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Author: Reviewed and updated by Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand; Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer; and Clare Morrison Copy Editor, June 2014.

Seborrhoea — codes and concepts

What is seborrhoea?

Seborrhoea (or seborrhea) is the name given to excessively oily skin. It is due to overactive sebaceous glands and can affect both males and females. The oil produced by the skin is called sebum. The scalp and face are most commonly affected by seborrhoea, but other affected body sites may include the chest and folds of skin such as the underarms and under the breasts.

Skin affected by seborrhoea feels unpleasant, and seems to get dirty quickly. The face appears shiny. Make-up may run off or cake and is difficult to apply. The affected area is often red, and greasy and scaly patches may develop; this is known as seborrhoeic dermatitis. Seborrhoea may also lead to acne.

Although most people with seborrhoea have no other health problems, it is sometimes a sign of underlying Parkinson disease or acromegaly. It may also be due to excessive androgens in women, associated with polycystic ovaries and less commonly, to congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

What is the treatment for seborrhoea?

Seborrhoea can be managed by washing the face twice daily with water and a mild soap or soapless cleanser. This helps to remove excess oils and keep skin clean. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may help to reduce inflammation (redness and scaling) and antifungal creams help to reduce yeast organisms living on the skin.

If seborrhoea is severe, your doctor may prescribe the following medications:

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