Cradle Cap is that dry, flaky skin you may see on newborns that seems to cover their tender little heads like a crusty, scaly head cap. For parents – especially first-time parents – cradle cap can look alarming. That’s why it’s important for you to know that cradle cap is ugly but harmless.
You may notice thickened yellow, white, or brown patches of skin. (The color of the patches depends on the color of your baby’s skin.) The patches may be greasy, and some parents may even detect a smell around their baby’s rash. A yellow/brown crust can also develop on baby’s eyebrows or behind the ears. Pink moist skin also pops up around the diaper area or armpits.
Clinically known as Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis, cradle cap is a common and temporary condition. In fact, seborrheic dermatitis scalp in babies is a younger, crustier relative of dandruff in adults. There’s nothing contagious or infected or wrong with your baby. It isn’t caused by inadequate care, and it isn’t an allergy. You haven’t done anything to trigger this in your infant and there is an effective way to treat the symptoms.
FIGHT FLAKES NOW!
Learn more about Cradle Cap from award winning pediatrician Dr. Eddie Valenzuela.
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis and its attending symptoms of newborn skin peeling, flaking, dryness, scaliness is rarely serious and can clear up on its own without the need for treatment. This usually happens between 6-12 months of age.
There are steps you can take to ease the symptoms of cradle cap, scaling and potentially stop future scaling. A gentle medicated baby shampoo for Cradle Cap containing Pyrithione Zinc is an excellent way to quickly remedy cradle cap.
Gently wash the infant’s head every day with a mild baby shampoo. Mild is the key word here, meaning you should avoid shampoos with harsh ingredients. Look for products with words like:
Gentle body shampoos and body washes like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy cleanse thoroughly without irritating baby’s delicate skin. Before rinsing the shampoo off the scalp, loosen the scales by massaging with your fingertips, a wash cloth, or alternatively you can use a small, soft-bristled brush or fine-toothed comb. After the scales disappear, the gentle washing process should be repeated every 2-3 days to prevent scales from building up again.
Although it looks hydrating, don’t be tempted to leave shampoo, oil or lotions on the scalp, as it will likely worsen the scales. Always rinse thoroughly.
If your child’s scales are stubborn and won’t gently loosen, resist the temptation to scratch or peel them off with your fingers because it could open the door to infection. Some family members friends, and doctors may recommend rubbing petroleum jelly or a few drops of mineral oil into the affected areas, once again thoroughly rinsing afterwards. There are conflicting opinions about the benefit of using oils on baby scalps, so it’s best to consult a doctor if you plan to use anything beyond a gentle baby wash.
Do not use over-the-counter cortisone or anti-fungal creams without talking to your baby’s doctor. Some of these products can be toxic for an infant. Same goes for dandruff shampoos that contain salicylic acid. Better to consult a doctor for stubborn cradle cap cases or simply do your best, keep it gentle, and let the condition run its course.
After all, cradle cap is common, harmless, and no reflection of the care you are providing your newborn. It will go away.
How do I know if my baby’s dry, flaky skin needs medical attention?
While cradle cap is rarely serious, you should seek help if the skin starts to become red and the patches look irritated. Other reasons to seek medical care:
• Affected area spreads to the face or starts to appear on the body
• Diaper rash occurs
• Signs of thrush appear.
Newborn Skin Peeling versus Cradle Cap
Many babies have dry, peeling skin soon after birth, particularly if they’re born close to 40 weeks. Bathing too often and using soaps with scents and added colors can be drying or make already-dry skin worse because soap removes the skin’s natural oils.
Unlike babies with cradle cap, newborns who simply have dry skin will not have crusting, discoloration or rough patches. Washing with a gentle, pure body wash and following up with non-irritating baby lotion, ointment or moisturizer will take care of typical newborn skin peeling.
Can a Toddler get Cradle Cap?
While cradle cap most commonly begins in the first three months of life, up to a third of babies will continue to have symptoms in their toddler years. The treatment approach is the same for toddlers as for babies.
In a toddler case of cradle cap, it could be that treatment effectively removed the scales but the glands are still making too much oil. Simply resume the treatment that worked before.
However, some babies with cradle cap go on to develop other rashes like eczema. If your toddler’s cradle cap doesn’t respond to approaches that worked in the past, best to have a doctor reevaluate.