Having strands of hair fall off your scalp can be distressing. Witnessing the hair loss while being unable to do anything about it is even worse. While there are many forms of hair loss that are permanent, some only cause temporary hair loss.
Once the symptoms of the disease/condition go away, your hair will start to grow back. Many people wonder if hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis is permanent or temporary.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that can affect different parts of the body. Since it is a skin condition, it can affect the hair as well. Moreover, seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that can also affect infants.
Before we learn about the link between seborrheic dermatitis and hair loss, let’s find out what seborrheic dermatitis even is and whether it’s treatable.
What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis or seborrheic eczema is a common skin condition that affects the scalp. It results in the formation of red-yellow flaky scales. It can also affect other areas of the face, such as ears, eyelids, eyebrows, and nose, and can develop anywhere on the body.
According to the National Eczema Foundation, this condition can affect people of all ages, but it is more prevalent in infants and adults between the ages of 30 and 60. It is more common in men than women.
If someone has seborrheic dermatitis, it doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t clean their skin. Seborrheic dermatitis isn’t infectious or contagious, so another person cannot catch it. It is also true that this condition doesn’t have any serious health consequences.
In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is usually known as cradle cap. Although it commonly develops on the scalp of the infant, it can affect other areas of the body.
In infants, it is possible for seborrheic dermatitis to go away on its own without any need for medication. The doctor might recommend that the baby’s scalp is washed daily with a gentle shampoo so that the scales dislodge and wash away.
What Are the Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Although the exact cause of this condition isn’t known, it is thought to occur due to the following reasons:
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), the problem is in the sebaceous glands, which produce sebum (the oil present on the skin).
In this condition, this is overproduced, which, in turn, results in the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast on the scalp, along with bacteria. This results in inflammation of the hair follicles. It is also possible that the presence of the fungus on the scalp triggers seborrheic dermatitis.
There are some who believe that this skin condition results from an autoimmune response, where the body is attacking the healthy hair follicles on the scalp. However, again, no one can say for sure if that’s the reason why it develops.
Changes in the levels of hormones, stress, medications, and genetics can trigger it. Some illnesses can also increase the risk of a person getting seborrheic dermatitis. For instance, if someone has depression, rosacea, an eating disorder, psoriasis, or chronic acne, they might also develop this condition.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:
- Formation of red, greyish scales on the scalp
- Greasy skin patches
- Skin inflammation, irritation and itchiness
- Dandruff and flakiness
- Hair loss
The patches from seborrheic dermatitis usually form on the hairline, in the region between the eyebrows, the cheeks, and the skin folds that extend from the nose to the mouth. That’s because these regions have the most sebaceous glands, so the oil will wreak more havoc in them.
Can Seborrheic Dermatitis Cause Hair Loss?
Yes, you can experience hair loss because of seborrheic dermatitis. There are a few reasons why it can happen. Firstly, if the hair follicles are attacked by the body’s immune system, they will get damaged. It will disrupt the normal hair growth cycle, resulting in shedding.
Secondly, this condition results in the formation of patches and inflammation of the scalp. You have a build-up of flakes and dandruff on the scalp if it’s not cleaned properly. The clogging of the pores can also weaken the follicles, resulting in hair loss.
Lastly, the itchiness of the scalp can make a person scratch their scalp quite intensely. Done too vigorously, the pressure alone can pull some hair out, especially if they’re already weak. However, the scratching can also wound the scalp and prevent normal hair growth, again causing seborrheic dermatitis.
If the condition isn’t treated, it can cause severe damage to the hair follicles. Therefore, it is important to get your scalp checked if you have any of the signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.
Is Hair Loss Due To Seborrheic Dermatitis Permanent?
Hair loss occurring due to seborrheic dermatitis is temporary. Your hair will start growing back once the symptoms of the condition are treated. But to avoid extensive damage to the follicles, you need to make sure that you start early treatment.
It can rarely be permanent. This scenario may occur if the inflammation is too frequently recurrent or the itchiness is so intense that you end up causing permanent damage to the skin. However, this is very rare.
What is the Treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Before the treatment, you need to get a diagnosis from a doctor, who might perform a biopsy to determine if it truly is seborrheic dermatitis. Over-the-counter treatments and medications are available for this condition which can help treat it.
Medicated shampoos can help treat dandruff that results from the overproduction of oil in seborrheic dermatitis. Your dermatologist may recommend shampoos containing the following ingredients:
- Salicylic acid
- Pyrithione zinc
- Selenium sulfide (it can cause discolouration)
Some of these ingredients are also available as creams. If your condition is mild, a medicated shampoo might be enough. You might need to use it for a few weeks.
If the medicated shampoo isn’t working, your doctor might prescribe you oral or topical medications such as corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors (they have a potential cancer risk), or antifungals.
Your doctor might not prescribe oral antifungal medication to you because it can cause many side effects. Moreover, it can interact with other medications.
Here, you should note that some of the treatments aimed at getting rid of the fungus can result in more hair loss. Discuss these things with your doctor beforehand.
Natural Treatments for Seborrheic Dermatitis
Certain ingredients can help with the inflammation that develops in seborrheic dermatitis. You can use tea tree oil on your scalp since it has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties, which can help reduce inflammation.
Do not directly apply the tea tree oil to your scalp. Mix it with another oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil. Before trying out this treatment, discuss it with your doctor. The same goes for any supplements that you decide to take.
You can even apply aloe vera topically as it can help soothe the skin with its anti-inflammatory responses. Do not apply too much of it. Again, ask your doctor how to apply aloe vera to your scalp for the management of hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself by keeping the skin clean and washed. Also, eat well.
Is Hair Transplant Possible for a Seborrheic Dermatitis Patient?
It’s always best to perform a hair transplant surgery on a healthy scalp. This will guarantee the best results. If there’s an active infection or wound on the scalp of a person with seborrheic dermatitis, the graft survival rate will decrease, affecting the overall hair density, which can lead to unsatisfactory results.
You should discuss the potential risks and side effects of getting surgery on a scalp with seborrheic dermatitis. Since the surgery may be harder to perform more successfully, you should know what is achievable. That way you’ll have more realistic expectations.
PRP for Hair Loss Due To Seborrheic Dermatitis
Since the condition can end up weakening your hair roots, it is recommended that you have platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to help promote the growth of new hair while strengthening the existing hair. PRP injections are a great way to boost the natural health of your hair.
If you’ve excessively shed your hair, even if temporarily, due to some illness or medication, PRP therapy can help in its regrowth. Therefore, for hair loss from seborrheic dermatitis, you can consider getting PRP injections.
Your doctor will let you know when it’s okay for you to get the injections. You might have to wait for your scalp to clear up before getting the injections.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that can be triggered by different factors. The exact cause of it isn’t known, and it isn’t curable. It can affect the scalp, face, and any area of the body.
The itchiness, inflammation, and damage to the follicles can result in hair loss, which is usually reversible. There are different treatments for it, such as medicated shampoos, OTC medications, and platelet-rich plasma therapy. Visit your doctor as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.