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Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as dandruff, is an inflammatory skin disease.

It most often affects the scalp and causes scaly, red patches to appear. These patches may also appear on the face and upper body. These are areas with many sebaceous glands, which produce oil.

Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious. Instead, it’s the result of an allergy or an autoimmune reaction. It’s a chronic condition, which means treatment can manage — but not — cure it.

It may take several rounds of treatment to get rid of symptoms. Conventional treatments are effective, but they can contain strong chemicals.

Home remedies can limit this exposure, with fewer side effects. Used alongside medical treatment, they can help you find relief more quickly.

Psoriasis vs. seborrheic dermatitis: What’s the difference?

Seborrheic dermatitis can result from different factors, depending on your skin type and sensitivities. So there’s no catch-all alternative treatment. Your dermatologist can help you find one that’s suitable.

Fish oil

Fish oil supplements can help suppress flare-ups of dermatitis that allergies trigger, as well as provide other nutritional benefits. Its omega-3 fatty acids can help boost overall immune and cardiovascular health.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a plant with anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that its extract is effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis.

Supplements containing aloe vera gel or extracts can help suppress flare-ups. They can also help lessen the severity of flare-ups that do happen.

Probiotics

Probiotics may help treat different kinds of dermatitis, especially in children. But there’s little research to link probiotics to effective results for seborrheic dermatitis.

Still, probiotics can promote a healthier digestive system. This can decrease inflammatory issues throughout your body.

Tea tree oil has been studied for several skin conditions. Its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits make it an ideal treatment for seborrheic dermatitis.

Shampoo, conditioners, and other products that you can wash out may help relieve itching if they contain tea tree oil.

Shop here for shampoo containing tea tree oil.

Learn more: 5 effective dandruff remedies

Apple cider vinegar

An apple cider vinegar soak will loosen the scales on your scalp. It may also lessen inflammation in the area of the flare-up.

To use this treatment:

  1. Wash your hair with shampoo.
  2. Apply a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar to the area.
  3. Let the vinegar and water sit on your scalp for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse well.

Olive oil

Another option for at-home treatment is to coat your scalp with olive oil.

Follow these steps:

  1. Apply the oil to the scalp.
  2. Leave the oil on for about an hour.
  3. Brush thoroughly to remove scales from your scalp.
  4. Wash and shampoo your hair as usual.

Seborrheic dermatitis is not directly linked to any dietary habits. But that doesn’t mean your diet has no effect on your flare-ups.

Eat foods that support your immune system and focus on those with anti-inflammatory properties. You may find that your symptoms decrease.

To fight inflammation, eat a diet that includes:

  • plenty of green, leafy vegetables
  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • fruits that contain antioxidants, such as cherries, strawberries, and blueberries
  • foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus and bell peppers
  • almonds
  • sweet potatoes
  • foods with plenty of vitamin E, like wheat germ and avocados

Seborrheic dermatitis isn’t life threatening, but it is chronic and can be uncomfortable. At times, you may find the scaling, itching, and redness distracting, especially if it happens on your face or upper body.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to ensure you get a correct diagnosis. You can connect to a dermatologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Also, see your doctor if flare-ups are a persistent concern or if you also have other symptoms.

Your primary care physician may refer you to a dermatologist, who specializes in skin conditions.

They may want to order some tests to further evaluate your situation and talk to you about treatment options complementary to your condition.

Topical treatments are the most commonly recommended solution for seborrheic dermatitis outbreaks.

Corticosteroids. Creams and shampoos containing corticosteroids or hydrocortisone can help reduce severe inflammation. These are only suitable for short-term use, as they can cause side effects.

Keratolytics. Products containing salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, and propylene glycol can help remove scales.

Antibacterial gels or antifungal creams. These can help in the case of a fungal or bacterial infection.

Light therapy. Exposing the affected area to ultraviolet light may help soothe the skin and reduce itching and redness.

Coal tar. Coal tar cream can help slow the process of skin cells dying and falling off. Apply it to scaling areas, leave for several hours, and shampoo later to remove it.

Medicated shampoos. Use a product containing ketoconazole, ciclopirox, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, and salicylic acid, twice a week for a month or longer. If necessary, you can use them indefinitely.

Supplementing these treatments with an alternative or natural treatment can help decrease side effects over the long term.

Although it’s unclear what causes seborrheic dermatitis, there appear to be some common triggers.

Stress can aggravate flare-ups for many skin conditions, including seborrheic dermatitis. Try to be mindful of what triggers you in particular.

Know your triggers

It’s possible that your flare-ups are connected to an allergic reaction, so try to document if there’s anything unusual or new to your environment when a flare-up happens.

To keep from triggering a flare-up, avoid wearing wool caps and sweaters. Instead, opt for fabrics like cotton and silk.

Self-care measures

The following may help

  • Wash affected areas regularly with a mild shampoo.
  • Avoid styling gels and hair sprays during a flare.
  • Avoid alcohol-based products, as they may trigger a reaction.

Support your immune system

A weakened immune system can also contribute to how severe your symptoms are. Take care of yourself and make sure to eat a diet rich in vitamins E, C, and K.

Dandruff: What your itchy scalp is trying to tell you

Ways of managing seborrheic dermatitis include at-home treatments and topical creams.

With the help of a dermatologist, you can find a treatment that works for you.

A variety of alternative treatment methods can help you avoid possible long-term side effects of prescription and over-the-counter creams.