Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition leading to scaly skin rashes. It can appear on many areas of the body, including the chest.

While it can affect people of any age, it is most common among infants and adults aged between 30 and 60. Sebum (or oil) that sebaceous glands in the skin produce and yeast infection may play a role.

The skin on the chest contains a lot of sebum, as do other parts of the body, including the face and scalp. The condition tends to affect the chest in around 27% of all adult cases.

In this article, we will discuss seborrheic dermatitis on the chest, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

A person's chest with the shadow of a plant over it, representing seborrheic dermatitis on the chest.Share on Pinterest
Lucas Ottone/Stocksy

No matter where seborrheic dermatitis manifests, people may experience the following:

  • rash on chest — appearing brown on Black skin or lighter on white skin
  • dry, flaking skin
  • itching or burning of the skin
  • yellow or white scales on greasy skin
  • redness of the skin

A ring-shaped rash may appear in people with petaloid seborrheic dermatitis, a severe form of the condition.

In many cases, the symptoms go away on their own. However, those with long-term or recurrent seborrheic dermatitis may expect to have flare-ups.

Learn more about how seborrheic dermatitis appears on Black skin here.

While experts do not know exactly what causes seborrheic dermatitis, some factors appear to play a role. These include:

  • yeast infection — with some experts claiming the Malassezia species is responsible
  • sebum production
  • individual characteristics, for example, having co-occurring medical conditions

Risk factors

Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of seborrheic dermatitis, such as:

Other factors that can cause seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • certain medications to treat other conditions, such as auranofin (Ridaura), fluorouracil (Carac), and griseofulvin (Gris-PEG)
  • cold and dry weather
  • stress
  • hormonal changes

The treatment of seborrheic dermatitis depends on the following:

  • the age of the affected person
  • the area where the rashes appear
  • the severity of the condition
  • any underlying diseases a person has

A few common treatment approaches for seborrheic dermatitis in the chest area include:

A good skincare routine

Regular cleansing and moisturizing of the skin can help keep symptoms at bay. People may choose to use a gentle, zinc-containing cleanser and follow that up with lotion or cream.


Some of these may require a prescription from a doctor.

  • Antifungals: These are the first line of treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. They are available as gels or creams and people apply them directly to the affected skin area. Examples include:
    • clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
    • ketoconazole (Nizarol)
    • miconazole (Monistat)
  • Corticosteroids: Doctors may prescribe these alone or in combination with antifungal medications. Doctors do not recommend their long-term use due to side effects. Examples include:
    • betamethasone (Betamethacot)
    • hydrocortisone (Hydrocort)
    • desonide (DesOwen)
  • Calcineurin inhibitors: These are a second-line treatment option for seborrheic dermatitis. Examples include:

Treatment of severe cases may differ and can require oral antifungal drugs or UVB phototherapy.

Certain lifestyle changes can help to prevent seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. One of the most effective lifestyle changes to make is to manage stress levels.

Some people may want to try the following techniques to help them relieve stress:

  • performing light exercises
  • journaling about negative feelings
  • spending time in nature
  • developing a breathwork or meditation practice

Learn more about how to manage stress here.

Other ways to reduce flare-ups include:

  • avoiding cold, dry weather
  • using alcohol-free skin products
  • taking care of the skin, for example, using sunscreen that contains zinc oxide
  • learning what is triggering a flare-up and avoiding the cause where possible
  • working with a skin specialist or dermatologist to create an action plan if feasible

People with worsening symptoms or concerns should seek advice from a doctor.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that results in red, scaly, and itchy rashes appearing on the skin. It typically affects areas that are rich in sebaceous glands, for example, the face and chest.

Several factors can lead to seborrheic dermatitis appearing on the skin of the chest. Doctors may diagnose it either by assessing the appearance or by skin biopsy. Treatment can depend on several factors, for example, the severity of the condition.

People must visit a doctor while experiencing early symptoms to prevent the development of severe seborrheic dermatitis.