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All the Facts About Seborrheic Dermatitis Hair Loss

Listen up: Have you ever experienced a case of seborrheic dermatitis and significant hair loss at the same time? If yes, perhaps you’re naturally wondering if these two conditions are linked to each other.

Here’s a quick answer: Seborrheic dermatitis is indeed linked to hair loss. The way you manage your symptoms can greatly impact the severity of your seborrheic hair loss.

Our post for today will clue you in on seborrheic dermatitis in general, how it relates to hair loss, if seborrheic dermatitis hair loss is permanent or not, and ways to manage the two conditions jointly.

What Exactly is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition characterized by scaly patches, redness on the skin, and itchiness. It commonly develops on the scalp, but can also be found on oily body areas such as the upper chest, back, and face. Dandruff is considered a mild case of seborrheic dermatitis.

This skin condition doesn’t have an exact cause, but many physicians strongly believe in two main factors that may precipitate the condition:

1. Malassezia fungi

Malassezia is a fungi type that naturally lives on the skin surfaces of humans and other animals. Certain factors may cause them to turn opportunistic, growing abnormally fast and creating problems for its host.

In humans, Malassezia fungi stay all over the body and mostly on the scalp. An overgrowth happens when the scalp becomes oily. The fungi multiply rapidly, feeding on fats found in the scalp and metabolizing them to form energy. They leave a trail of breakdown products which eventually leads to various problems such as dandruff, itch, and patches on the scalp.

This fungi type isn’t just associated with seborrheic dermatitis alone. It is believed that fungi cause other skin conditions such as folliculitis, atopic eczema, and dandruff.

 2. Overproduction of oil in the scalp

Our scalps contain numerous sebaceous glands. These tiny organelles secrete an oily substance called sebum, which is responsible for naturally moisturizing the scalp and head.

Sometimes, the sebaceous glands go into overdrive and produce excessive sebum than the scalp and head needs. This makes the excess sebum as an irritant that can cause scalp greasiness and redness.

There’s no specific reason for the hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands, but most doctors think it is due to problems in the immune system. Genetics may also play a big factor.

Oil overproduction is commonly seen and is widely believed to be the true main cause of seborrheic dermatitis.

Who Gets Seborrheic Dermatitis?

You’re at risk for contracting this skin condition if you are:

  • Dealing with a lot of stress
  • Chronically fatigued
  • Frequently exposed to pollution
  • Suffering from other skin conditions like acne
  • Struggling with weight gain and obesity
  • Not practicing proper skincare
  • Fond of using alcohol-based skincare products
  • Suffering from immune-compromising illnesses like HIV and stroke

A family history of seborrheic dermatitis can also raise your chances of getting the condition.

What Are Its Symptoms?

Seborrheic dermatitis has a host of symptoms, depending on where it grows on your body. While the condition mostly affects the scalp, it can also settle in these areas:

  • Upper chest
  • Face
  • Back
  • Nose
  • Eyebrows
  • Inside and around the ears

Symptoms include:

  • Dandruff on the scalp and scaly, flaking patches on other areas of the skin
  • Itchy and reddened skin
  • Oiliness on the affected scalp and skin
  • Hair loss

All of these symptoms can affect a person negatively, both physically and mentally. They can cause lots of discomfort and lower the confidence and self-esteem of affected persons.

The Link Between Hair Loss and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Let’s be clear on this first. Seborrheic dermatitis can trigger hair loss due to your reactions and management to its symptoms. The skin condition itself does not have a pathological mechanism that directly causes hair to fall out.

Dandruff, redness, itchiness, and greasy scalp all naturally trigger you to scratch the affected area. Aggressive scratching increases the damage to your scalp. It also leads to hair follicle damage, making your hair fall out from the roots due to the friction and injuries caused by flaking and scaling. More scalp damage leads to poorer hair retention and growth.

However, most people suffering from seborrheic dermatitis experience symptoms so severe they can’t help but scratch the affected areas. Fungal overgrowth can also be the culprit behind these severe symptoms.

How Does Seborrheic Hair Loss Look Like?

Hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis can manifest anywhere on the head. It typically starts on the crown and progresses further across the entire head. Thinning hair and bald spots can occur as well.

