Coping With Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Although seborrheic dermatitis is a harmless and generally mild skin condition, it can have an outsized impact on the quality of life of those who have it. People with this skin condition often feel embarrassed which, in turn, has a negative impact on all aspects of life. Being diligent in your treatment routine and assertive in asking for more aggressive treatment can give you a sense of control. Gentle skin care can also help with itchiness and flaking.

Seborrheic dermatitis in a man's beard area
Doble-d / Getty Images


For a skin condition that is so very common, with an estimated 11% of the population being affected, seborrheic dermatitis can cause embarrassment in those who have it. If you are affected by the skin condition, know that you are definitely not alone; many people are going through the same thing.

In fact, people with chronic skin diseases like seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, and eczema, commonly report feeling symptoms of:

  • Anxiety, both generalized and social anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

What's more, people say these feelings are directly related to their skin disorders.

Studies have shown seborrheic dermatitis has a significant impact on the quality of life of those who have it.

Appearance plays a role in how people feel about themselves. Feeling uncomfortable about the redness and flakiness of seborrheic dermatitis can lead to embarrassment and, long-term, a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence.

Quality of life is generally affected in more severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis, as well as when the condition involves the face, rather than the scalp only (dandruff). This makes sense, because the face is what is shown to the world every day.

Younger people seem to be more emotionally affected by the condition than those who are older. Females also report more embarrassment and shame because of the condition compared to their male counterparts.

Tips for Improving Emotional Wellness

There are steps you can take to help boost your self-confidence, and feel better about yourself and your skin.

Start a treatment routine. If you haven't already started treatment, this is a great first step. Just starting treatment can help you feel more in control at a time when you likely feel your skin is out of control. Seborrheic dermatitis is very treatable, although not curable.

Get a more aggressive treatment. Is your current treatment just not cutting it? Let your healthcare provider know. You likely need a different treatment. There are plenty of options available so don't settle on one that isn't working for you.

Be upfront about how seborrheic dermatitis is affecting you. If this condition is negatively impacting your life to the point you're feeling depressed, anxious, or distressed, let your healthcare provider know. Again, treating the condition more aggressively can help garner the improvement you need to start feeling more self-confident again.

Take care of yourself. Making sure you're getting what you need, physically, mentally, and emotionally, helps you feel stronger, more resilient, and more able to manage your feelings regarding seborrheic dermatitis (and life in general). Your well-being is important.

Parents of Babies with Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)

Seborrheic dermatitis is common in infants too, although in babies it's called cradle cap. While it doesn't bother baby, it can be distressing to parents.

Some parents report feeling badly about the state of their baby's skin. Some even feel guilty, thinking they possibly caused the condition somehow. (Not true, by the way. Cradle cap is not caused by any failing on the parents part to give good care.)

Other parents say they often feel judged, especially if their baby's cradle cap is severe. They worry others think they aren't caring for their baby properly or failing to keeping their baby clean.

Educate others. If people comment on your infant's cradle cap, it can help you feel empowered to inform those people about cradle cap and its causes.

Ignore comments. It's also perfectly acceptable to say to those people who make comments, or give unsolicited treatment advice, about your baby's cradle cap, "We're following our pediatrician's advice. Thanks for your concern." Remember, you're not required to discuss your child's health with anyone if you choose not to.

Cradle cap will eventually go away, so try to keep that factor in mind when it is bothering you.


Although seborrheic dermatitis is a benign condition, it can make your skin uncomfortable. While regular treatment will help improve this, there are a few other steps you can take to help your skin look and feel better.

Managing Itch

One of the more annoying aspects of seborrheic dermatitis is the itch. Severity varies between people, with some finding it very itchy and others not at all.

Many treatments for seborrheic dermatitis, like topical corticosteroids, do help with itch. But sometimes you may need a bit more when itching revs up:

  • Acute itching may respond well to cool, damp compresses.
  • Aloe vera gel may also help with itching. Try applying a small amount of gel to affected areas as needed.

Concealing Redness and Scales

Obvious redness and scaling, especially when it's on the face, can be embarrassing. Regular application of gentle moisturizing creams help soften scales and can minimize redness. For daytime, you may wish to use a tinted moisturizer. This can tone down redness without the look of makeup.

