Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Rosacea: Difference Between Seborrheic Dermatitis and Rosacea

People who have itchiness and dry skin often mistake their condition for rosacea, when what they in fact have is seborrheic dermatitis. The latter is a prevalent condition that usually affects the scalp and can cause serious irritation. Let’s dive into Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Rosacea for a clearer understanding of their true differences.

Often, people who have rosacea are also infected with seborrheic dermatitis. To compare these two skin conditions, I’ve done some thorough research. People affected by seborrheic dermatitis experience scaly patches on different areas of the skin, accompanied by a burning sensation or itching. These skin patches are yellow and appear greasy. Most of the flare-ups from seborrheic dermatitis occur on the scalp, eyebrows, or nasal folds.

The skin condition rosacea, on the other hand, is red in color and can leave a stinging sensation on the skin. Rosacea usually appears on the nose, chin, and forehead. The most significant difference between seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea aside from where it occurs on the face is in the latter (rosacea), you can almost see the blood vessel on the skin, and the bumps are like acne.

Although both are long-lasting skin disorders, there are fluctuations for their breakouts over time and with periods that they are dormant. This means that there is no symptom showing but it does not mean that they’re already gone.

To compare the two skin conditions further, Seborrheic Dermatitis vs. Rosacea; here is an in-depth look at the symptoms, causes, and common treatments for both skin disorders.

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a form of eczema that causes scaly patches all over the body, mainly due to the overgrowth of yeast.

The most common place you will find seborrheic dermatitis is on the scalp, but it can also appear in your ears, on your neck, on your face and tons of other areas. It’s notorious for causing itchiness on the skin that remains scaly and greasy. It can flake-up, especially if you scratch it.

Seborrheic Dermatitis on the head

This skin condition can also appear on babies, but it will appear dramatically crusty. The scales can appear brown, red, or yellow. It can occur around the nose and eyes. This can be risky for your baby because when scratched, it can become infected or start bleeding.


There is no exact cause for seborrheic dermatitis, but it can be a combination of many things including your genes, stress, certain medical conditions, medicines, and yeast that lives generally on the skin or cold and dry weather. It certainly doesn’t come from just not being clean or an allergy.

According to National Eczema, adults between the ages of 30 to 60 and newborns are prone to this disease — also, people with English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish origin and those with oily skin are more likely to get it. Men are also commonly affected more than women.


The most common names for seborrheic dermatitis are dandruff or cradle cap. When your babies are three months or younger, they are susceptible to get cradle cap. This is the crusty brown or yellow scales that appear on their scalp. It can appear on their buttocks too and can be mistaken as a diaper rash. Usually, this skin condition will naturally go away before they reach one year old, but it will come back during their puberty in the form of dandruff.

You can also have seborrheic dermatitis on your face especially in the areas around the nose, in the eyebrows, eyelids, and behind the ears. It can appear on other parts of the body too including the middle of the chest, around your navel, on the buttocks, in the folds under the arms and legs, in the groin area and below the breast.

Typical symptoms include itchiness, burning sensation, and scaly red patches. The patches will most likely peel off in an oily or moist, yellowish or whitish flake.

Since the symptoms can appear like other skin conditions, you need to see a doctor to get the right diagnosis and proper treatment. Your doctor may ask you for your medical history, look at you and conduct some tests to know if this condition may be related to other diseases.

Did you know that there are several types of eczema you could be dealing with? check this article out for a more in-depth understanding.


In rare cases, seborrheic dermatitis can heal by itself. However, in most cases, it is a persistent condition that has its episodes of an outbreak and clears. It can last for many years, but it can be maintained with a proper skincare routine.

For adults with seborrheic dermatitis on their scalp, an over the counter dandruff shampoo can help especially if the shampoo has the following ingredients: ketoconazole, coal tar, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, and Zinc pyrithione.

For infants with cradle cap, you can use warm water and baby shampoo to wash their scalp daily. You can soften the thick patches by rubbing mineral oil onto the affected area and gently brushing it to peel off the scales. Don’t just use any dandruff shampoo on your baby. It can irritate them. You should consult their pediatrician about the shampoo before trying it on your baby.

