Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seb derm2_KimSeborrheic dermatitis (SD) is a skin disorder found in oil-gland rich regions of the scalp, face and trunk that vary from mild (such as dandruff/eyelid scaling) to severe. Skin, often along the scalp hairline, may appear mildly scaling or have thick adherent crust on a red base.

Mild immune system abnormalities (T-cell depression, activated alternative complement pathway), autonomic nervous system imbalances, and some medications (cimetidine, griseofulvin) may all contribute to SD. Since fungus naturally colonizes skin, affected skin patches are susceptible to fungal infection.

Usually, SD can be identified visually, without biopsy. Treatments include: avoiding scratching; discontinuing hair products; dandruff shampoos containing selenium, tar, sulfur or zinc; antifungal creams or shampoos (like ketoconazole); and calcineurin inhibitors (like tacrolimus/Protopic). Topical steroids may work for a short time, but often produce a “rebound effect”: more severe SD recurrence when medication is discontinued. Very severe manifestations sometimes require oral medications, and should be managed by a dermatologist.[1]

Seborrheic dermatitis can be refractory to both conventional and Eastern treatments. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, SD signals a complex of underlying imbalances: immune system (“Wei Qi”) derangement, “Lung/Heart” and “Lung/Liver” System Disharmonies, and “Deficiency Heat” affecting “Fluids” and “Blood”. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine address these underlying problems. Chinese home remedies related to building the Blood System, like goji berries, or Ayurvedic ones, like topical oils, may help as well.[2, 3]

Learn more about Seborrheic Dermatitis


These brief overviews of conditions represent distillations of basic and current medical reviews from the following sources:

[1] Conventional Medical Sources

“Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine: Volumes 1 and 2, 18th Edition”. Dan Longo Anthony Fauci, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, J. Jameson, Joseph Loscalzo. McGraw-Hill Professional; (July, 2011)

Medscape eMedicine Physician’s online resource. Various review articles:

Allergic and Environmental Asthma: an Overview of Asthma
William F Kelly III, MD  Associate Professor of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Staff physician, Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Allergic Rhinitis
Javed Sheikh, MD  Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Clinical Director, Division of Allergy and Inflammation, Clinical Director, Center for Eosinophilic Disorders, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Food Allergies
Scott H Sicherer, MD  Professor of Pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University

Atopic Dermatitis
Brian S Kim, MD  Clinical Instructor, Department of Dermatology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Seborrheic Dermatitis
Samuel T Selden, MD  Assistant Professor Department of Dermatology Eastern Virginia Medical School; Consulting Staff, Chesapeake General Hospital; Private Practice

Jeffrey Meffert, MD  Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio

M Scott Linscott, MD, FACEP  Adjunct Professor of Surgery (Clinical), Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine

Cholinergic Urticaria
Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH  Professor and Head, Dermatology, Professor of Pathology, Pediatrics, Medicine, and Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School

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4. “Chinese Scalp Acupuncture”. Jason Ji-shun Hao, Linda Ling-zhi Hao and Honora Lee Wolfe. Blue Poppy Press; 1st Edition. (November, 2011)

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