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 Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a disorder that causes flaking and redness of the skin. It usually affects the scalp, but can also occur on the face, chest, and creases of the arms and legs. Seborrheic dermatitis is often called dandruff, cradle cap, or seborrhea, but there are distinct differences. Seborrheic dermatitis is not harmful, but it is generally unsightly and uncomfortable.

 How do dandruff, seborrhea, and seborrheic dermatitis differ?

Dandruff causes scaling and flaking, usually in the scalp area, but there is no redness associated with this condition. Seborrhea produces an excessive oiliness of the skin, especially on the face and scalp, without redness or scaling. Seborrheic dermatitis causes both redness and scaling, and seborrhea may later escalate to seborrheic dermatitis.

 What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?

Common signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include patchy scaling or thick crust formation on the skin which can appear as yellow or white flakes that are attached to the hair shafts. Upon close observation, the flaky white or yellow scales may cover red, oily skin. Some itchiness or soreness in the area has also been reported.

Among infants between eight and 12 months, seborrheic dermatitis is often referred to as cradle cap, which can occur on the scalp or diaper area.

 What causes seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis can occur among three age groups: infants, middle age, and seniors. Proliferation of a yeast-like organism called Malassezia furfur (naturally present in smaller numbers in skin tissue) and a lowered immune system have been identified as precursors in many cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

 How is seborrheic dermatitis treated? Do they work?

Topical medications containing steroids, tar, pyrithione zinc, sulfur compounds, and salicylic acid have been approved by the FDA for treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. Since many medications can cause further complications, early detection and intervention are essential in treating seborrheic dermatitis.

Many over-the-counter dandruff shampoos contain selenium sulfide, tar, and salicylic acid to treat the scalp. For non-scalp areas affected by seborrheic dermatitis, sulfur compounds and salicylic acid are FDA-approved agents. Depending on the extent and severity of the condition, an effective approach to treating and managing seborrheic dermatitis involves keratolysis (exfoliation), gentle cleansing, and use of an antiseptic agent.


Biologic formulations of sulfur penetrate the dermal layers to provide a supplement for proper metabolism and protein formation (for example, collagen synthesis) to thereby induce micro-exfoliation. Sulfur also has a mild oxidative effect which neutralizes by-products of yeasts and bacteria present in the skin.

KAVI products include formulations containing both colloidal and precipitated preparations of sulfur. KAVI sulfur-based products provide a gentle, yet effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis to reduce irritation and stage the skin for rejuvenation.

 Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is another FDA-approved ingredient to effectively treat seborrheic dermatitis. Salicylic acid has proven its value in penetration, keratolysis (exfoliation), and antiseptic effects in various formulations to treat the condition. Salicylic acid derived from the bark of the willow tree is a common beta hydroxy acid (BHA) with comedolytic and keratolytic properties. Salicylic acid binds with and dissolves excess oil (sebum), penetrates clogged pores, and stimulates keratolysis. Once inside pores and hair follicles, salicylic acid produces an antiseptic effect, reducing any bacteria lodged inside.

KAVI Salicylic Acid products contain highly purified therapeutic concentrations with a normalized pH of 2.35. All KAVI Salicylic Acid treatments are prepared with peppermint oil extract (menthol) to soothe the skin during application. KAVI Salicylic Acid products contain an alcohol base that enhances penetration into the skin. For more information on choosing the appropriate salicylic acid product for your skin needs, click here.

 What can I expect from treatment?

Formulations containing sulfur and salicylic acid produce mild exfoliation. Dryness and sensitivity to sunlight are common effects to treatment as the skin begins to repair and regenerate. Regular application of moisturizers and sunblocks are recommended practices. Improved texture and tone may be observed after six to eight weeks of treatment with a KAVI Salicylic Acid peel. Skin repair and oil control can be sustained using KAVI sulfur products.

 How can I prevent seborrheic dermatitis?

There is no cure for seborrheic dermatitis, so a maintenance routine and vigilance are essential in controlling the condition after treatment. A maintenance routine that includes cleansing, regular exfoliation, hydration and sun protection serve to support cellular function and manage irritation caused by bacteria and oil build-up. Flare-ups or areas that are resistant to treatment must be treated by a healthcare professional and may require prescription steroidal medications.

KAVI products and skin care systems are available in varying formulations optimized for a wide spectrum of skin types and, in more severe cases requiring prescription medication, can serve as a complement to the primary method of treatment. Whether used alone or in combination with medications prescribed by your physician, KAVI products will help to restore and maintain your skin's beauty, health, and function.

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