Does your baby have thick, sticky, and yellow flakes on their scalp? It's likely cradle cap or seborrhoeic dermatitis. Although it doesn't look pleasant, it's a harmless and common skin condition. In this article, we'll explain what it is and give you tips on how to treat cradle cap in your little one.
What is cradle cap
Cradle cap is a common scalp condition that mainly affects babies. The medical term is infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis, indicating that it's a form of eczema that specifically occurs in newborns. Although it may look severe and concerning, it's an innocent condition that your child generally doesn't suffer from. Cradle cap often disappears on its own within a few weeks or months. In some cases, however, it may last longer and cause itching and irritation.
When do babies develop cradle cap?
Babies can develop cradle cap from a few weeks after birth up to toddlerhood. It usually starts between two and three months of age and lasts several weeks to months. Although it's a common skin condition, it's not known exactly how many babies develop this form of eczema.
Symptoms of cradle cap
Cradle cap is easy to recognize, and the symptoms include:
- Scaly scalp: cradle cap is recognizable by yellowish or brownish flakes on your baby's scalp.
- Red or pink skin: under these flakes, the scalp may be red or pink.
- Crusty patches: mostly on the head and face, and these crusts are often white or yellow. They can also occur around the eyebrows, ears, and nose.
- Oily scalp: the skin may be covered with a greasy layer caused by the drying of the natural oil layer on the skin of newborns (vernix). The hair and flakes often stick to the scalp due to this.
- Itching and irritation: sometimes, cradle cap also causes itching and skin irritation.
- Unpleasant smell: a symptom of cradle cap can be that your child's scalp smells unpleasant. The accumulation of flakes and bacterial growth on the scalp can cause an unpleasant smell.
What causes cradle cap?
It's not certain why some babies develop cradle cap while others don't, and it is not caused by bacteria or viruses and therefore cannot be transmitted from one to the other. However, certain factors are known to increase the risk of developing this skin condition, such as:
- Sebum production: increased sebum production can contribute to the development of cradle cap. Baby's sebaceous glands may not always function properly and may sometimes produce more sebum than necessary.
- Hormones: it's also possible that mothers transfer hormones via the placenta to their babies, causing the sebaceous glands to become overactive.
- Fungal infection: fungal infections can also contribute to the development of cradle cap. Usually, it's caused by an overgrowth of yeast (fungi) on the skin. The yeast Malassezia is a common cause and is naturally present on everyone's scalp. In some babies, the yeast can multiply rapidly, leading to the development of this form of seborrhoeic eczema.
3 tips on how to prevent and treat cradle cap
You can't always prevent your little one from getting cradle cap, but there are a few things you can do as a parent to treat it and reduce the symptoms:
- Regular washing: wash your baby's hair and scalp regularly with a mild baby shampoo to remove excess oil and flakes.Gently massage the scalp to loosen the flakes before rinsing the hair.
- Soft brushing: use a soft baby brush to loosen and gently remove the flakes. Brush the hair in the direction of hair growth to avoid irritating the scalp.
Natural treatment cradle cap: some parents swear by using a plant-based oil to treat cradle cap. You can use coconut or olive oil, or opt for a baby oil. It is not recommended to use a scented baby oil as it can irritate your baby's skin and make the cradle cap worse. A better alternative is a natural baby oil like our Soothing Oil. It contains only pure, unprocessed jojoba- and coconut oil and chamomile. The oil has both anti-inflammatory and calming properties.
Apply a small amount to the scalp and leave it on for a few hours before washing it with a mild baby shampoo without sulfates or other harsh ingredients.
If these treatments don't work or the symptoms worsen, you can always consult your doctor for advice. Remember that cradle cap is a relatively innocent condition that usually heals on its own after a few months. So, give nature a chance and enjoy the extra moments with your little ones while applying the tips. : )
Would you like to know more about other common forms of eczema in babies? Read all about it in this blog. Are you curious about our range of natural care products for your baby? You can discover all our baby & kids products here.