SkinCare Physicians

Experiencing worsening flaky skin? It may not just be dry skin!

Published on Oct 14th, 2014 by Karen Kim

Photo of seborrheric dermatitis above the lipsWith the change of season upon us, you may be experiencing worsening dryness, flakiness and redness on your face and/or scalp. This may not just be dry skin, but seborrheic dermatitis, a very common skin condition that affects 1 to 5% of the general population and that our dermatologists near Boston see regularly .

Changes in season or weather, but also emotional and psychological stress are usual circumstances when seborrheic dermatitis rears its head. Common areas affected are the scalp (mild forms are seen as dandruff) as well as behind or inside the ears, along the eyebrows, by the nose, cheek, chin and chest area.

A clue that you may have seborrheic dermatitis is that despite how much moisturizer you use, areas on your face still look flaky and red.

A useful tip may already be sitting in your shower:

  • Apply an anti-dandruff shampoo such as Head and Shoulders, Selsun Blue, or Nizoral, not just on your scalp but on your face, especially along the brow, corners of the nose, chin and even chest.
  • Leave it on for five minutes and then wash it off.

This can help reduce flares and calm the redness and flakiness.

If that doesn’t clear it, a dermatologist can prescribe either an anti-inflammatory cream or even an anti-fungal cream. Seborrheic dermatitis may be aggravated by an overgrowth of yeast called Malassezia so a topical antifungal cream can sometimes help.

Photo of seborrheric dermatitis on foreheadAnd don’t worry- it’s not contagious. But remember, unfortunately, this is not a condition that can be cured. It can recur. The good news is that with the proper tools, you can calm it down and manage it successfully.

If you have any concerns about dryness, flakiness and redness on your face and/or scalp, contact your dermatologist at SkinCare Physicians at (617) 731-1600.

Photo source: Wikipedia and

28 Responses to Experiencing worsening flaky skin? It may not just be dry skin!

  • adejare says:

    i have been using e45 cream and some other medication the dermatologist gave me. Can i e45 cream to cetaphil moisturizing cream because it seems that cream is not working adequately throughout the day.

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      If you haven’t been seeing an improvement using the prescribed medication by your dermatologist, it would be best to follow up with your dermatologist to determine the appropriate next step.

  • karim says:

    Hi Dr Karen ,
    I have Seborreic dermatitis condition . I use vichy dandruff shampoo on my haire and it reduce 100% my dandruff problems . but redness never goes away . except if i use cortisol . The sun exposure easily makes it worst . sunscreens burn my skin even those for sensitive skin . Cerave cream made it so red and dry. I didn’t use cetaphil … Do you think i should try ?

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      If it’s not improving with your current treatment, it would be best to follow up with your dermatologist.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hello, I started using ketoderm cream on my seborrheic dermatitis around my nose area. There’s a lot of flakey skin now. Is this normal?

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      It usually takes at least a week of application before you start to see improvement. If it persists, you should follow up with your dermatologist.

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Effective treatments typically include an anti-inflammatory or antifungal cream. I would recommend you see a dermatologist to help determine what would be the most appropriate therapy for you.

  • Ann says:

    My son at 1.5 month was diagnosed with SD severe which is spreading to body. Applied hydrocortisone cream and the redness fade within 2-3 days. After that,I used cetaphil moisturiser for every nappy change and I felt the redness (esp in creases) increasing day by day . Is it because this moisturiser is closing the sweat glands..?any remedy to prevent it.

  • Julia says:

    How long does it take for treatment to be effective? I have been using ketoconazole cream twice a day for two weeks, flakes have improved but still red. How long to persist with this?
    Can I use another anti fungal like Bifonazole instead as it is a once a day application (twice a day is a pain having to wait for it to absorb before applying makeup)

    Thank you!

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      You should follow up with your dermatologist if the rash persists after two weeks of treatment. They can also advise you on changes in medication.

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Dry flaking around the nose can be a sign of seborrheic dermatitis. You may need to consult a dermatologist if moisturizers such as Cetaphil or Cerave creams have not helped.

  • Jen says:

    I was diagnosed with Rosacea and Seborrheic Dermatitis. Can you recommend a moisturizer that wont aggravate these conditions? Thanks in advance!

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Cetaphil and Cerave facial moisturizers are good options for people with rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis.

  • Grace says:

    I came down with this for the first time last week. I treated the skin with a dandruff shampoo and then switched to a zinc bar because the shampoo seemed too harsh. Both seemed to work. The redness went down significantly almost immediately but now the skin is very dry. The large, scaly flakes are gone but now there is a lot of small flaky skin that seems more related to irritation from the products. Is there something I can do to reduce this/make it go away?

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      I agree it sounds like your skin may have been irritated from the medicated shampoo and zinc bar soap. Since the redness and large dry flakes have improved, you may discontinue the soap. Try applying a mild cleanser followed by a facial moisturizer such as Cetaphil or Cerave twice a day. If it doesn’t improve after a few days, you might want to see a dermatologist.

  • Erik says:

    My dermatologist insists I have SD. My question is when I used minocycline I never suffered from facial redness. My skin does not feel dry but it is more red. Does minocycline help SD or facial redness?

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Minocycline is an oral antibiotic that can be prescribed for flares of rosacea, a condition that is often associated with facial redness. Seborrheic dermatitis does not usually improve with minocycline. Hope this is helpful.

  • Rich says:

    Can Seborrheic dermatitis facial redness be treated with Pulsed Dry Laser?. My dermatologist has recommended a course of 6 sessions

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Lasers are typically not the first line treatment for redness associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Since seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition, the best approach is to apply an anti-inflammatory or anti-fungal cream to address the underlying cause. This will reduce the dryness and flaking along with redness simultaneously. Hope you find this information helpful.

  • Emi says:

    My daughter, since she was a baby, have sensitive DRY skin and scalp… almost 6 month ago she started having some dandruff and I take her to the pediatrician and she said she have Seborrheic Dermatitis… I thought Seborrheic Dermatitis was a condition triggered by the excess of oils… my question is the pediatrician misdiagnosed my daughter and she just have a dry scalp or she can have SD even though she have dry skin and scalp…? Thanks!!!

    • Dr. Karen Kim says:

      Seborrheic dermatitis can occur in babies as well as adults. It has an incidence of up to 40% among infants so it is in fact quite common. Cradle cap is a term used because of the thick, greasy adherent scale on the scalp. It can be mistaken as dry skin but does not improve with moisturizers. Luckily seborrheic dermatitis tends to be self-limiting and usually disappears after 6 months to 1 year of age. It can return during puberty. Should the condition persist or worsen, you may want to consult a dermatologist. Hope this is helpful.

    • Blog Admin says:

      The best way to treat seborrheic dermatitis is with a topical anti-inflammatory creams or topical antifungal cream such as ketoconazole cream. Facials and dermaplaning can be very helpful for superficial exfoliation and for dry skin. Seborrheic dermatitis can sometimes be confused with dry skin, but recurs despite facials and dermaplaning. If you’re not sure, have a dermatologist look at your skin to see what would be the best approach.

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SkinCare Physicians®
1244 Boylston Street (Route 9)
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467

Phone: (617) 731-1600 Fax: (617) 731-1601

Medical Website Design & Marketing by Etna Interactive

The dermatologists and other medical professionals at SkinCare Physicians specialize in a wide range of dermatology treatments and services, including laser hair removal, laser skin treatment, hair transplant, eyelid surgery, body contouring, psoriasis, skin cancer, BOTOX® Cosmetic, fillers, and Thermage®. From their offices in Chestnut Hill, they serve Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Newton and Wellesley.