Seborrheic Dermatitis (Holistic)

Skip to the navigation

About This Condition

A dry, flaky scalp on a baby is often called cradle cap. But adults also suffer from this skin condition. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Smooth on aloe

    To improve scaling and itching, apply a topical herbal cream containing 30% aloe emulsion from the Aloe vera plant


About This Condition

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory condition of the skin. Cradle cap is a type of seborrheic dermatitis found in infants; it is usually self-limiting and subsides by the age of six months. 

A qualified physician should diagnose these conditions. It is not clear whether research on cradle cap is applicable to the type of seborrheic dermatitis that occurs in adults.


A dry, flaky scalp is typical of mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis. More severe cases have itching, burning, greasy scales overlying red patches on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis may be confused with severe dandruff. However, seborrheic dermatitis may also be found on the eyebrows, eyelids, forehead, ears, chest, armpits, groin, and the skin folds beneath the breasts or between the buttocks.

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Moms: Try high-biotin foods
Nursing infants whose mothers ate foods high in biotin, such as liver and egg yolk, had improved cradle cap symptoms in one study.

An early study reported that nursing infants with cradle cap improved when high-biotin foods, such as liver and egg yolk, were added to the mother’s diet.1

Try a low-allergen diet
A low-allergen diet may be useful in treating cradle cap. The most common offending foods identified in one study were milk, wheat, and eggs.

A preliminary report suggested that an allergy elimination diet for an infant may be useful in the treatment of cradle cap. The most common offending foods identified were milk, wheat, and eggs.2 More research is needed to confirm the value of this approach in the treatment of cradle cap.


What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Supplement Why
2 Stars
Apply a topical herbal cream containing 30% aloe emulsion
Topically applied aloe may help improve scaling and itching.

A crude extract of aloe (Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vera) may help seborrheic dermatitis when applied topically. In a double-blind trial, people with seborrheic dermatitis applied either a 30% crude aloe emulsion or a similar placebo cream twice a day for four to six weeks.3 Significantly more people responded to topical aloe vera than to placebo: 62% of those using the aloe vera reported improvements in scaling and itching, compared to only 25% in the placebo group.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Biotin injections either for the infant or the nursing mother may be an effective treatment for cradle cap.

Preliminary studies have found that injecting either the infant or the nursing mother with biotin may be an effective treatment for cradle cap.4 , 5 Studies of oral biotin have yielded mixed results in infants. Older preliminary studies and case reports suggest that 4 mg per day of oral biotin might be sufficient for mild cases of cradle cap, but 10 mg per day was required for more severe cases.6 Two more recent, controlled trials found that oral biotin (4 or 5 mg per day) produced no benefit.7 , 8 Thus, the scientific support for using oral biotin to treat cradle cap is weak. The role of biotin in adult seborrheic dermatitis has not been studied.

1 Star
Borage Oil
Refer to label instructions
Topically applied borage oil may improve cradle cap symptoms.

A group of researchers found that infants with cradle cap appeared to have an imbalance of essential fatty acids in their blood that returned to normal when their skin rashes eventually went away.9 In a preliminary trial, these researchers later found that application of 0.5 ml of borage oil twice daily to the affected skin resulted in clinical improvement of cradle cap within two weeks.10

1 Star
Folic Acid
Refer to label instructions
Supplementing with folic acid has been shown to improve adult seborrheic dermatitis.

One physician reported that injections of B-complex vitamins were useful in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis in infants.11 A preliminary trial found that 10 mg per day of folic acid was helpful in 17 of 20 cases of adult seborrheic dermatitis.12 However, this study also found that oral folic acid did not benefit infants with cradle cap. A preliminary study found that topical application of vitamin B6 ointment (containing 10 mg B6 per gram of ointment) to affected areas improved adult seborrheic dermatitis.13 However, oral vitamin B6 (up to 300 mg per day) was ineffective. Injections of vitamin B12 were reported to improve in 86% of adults with seborrheic dermatitis in a preliminary trial.14 Oral administration of vitamin B12 for seborrheic dermatitis has not been studied.

1 Star
Selenium Topical
Refer to label instructions


1. Gyorgy P. Dietary treatment of scaly desquamative dermatoses of the seborrheic type. Arch Derm Syph 1941;43:230-47.

2. Eppig JJ. Seborrhea capitis in infants: a clinical experience in allergy therapy. Ann Allergy 1971;29:323-4.

3. Vardy DA, Cohen AD, Tchetov T, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of an Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Dermatol Treat 1999;10:7-11.

4. Nisenson A. Seborrheic dermatitis of infants: treatment with biotin injections for the nursing mother. Pediatrics 1969;44:1014-6.

5. Messaritakis J, Kattamis C, Karabula C, Matsaniotis N. Generalized seborrheic dermatitis: clinical and therapeutic data of 25 patients. Arch Dis Child 1975;50:871-4.

6. Nisenson A. Seborrheic dermatits of infants and Leiner's disease: a biotin deficiency. J Pediatr 1957;51:537-48.

7. Keipert JA. Oral use of biotin in seborrheic dermatitis of infancy: a controlled trial. Med J Aust 1976;1:584-5.

8. Erlichman M, Goldstein R, Levi E, et al. Infantile flexural seborrheic dermatitis. Neither biotin nor essential fatty acid deficiency. Arch Dis Child 1981;56:560-2.

9. Tollesson A, Frithz A, Berg A, Karlman G. Essential fatty acids in infantile seborrheic dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 1993;28:957-61.

10. Tollesson A, Frithz A. Borage oil, an effective new treatment for infantile seborrheic dermatitis. Br J Dermatol 1993;129:95 [letter].

11. Nisenson A. Treatment of seborrheic dermatitis with biotin and vitamin B complex. J Pediatr 1972;81:630-1 [letter].

12. Callaghan TJ. The effect of folic acid on seborrheic dermatitis. Cutis 1967;3:583-8.

13. Schreiner AW, Rockwell E, Vilter RW. A local defect in the metabolism of pyridoxine in the skin of persons with seborrheic dermatitis of the “sicca” type. J Invest Derm 1952;19:95-6.

14. Andrews GC, Post CF, Domnkos AN. Seborrheic dermatitis: supplemental treatment with vitamin B12. NY State Med J 1950;50:1921-5.