Can Seborrheic Dermatitis Cause Hair Loss?

Medically Reviewed By Bukky Aremu, APRN

While seborrheic dermatitis doesn’t directly cause hair loss, it may contribute by inducing scratching or causing inflammation that interferes with hair growth. With the right treatment, hair loss can be reversible. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that affects the scalp and other oil-rich areas of the body. Doctors may recommend medicated shampoos, topical antifungals, or oral medications to manage the condition.

This article explains the link between seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss.

Can seborrheic dermatitis cause hair loss?

A woman holding loose hairs and a hair brush
1317388809 Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images

Seborrheic dermatitis does not directly cause hair loss. However, the condition may contribute to hair loss in a few different ways:

  • Scratching and rubbing: Seborrheic dermatitis causes excessive oil or sebum production Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source on the scalp. This can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to itchiness and scratching. Scratching or rubbing the scalp can damage the hair follicles and lead to hair loss.
  • A reaction to yeast on the scalp: The presence of Malassezia yeast on the scalp may cause scalp inflammation, which can affect the hair follicles. This inflammation may consequently interfere with hair growth.

Other symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

Make an appointment with your dermatologist if you have symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.

Learn more about what causes seborrheic dermatitis.

What does seborrheic dermatitis hair loss look like?

View the slideshow below to see pictures of hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis. 

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Seborrheic dermatitis can cause excessive sebum production and irritate the scalp, which may lead to scratching or rubbing and hair loss.

Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock

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With the right treatment, hair loss caused by seborrheic dermatitis can be reversible.

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What are the treatments for hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis?

Treatments for seborrheic dermatitis focus primarily on managing sebum production and improving inflammation Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . These treatments are mainly medications that you can apply directly to your scalp.

Medications

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Medicated shampoos: These reduce scalp flaking and itchiness by managing Malassezia growth Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . Beneficial shampoos contain ingredients like:
    • zinc pyrithione
    • selenium sulfide
    • ketoconazole
    • tar
    • salicylic acid
  • Topical corticosteroids: These medications reduce itchiness and inflammation. Examples include hydrocortisone (Ala-Cort), fluocinolone (Synalar), and clobetasol (Clobex).
  • Calcineurin inhibitors: These medications ease inflammation by limiting atypical immune system activity. They can serve as an alternative to corticosteroids.
  • Topical antifungals: These medications help manage yeast growth on the skin. Examples include ciclopirox (Loprox) 0.77% gel and ketoconazole 2% cream (Extina). Your dermatologist may also recommend an oral antifungal medication if topical formulations are ineffective.

Self-care

Proper self-care may also help manage seborrheic dermatitis.

The National Eczema Association recommends some self-care tips that may help manage your condition:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Manage stress by meditating, performing breathing practices, or spending time in nature.
  • Try and get some light physical activity.

Learn more about self-care tips for seborrheic dermatitis.

How do doctors diagnose hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis?

Your dermatologist will make a diagnosis by examining your scalp and other areas of your skin. They may also ask some questions related to your family and medical history.

Lab tests are often unnecessary when diagnosing seborrheic dermatitis. However, your dermatologist may perform a skin biopsy if there is uncertainty.

Learn more about the different types of biopsies and how doctors perform them.

Is hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis reversible?

Hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis may resolve when you and your doctor find a treatment that works for you.

If hair loss lingers after adequate treatment, another condition may be involved, such as alopecia areata. Contact your doctor for a firm diagnosis and treatment.

When should I see a doctor?

Contact a dermatologist if you’re experiencing hair loss and other symptoms consistent with seborrheic dermatitis. They can confirm a diagnosis and recommend the proper treatment.

Other frequently asked questions

Bukky Aremu, APRN, reviewed the answers to these common questions about seborrheic dermatitis.

Should I wash my hair every day if I have seborrheic dermatitis?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may have to wash your hair with medicated shampoo every day for a period of weeks. Your dermatologist can help you determine a treatment timeframe. 

What happens if seborrheic dermatitis is left untreated?

While seborrheic dermatitis isn’t curable yet, your symptoms may resolve without treatment. In other cases, treatment can prevent symptoms from persisting or worsening. It is advisable to get treatment if you have severe or persistent symptoms.

Summary

Seborrheic dermatitis does not directly cause hair loss. However, it can contribute to hair loss in a few different ways. These ways include causing scratching and triggering inflammation of the hair follicles.

Your dermatologist will typically recommend medicated shampoos and topical medications if you have seborrheic dermatitis. Self-care practices such as stress management may also help relieve your symptoms.

Talk with your doctor about ways to manage seborrheic dermatitis and prevent hair loss.

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  1. Bholah, N. G., et al. (2022). Seborrhoeic dermatitis. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/seborrhoeic-dermatitis
  2. Dall’Oglio, F., et al. (2022). An overview of the diagnosis and management of seborrheic dermatitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9365318/
  3. Ruenger, T. M. (2023). Seborrheic dermatitis. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/dermatitis/seborrheic-dermatitis
  4. Seborrheic dermatitis. (n.d.). https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/seborrheic-dermatitis/
  5. Seborrheic dermatitis: Overview. (2020). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532846/
  6. Trüeb, R. M., et al. (2018). Scalp condition impacts hair growth and retention via oxidative stress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369642/

Medical Reviewer: Bukky Aremu, APRN
Last Review Date: 2023 May 23
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