What is seborrheic alopecia?

Seborrheic hair loss is a form of premature hair loss that typically affects young males, affecting primarily the frontal and crown regions. As suggested by the name, the reason for this is an excess production of sebum that causes or accelerates hair loss. Hormonal imbalances or the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, are the root causes of excessive sebaceous gland activity (DHT). The amount of these converting enzymes and receptors that catch androgens (testosterone) on the scalp varies from individual to individual and affects the amount of sebum produced. The severity of seborrheic hair loss relies on the distribution of enzymes and receptors on the scalp.

In both men and women, the levels of 5-alpha reductase are significantly higher in temporal, frontal, and crown follicles than in parietal and occipital follicles. The number of receptors in the follicles is significantly fewer in women than in men, indicating that they are less susceptible to seborrhea and greasy hair. Nonetheless, the abnormality can occur in females and is typically associated with hormonal or intestinal issues.

Why is it called “seborrheic” alopecia?

Seborrheic alopecia is a type of hair loss that can only be brought on by an excessively high level of sebum production, which speeds up the life cycle of the hair. Hormonal imbalances are the root cause of this inappropriate flow of sebum. The oily material known as sebum, which is released by the sebaceous gland, functions as a natural defense mechanism against assaults from the outside world. Sebum is produced by the sebaceous gland, and this, along with the water produced by the sweat glands, is what makes up the layer of skin that covers and protects the scalp. However, when it is created in excessive amounts, sebum can be damaging to the hair because it causes the hair’s life cycle to speed up and causes the hair to fall out more rapidly. Other unsettling side effects include the heaviness of the hair and the loss of its sheen, strength, and volume, in addition to its loss. Sebum, in some way, hinders the hair from growing regularly and weakens it, which finally leads to the hair falling out. This overabundance results in the production of fatty acids, which are what cause irritation, itching, and dandruff on the scalp.

Causes of seborrheic dermatitis

It is still unclear to researchers what the full underlying cause of seborrheic alopecia is, as well as why some people are predisposed to developing the condition while others are not. Alterations in hormone levels are a possible explanation, according to the opinions of certain knowledgeable individuals. Researchers have also discovered a possible connection between seborrheic alopecia and other health disorders, such as HIV and Parkinson’s illness.

There are several things that can set off this condition. These include things like

  • The sun
  • Heat
  • A vigorous form of topical treatment

Since seborrheic alopecia is not an infectious disease, it is impossible for one individual to pass it on to another.

Symptoms of Seborrheic Alopecia

Particularly in young children, seborrheic alopecia might be confused with other disorders. It is frequently confused with eczema and diaper rash. It frequently develops in areas with oily or greasy skin. The scalp, brows, eyelids, nose wrinkles, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and in the center of the chest are typical locations.

  • Seborrheic alopecia generally has the following signs and symptoms:
  • Several big plaques
  • Skin that is greasy or oily
  • Scales on the skin that are typically white and flaky or yellowish, greasy, and stick.
  • Itching
  • Minimal redness

Is hair loss as a result of seborrheic alopecia permanent?

In most cases, hair loss caused by seborrheic alopecia can be treated and regrow. Usually, hair will start growing again when the inflammatory condition causing the hair loss has been treated and the person stops scratching or touching the scalp. However, seborrheic alopecia may not be to blame for severe or permanent hair loss. Seborrheic alopecia in babies normally resolves on its own without any therapy. It is typically a long-term problem for individuals. This means that seborrheic alopecia might come and go during a person’s lifetime. A number of treatments, however, have been shown to lessen the severity of flare-up symptoms. Treatments for seborrheic alopecia are discussed below.

How is seborrheic alopecia treated?

Seborrheic alopecia can be treated in a variety of ways. It could take trying a few before you find one that does the trick, though. Multiple approaches are often used, and for some patients this is the most effective method. Your physician will most likely advise you to try OTC drugs first. If none of those options help, a doctor may prescribe medication.

  1. OTC treatment

The most common over-the-counter therapies for seborrheic alopecia of the scalp are medicated shampoos for dandruff. Look for items with any of the following components:

  • pyrinthione zinc
  • ketoconazole
  • salicylic acid
  • selenium sulfide

For mild cases of seborrheic alopecia, you may only require a few weeks of medicated shampoo treatment. Avoid selenium sulfide if you have light-colored hair, as it can cause discolouration.

  1. Prescription treatment

If you have tried medicated shampoos and other over-the-counter treatments without success, it may be time to consult a doctor about getting a prescription. These are some of the seborrheic dermatitis prescription treatments:

  • Antifungal creams, gels, and shampoos

Ketoconazole or ciclopirox-containing products may be recommended by your doctor if your seborrheic alopecia is particularly severe.

  • Antifungal medication

Your doctor may recommend an oral antifungal drug if topical corticosteroids and antifungal medications are ineffective. Due to the high risk of adverse reactions and drug interactions, these are often reserved for extreme cases.

  • Corticosteroid creams, ointments, or shampoos

To lessen inflammation, doctors may prescribe hydrocortisone, desonide (Desonate, DesOwen), fluocinolone (Synalar, Capex), or clobetasol (Clobex, Cormax). Thus, the affected area becomes more conducive to hair growth. Although they are efficient, they should not be used for more than a week or two at a time to prevent unwanted side effects including skin thinning.

  • Creams containing calcineurin inhibitors

Instead of using corticosteroids, you can use a cream or lotion that contains a calcineurin inhibitor, which will be just as effective but will not have as many side effects. Both tacrolimus and pimercrolimus (Elidel) are two such examples (Protopic).


It’s normal to feel alarmed when you notice flaky skin on your child’s scalp. Seborrheic alopecia can be distressing and embarrassing. Even more so if it’s triggering hair loss. Even while seborrheic alopecia can cause thinning in certain people, there is good news: there are therapies that can assist. Consult a medical professional if you suspect you have a skin disorder.

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