Don't discount makeup. A liquid or cream-based foundation is the better choice, rather than powders, as they don't settle in the dry, flaky areas as easily. Don't rub the makeup into affected areas; instead, use a dampened cosmetic sponge to dab it on.

If makeup seems to further irritate your skin, it's best to skip it.

For flakes, a heavy moisturizer or mineral oil applied at night can help soften them so they can more easily be washed away the next morning. Don't scrub at the flakes with abrasive, gritty skin care products or rough washcloths, though, as it will irritate the skin and exacerbate redness.


Nearly everyone with a chronic skin condition worries, at some point, about the social stigma of being affected. People with visible skin conditions often worry about what others think of their skin.

Do others think the condition is caused by a lack of hygiene? Or wonder if it's contagious? This perceived judgment can lead to loss of self-esteem and a withdrawal from social activities.

It's important to acknowledge that feeling distressed by seborrheic dermatitis is not vanity. This loss of self-confidence can negatively impact many aspects of one's life.

For example, feeling less confident at work may lead to a person feeling less able to speak up in meetings. They may shy away from taking on roles that draw attention to themselves. Or, simply, feeling less-than-confident can translate into feeling less-than-capable, at work and beyond.

These feelings can also affect dating and social life with friends and family. When you don't feel confident with who you are, you tend to shy away from situations you previously would have enjoyed.

Again, treatment, sometimes aggressive treatment, can help. But you must let your healthcare provider know the impact this condition is having on your social experiences.

Finding Support

Acknowledging your feelings and thoughts to supportive family and friends can help ease the burden.

Support groups are another good way to connect with other people who are in your shoes and understand intimately what you are going through. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, there may be local support groups nearby. Ask your healthcare provider's office if they can point you in the right direction.

Online support groups can be found through organizations such as the National Eczema Association. They can also help you find support groups near you.


Because of its chronic nature, treatment of seborrheic dermatitis can wear on a person and take a toll. Treatment itself then becomes a source of frustration. A consistent treatment routine can be tough for some people to stick with long-term, depending on lifestyle, or even economic status.

If you are having trouble consistently using your treatments, it can be helpful to ask yourself why. Is your treatment too time-consuming? Is it too expensive? Or maybe you're simply frustrated by lack of results and not motivated to continue with the current treatment.

In all of these cases, it's time to have a frank talk with your healthcare provider. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable bringing up these issues, but it's incredibly important for your healthcare provider to know all of this. Remember, your healthcare provider wants you to have a treatment plan that you can stick to and one that works.

A Word From Verywell

If your seborrheic dermatitis isn't under control, there are treatment options that can help. If you're using over-the-counter products, it may be time to move on to prescription medications. If you're already on a prescription treatment, let your healthcare provider know you aren't happy with the results. A reevaluation of your treatment regimen may be in order.

A bigger factor is, if you feel like this skin condition is having a negative impact on your life to the point you're feeling depressed, anxious, withdrawing from social situations, that should be discussed with your healthcare provider too.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use makeup to cover seborrheic dermatitis on my face?

    It depends. Makeup can sometimes irritate seborrheic dermatitis. If wearing traditional makeup is uncomfortable, try using a liquid foundation formulated for sensitive skin or a tinted moisturizer. 

  • Does seborrheic dermatitis go away?

    Yes, seborrheic dermatitis can go away. Sometimes it may even clear up without treatment. However, it usually requires topical antifungal treatments or corticosteroids to clear up.

  • How can I avoid triggering a seborrheic dermatitis flare-up?

    Stress and poor eating habits can trigger seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Practicing stress management techniques, getting regular exercise, and avoiding processed food may help to prevent a flare-up.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Berk T, Scheinfeld N. Seborrheic Dermatitis. P T. 2010 Jun; 35(6): 348–352.

  2. Szepietowski JC, Reich A, Wesołowska Szepietowska E, Baran E. National Quality of Life in Dermatology Group. Quality of life in patients suffering from seborrheic dermatitis: influence of age, gender and education level. Mycoses. 2009;52(4):357–63. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0507.2008.01624.x

  3. Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. 2017 Dec; 15(3-4): 75–87. doi:10.3121/cmr.2017.1363

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Seborrheic dermatitis.

Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.