Can seborrheic dermatitis spread? How do I stop it?

There is so much confusion about seborrheic dermatitis. It exists in the realm between eczema (which is super well known), psoriasis, and rosacea. To make matters worse, there is an overlap between the conditions with some people suffering from more than one.

Just to add to the confusion, seb derm is inextricably linked to Malassezia. Isn’t that a fungus? Yes it is. Don’t fungal infections spread?

The short answer to whether seb derm spreads is:

  • No. Seb derm doesn’t doesn’t spread from one person to another.
  • No. Seb derm doesn’t spread from one area to another.
  • Yes. Seb derm can spread from one part of your face or scalp to affect a bigger area. Especially when you leave it untreated.

Let’s unpack this further:

Can seborrheic dermatitis spread from scalp to face?

We often only notice seb derm when it becomes bad enough to affect our life. But when we look back there is almost certainly a long history of dandruff, unidentified rash or something else that on hindsight was seb derm in its infancy.

Theoretically, seb derm can affect any part of the skin with sebaceous glands – that’s anywhere except your palms and soles. Seb derm can go untreated for months or years, especially when it’s only mild and not on the face. Over time, you would have found that seb derm starts to affect larger areas of your scalp or your dandruff worsens.

And over a longer period of time, especially if there were significant triggers, seb derm can spread from your scalp to your face, neck and other areas.

Does seborrheic dermatitis spread on the face?

On looking back, you’ll often find that seb derm started in a small patch on the face. You initially ignored it but as it grew in size and annoyance, you started looking for a diagnosis. While you were doing that, the patch grew further and other patches started popping up.

My seb derm got so bad that it was affecting my whole face except my nose (no explanation for this) and even my neck.

So yes, seb derm can spread on the face when it is not managed correctly, which tends to be the case for most people. Seb derm is unfortunately often misdiagnosed by doctors. Doctors are also trigger-friendly when it comes to prescribing steroid creams. Steroid creams may help in the short term but often makes it worse in the long term.

Why is my seborrheic dermatitis spreading?

Why does this happen you ask?

Long story short, the seb derm rash is caused by a combination of Malassezia overgrowth, inflammation and damage of skin barrier. The more it goes untreated, the more yeast proliferates. As inflammation worsens, the skin barrier gets damaged further, making it easy for the condition to spread.

Read more about the mechanism behind seb derm here:

Can seborrheic dermatitis spread to other parts of the body?

Seb derm can spread to the rest of the body by the same mechanism it spreads on the face. As you scratch more and more, your stress level goes through the roof trying to figure it out (Stress is a major trigger for seb derm) The other triggers that set it off in the first place is probably left untreated.

woman in black long sleeve shirt covering her face with her hands

And you find your neck starts to itch next, then your chest and upper back. The rash got so far as my arms before I had my eureka moment.

How to avoid seborrheic dermatitis from spreading?

The most important first step in stopping the spread is to get the diagnosis right. Whether it’s from your own research or via your doctor’s astute observations (with some help from you), the management of seb derm is so different from other rashes that you can’t just throw the usual creams and potions at it.

Once you have the diagnosis, there is only one holy grail cream that is vital to stop your rash:

Anti-fungal cream.

(5 pack) Globe Clotrimazole Antifungal Cream 1% (1 oz) Relieves the itching, burning, cracking and scaling associated with fungal infections | Compare to the Name Brand Active IngredientCheck it out on Amazon

Find out how to use antifungal cream to treat seb derm: What is the best antifungal cream for seborrheic dermatitis?

Then, you’ll need to change your lifestyle to stop triggering seb derm. I summarize seb derm treatment in this article.

You can also sign up to find out my personal regimen for treating seb derm.

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