For adults with seborrheic dermatitis on their face and body, washing with a non-fragrance soap and warm water daily can help. Sunlight can also arrest the growth of yeast that causes the irritation. There are also other effective treatments including antifungal products, corticosteroid lotions, medicated shampoos, and sulfur products. Changes in lifestyle can also help, such as your eating habits and stress levels.

What is Rosacea?

Rosacea, on the other hand, is a common skin disorder that mainly affects the face, causing redness on the nose, cheeks, chin and the forehead. Often, the redness will become severe creating a flushed appearance until you can see the blood vessels.

Closeup View of Rosacea

There are also cases where this skin condition will appear on the neck, back, and chest. If it’s affecting the eyes, it would irritate, appearing bloodshot and watery. In severe cases of rosacea, the bumps can appear alongside pus-filled pimples. Another manifestation is a swollen appearance of the nose, which is also called rhinophyma.


The primary cause of this chronic illness is still unknown, but some theories were postulated. One of these theories says it due to a disorder of the immune system or the neurovascular system (the arteries, veins, and nerves). Another possible cause is skin mites called Dermodex, which are in abundant when a person has rosacea. Some studies also suggested that it may be related to a serious health condition like cancer or intestinal and cardiovascular diseases.

Rosacea tends to appear more on women, but men have more severe symptoms. The main reason for this that they don’t go for medical intervention until the condition becomes more advanced. People with fair skin are also at higher risk to get rosacea.


Unlike seborrheic dermatitis, the appearance of rosacea can vary from one person to another, and many times, not all the signs and symptoms appear at once. The primary signs of rosacea may include flushing or blushing, persistent redness, bumps and pimples and visibility of the blood vessels. Other potential signs to watch out for are eye irritation or a condition called ocular rosacea, stinging or burning sensation, the dry appearance of the skin, plaques or red patches, and skin thickening just like rhinophyma.

These symptoms and signs of rosacea are not concentrated on the face. It may also appear in other areas like the ears, chest, and neck. If you are having problems with your face like bumps, pimples, redness, itching, and others, you need to see a dermatologist to speedily examine your condition.


The treatment for rosacea can vary depending on the signs and symptoms. It may include topical and oral medications to keep the associated symptoms like bumps, redness, and pimples under control until its remission. For severe cases, doctors may remove the blood vessels visible, correct the nose if disfigured and can limit the excessive redness.

Natural Way to Treat Either of the Skin Conditions

For rosacea, you can use an all-natural mask like an oatmeal mask to reduce the redness temporarily. You can also apply a small amount of essential oil from lavender that has an anti-inflammatory property and cooling benefits to soothe the flair ups temporarily.

For seborrheic dermatitis, coconut oil is an effective moisturizer that can reduce the excess oil, fungus, and yeast, especially in the scalp.

In terms of over the counter products available for seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea, the latter has no cure but can be controlled with topical antibiotic gels. For seborrheic dermatitis, ketoconazole shampoo is useful for the scalp, while for the body go with Clobetasol.

Related Questions:

1. Does Tea Tree help seborrheic dermatitis?

Yes. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that are an ideal treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. You can apply it to the scalp by diluting with a carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil because it is quite strong. It can significantly reduce itching and heal the patches on the scalp and skin.

2. Can perioral dermatitis turn into rosacea?

Perioral dermatitis can have the same symptoms as rosacea and is common among young children and women. It does not lead to rosacea and is a lot closer to an allergic reaction than a chronic skin inflammation. Unlike rosacea, perioral dermatitis has a more definite cause.

One thought on “Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Rosacea: Difference Between Seborrheic Dermatitis and Rosacea

  1. William F Matthews says:

    Helpful/educational. I have inherited my mother’s eczema… and have over time discovered contact allergies. Irritation in the eyebrows was thought to be psoriasis…. and now I believe it is seborrheic dermatitis as I have had recurring messes in my moustache, continued bumps in my scalp. Scars on my legs are from patches of what I believed to be psoriasis…… allergy to blue dye remains a suspect, and the contents of my pants pockets abraiding the area make me wonder as well.
    Currently, my mustache area is healing. The prescription cream to my mind caused clogging of pealing skin. Also, just diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep Apnea. Mask is helping (3rd day). 25-30 lbs of excess weight I attribute to past prescriptions of Prednisone (now discontinued) for contact dermatitis.

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