrheic dermatitis in babies may also cause yellow crusting, peeling of the skin, or pink patches. 

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It causes redness and dry and itchy skin. It appears as rough skin patches that may cause thickening of the skin or cracking. Eczema can show up at any age but is more common among babies, children, and teens.

Eczema in babies usually appears within the first year of their life. It can be more irritating in children because of the itchiness. It is difficult to stop them from scratching the affected area. Babies may outgrow eczema but in some cases, it may persist and show up again and again throughout the life as eczema flare-ups.  

There are many different types of eczema but the most common is ‘Atopic Dermatits’. It usually appears on the cheeks, knees, arms, legs, elbows, and wrists. Eczema may appear for the first time in adulthood, and then it is known as sudden eczema in adults

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis Vs Eczema

Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is still unknown, but experts believe that it is caused due to overactive sebaceous glands. It is most common in areas where there is an abundance of oil glands. It is also believed that it is caused by Malassezia yeast already present on the skin which also causes cradle cap. The researchers also believe there are some factors that can trigger seborrheic dermatitis such as extreme weather, stress, and some medical conditions. 

Eczema Causes

Eczema is believed to be caused when there is skin barrier dysfunction. The skin is unable to keep in moisture which leads to dryness. This dysfunction is caused by a combination of factors such as 


Eczema may run in families. People who have a family history of eczema, asthma, hay fever, or allergies are more likely to experience it. 


There are certain types of eczema like contact dermatitis which is caused and triggered by allergens or irritants. 


Stress is a common trigger of eczema in adults. Stress can worsen the condition in people who already experience eczema flare-ups.

Bacterial Infections

This is uncommon but sometimes bacterial infections can also trigger eczema flare-ups.

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis and Eczema

Seborrheic Dermatitis Symtoms

Seborrheic dermatitis can be identified by noticing the following symptoms:

  • Flaking and scaling
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Yellow scales and crust
  • Patches of greasy skin

Eczema Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of eczema are:

  • Redness in lighter skin tones and may appear as purple or brown in darker skin tones.
  • Itching.
  • Cracking of skin.
  • Thickening of skin.
  • Blisters that may ooze.

Difference Between Eczema vs Seborrheic Dermatitis

Key Intakes

Seborrheic Dermatitis Eczema
Itching Less More
Age on set 0 to 6 months and again in adulthood After 3 months
Location Scalp, face, neck, ears, eyebrows, diaper area Face, knees, elbows, wrists, neck folds, hands, diaper area
Appearance Greasy yellow or brown scales Red skin patches on lighter skin tones and purple or brownish patches on darker skin tones.
Triggers Extreme weather, stress, medical conditions Extreme weather, stress, genetics, allergens
Responsiveness to treatment Yes Yes, but can appear again as a flare-up
Scalp involvement Yes Not typically


Both skin conditions can affect people of all ages. Seborrheic dermatitis also known as cradle cap in babies appears in the first few months of birth. When it appears in adulthood it is named as seborrheic dermatitis. 

The appearance of Rash

Seborrheic dermatitis rash appears as red and greasy many times with yellow or brown crusting. However, the eczema rash can appear as just dry, or red or purple and dry.  It may cause the skin to crack and blisters to appear. 


Seborrheic dermatitis usually appears in those places where oil-producing glands are abundant like the face, scalp, armpits, neck, and diaper area. However eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most common on the inside and outside of the elbows, knees, wrists, hands, face, and neck.

Involvement of Scalp

Seborrheic dermatitis also known as cradle cap mostly appears on the scalp as yellow or brown crusts. While scalp eczema is very uncommon, there are very few cases where people experience eczema on the scalp. 


Itching is a common symptom of eczema. It can cause severe itching and irritation due to dryness. Eczema itch becomes even worse at night. However, itching is less common with seborrheic dermatitis, the itch may be only caused due to scaling and crusting.

Diagnosing Eczema and Seborrheic Dermatitis

There are no special tests that are performed to diagnose these common skin conditions. Whereas the doctor may diagnose them based on their appearance and by examining medical history.

Seborrheic Dermatitis and Eczema TreatmentsTreatments

Preventing Eczema Flare-up

Eczema can not be cured permanently and it may appear again throughout life as a flare-up. However, it can be easily managed with the help of a proper eczema skincare routine. This routine may include the use of

  • Eczema shampoo and body wash to gently cleanse the affected area. 
  • Eczema cream to hydrate the skin and provide relief.
  • Avoid using hot water as it can worsen the condition. 
  • If triggers for your eczema can be identified, try staying away from them. 
  • If the itching associated with eczema is severe a doctor may consider wet wrap therapy

If the condition doesn’t get better with a proper skincare routine encompassing frequent hydration, or the symptoms get worse consult your doctor. They may prescribe topical steroids or oral medications.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

Seborrheic dermatitis can be managed with the use of gentle medicated shampoo. The shampoo can be used on a daily basis if the condition is severe. And once the condition starts getting better you can taper the use of shampoo to 2 to 3 times a week. A medicated shampoo that has pyrithione zinc as an active ingredient is an excellent choice for a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo. If in doubt, it is always best to consult a doctor before using any OTC products. 

Best Moisturizer For Eczema

Happy Cappy offers a Two-Step Eczema Skincare Routine for Eczema. This bundle contains a non-medicated Eczema shampoo, body wash, and Eczema moisturizing cream. It is hypoallergenic and the cleanser has the appropriate pH for eczema-prone skin. We have carefully selected the ingredients of our products–oatmeal extract, licorice root extract, aloe vera, and provitamin B5 to help soothe itching, and redness associated with eczema.

Best Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo

The best shampoo for cradle cap and seborrheic dermatitis is the one that is paraben-free, sulfate-free, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and is specially formulated to manage crusting and scaling associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy is a great option to choose as it has all the qualities mentioned above as well as makes your hair smooth and vibrant.


Follow Me
Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

More about Dr. Eddie.
Follow Me
Latest posts by Dr. Eddie Valenzuela (see all)

Are eczema and seborrheic dermatitis itchy?

Yes, itchiness is a common symptom of both conditions. In chronic cases of eczema skin can become “lichenified”--thickened. If infected, eczema-affected skin can develop blisters that may ooze. Itching is also common in seborrheic dermatitis.

Are seborrheic dermatitis and eczema contagious?

Neither of these skin conditions is contagious. They can not be transferred from one person to another.

Are eczema and seborrheic dermatitis the same?

No eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dryness, redness, and itchiness while seborrheic dermatitis causes oily red and greasy skin and also can have crusting and scaling.

Can I use coconut oil for seborrheic dermatitis?

The Internet considers coconut oil helpful in managing seborrheic dermatitis but the truth is it may cause more harm to your skin than benefit and make the condition worse.

Your Cart