Young men in their 20s and 30s may experience premature balding due to the condition. Women often notice thinning hair that usually starts on their hair parting. Hair loss is also noticeable on the backs of the ears and near the neck.

Will Seborrheic Dermatitis Hair Loss Go Away?

Flare-ups and remissions are common in seborrheic dermatitis. The condition can clear up after a few days or months, then temporarily stop and come back again in the future. Triggering factors such as stress and fatigue may cause a reoccurrence.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a life-long condition. But alopecia and hair loss associated with it is only temporary. Lost hair can grow back once inflammation, itchiness, and oiliness die down. Your scalp also heals during this time as you don’t have to scratch it aggressively anymore, paving the way for better hair growth.

Treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis

You have several options when it comes to treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. You can either get over-the-counter medications or have your doctor prescribe stronger treatment, depending on the severity of the case and the extent of hair loss.

Over-the-counter treatment

Medicated shampoos and creams are the most common treatment forms for milder cases of seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss. Such items contain the following ingredients that fight oiliness and keep the scalp clean and itch-free:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Salicylic acid

Ketoconazole and selenium disulfide are known anti-fungal agents that stop Malassezia fungi in its tracks. Zinc pyrithione stops the multiplication of fungal and bacterial cells. Salicylic acid removes dead skin cells by dissolving substances that make them cluster together on the scalp.

All these agents also keep the scalp healthy, allowing your lost hair to grow back sooner.

It may take you only a few weeks to see improvement with these products. Most of these shampoos are readily available over-the-counter at your nearest pharmacy.

Prescription treatment

Severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis hair loss should be assessed properly by a physician. He may prescribe either of the following treatments:

  • Corticosteroid shampoos, creams, or ointments
  • Topical antifungal shampoos, gels, or creams
  • Calcineurin inhibitor creams
  • Oral antifungal pills or tablets

These medications work by reducing inflammation and inhibiting the multiplication of fungi in the scalp. Treatment courses usually take a week or two, depending on individual responses to the prescribed medications.

Tips for Faster Hair Growth While on Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

Help yourself heal from seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss faster by heeding the following tips:

  • Use the prescribed shampoo or topical medication on your scalp only as directed. It may be tempting to add a bit more product in an effort to hasten your scalp’s recovery. But doing so can actually cause more damage than good. Some products, such as corticosteroid creams, are too strong and can cause even more hair thinning when applied excessively.

  • Resist the urge to scratch your scalp aggressively. This may be hard because itching can be really severe at times. Try to lessen the times you scratch your head if you find it hard to avoid it totally.

  • Be gentle to your scalp when you shampoo or shower. Avoid aggressively massaging your medicated shampoos onto your head. It might cause accelerated hair fall because of undue friction applied to your hair.

  • Give your hair and scalp time to breathe. Let your hair loose as much as possible. Wear hairstyles that do not require too much friction from various hair accessories. Men may use caps to hide their scalp and hair loss. But remove it once in a while to avoid further moisture and oiliness from building up in your scalp and hair.

  • Avoid stress as much as possible. If you should deal with a stressful situation, take some time out of your day to calm down, relax, and meditate. A few minutes of quiet time can do wonders for your scalp, hair, and entire body.

Your Takeaway

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition affecting mostly the scalp. It is caused by overactive sebaceous glands secreting lots of sebum on the scalp. Fungal infections may also be a culprit. The condition presents with inflammation, flaking, and intense itching.

Seborrheic dermatitis hair loss may occur as a result of inflammation and aggressively scratching the itchy head. This hair loss is temporary and can be treated alongside common medications for dermatitis. Hair will grow back once the scalp calms down and inflammation subsides.

Medicated shampoos and creams are typically used to treat mild seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss. Severe cases may require stronger antifungals, corticosteroid creams, and similar prescription medications. Oral antifungals are given as a last resort.

You can manage your seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss well by living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding friction on the scalp, resisting the urge to scratch the scalp, and using medicated products only as prescribed.

Again, hair loss caused by seborrheic dermatitis is temporary. Don't worry if you feel like you've lost too much hair due to the condition. With the right management and tender loving care, your scalp will regain its health and your hair will ultimately come back stronger than ever before. 

Have you experienced seborrheic dermatitis and its accompanying hair loss? How did it go? How did you cope? Tell us more about your experiences in the comments section below.


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