Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

Seborrheic Dermatitis, also referred to as “cradle cap” in babies, can cause a variety of irritating, uncomfortable, and unsightly skin conditions. This can include redness, itching, irritation, scaly or crusty patches of skin, excessive oil, pus, and flaking. “Cradle cap” most commonly presents on the scalp, down to the eyebrows, but can also be found in the diaper area or along creases and folds of skin.

But what causes seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups and cradle cap flare-ups in kids?

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

While researchers seek to find answers to the frustrating skin condition that affects more than 40% of children before the age of 6, exactly what causes “cradle cap” is still unknown. Experts believe that there are multiple factors that play a role in causing Seborrheic Dermatitis, ranging from genetics to lifestyle habits.

Doctors believe the most common “cradle cap” causes are:

  • Genetics – Scientists are finding more evidence of a connection between “cradle cap” and genetic mutations and protein deficiencies, knowledge which could help advance better treatment options in the future.
  • Gender and Age – Children under three and adults between the ages of 30 and 60 are most likely to experience seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Men are also more likely than women to experience symptoms.
  • Environmental exposure – Cold, dry weather seems to correlate with flare-ups of itchy, scaly skin. Some experts contend that a good dose of sunshine (with proper sunscreen, of course) can help to ease symptoms.
  • Stress and Depression – Stress, depression, and other psychological disorders can throw the body’s hormones off balance and could lead to many physical symptoms, including skin conditions like dandruff.
  • Lifestyle habits – Those with poor diets or who consume large amounts of alcohol are more likely to develop Seborrheic Dermatitis. They are also at a higher risk for many other health conditions.
  • Certain medical conditions – Other medical conditions do not need to be present for dandruff or “cradle cap” to occur, though certain illnesses, such as neurological conditions, compromised immune systems, and other diseases have been shown to increase the chances of developing Seborrheic Dermatitis.
  • Malassezia Yeast – A fungal organism that is found in most animals, including humans, could be an underlying factor for “cradle cap” and other skin conditions.

One indication that Malassezia yeast is a contributor to what causes “cradle cap” is that in many cases, symptoms are relieved by using a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc. (while the deleted sentence is 100% true and I would like to include it let’s opt to do like Head and Shoulders and not tie the two together.

Managing “Cradle Cap” in Children

When trying to manage the effects of “cradle cap,” it is important to look for a dandruff shampoo for kids that can help to relieve itchy, scaly skin without exposing children to harsh ingredients typically found in adult dandruff shampoos.

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children is the only pyrithione zinc shampoo for kids on the market that is designed for children of all ages. It harnesses the positive and safe effects of pyrithione zinc and other naturally-derived ingredients to help soothe symptoms while leaving out all of the other stuff—like synthetic fragrances, dyes, sulfates, parabens, alcohols—that could irritate your child’s skin. Find our products on Amazon, select Walgreen’s stores,, and all Buy Buy Baby stores nationwide.

Additional resources:

  • National Institutes of Health,
  • Mayo Clinic,


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

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Who is most likely to have seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis can affect people of all ages, but it is most likely to appear in babies during the first year of their life as a cradle cap. In adults, it is common for individuals between the ages of 30 and 60.

Is seborrheic dermatitis common in babies?

Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap, is widespread in babies. Almost 1 in 3 babies experience it in the first few months after birth. It is also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis.

Is seborrheic dermatitis harmful?

Seborrheic dermatitis, in general, is not considered harmful to overall health. If seborrheic dermatitis is not properly dealt with it can lead to temporary hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.

Can stress cause seborrheic dermatitis?

Stress alone may not cause seborrheic dermatitis, but it can trigger and further exacerbate the condition.

Which triggers can worsen seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis may worsen due to stress, extreme weather, certain skin products, and hormonal changes.

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