Treatment for Cradle Cap

If you have arrived at this article, you may have grown tired of the flakes and scales on your baby’s scalp and eyebrows, and you want treatment for cradle cap. Or perhaps you are a grandparent that got to see your 2 or 3 month old grandchild for the first time up close and want to recommend something new since other home remedies have thus far not been effective.

What other symptoms are associated with cradle cap?

The formal name for cradle cap is infantile seborrheic dermatitis. In addition to flakes and scales on the scalp and eyebrows you can also see moist red spots with crusting behind the ears, and moist red spots in the neck folds, armpit folds and in the folds of the groin.

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How common is cradle cap?

It affects 40% to 50% of children in their first year of life and continues to bother 33% of kids under the age of 5 years old.

Common home remedies for treatment of cradle cap

Searching the internet for treatment for cradle cap can point one to merely washing the scalp more frequently with whatever baby shampoo you already own to using a toothbrush and scrubbing. We advocate for more frequent washing with shampoo and shy away from toothbrush use.

The other common recommendations encountered for treatment for cradle cap include using an oil of some sort and using it with ones fingers or gently scrubbing with a soft cotton cloth or silicon brush or comb to loosen scales. Oil suggestions range from mineral oil to coconut oil to petroleum jelly. Duration of oil on the scalp ranges from applying then massaging on scalp with immediate rinsing to application with massaging and then sleeping with the oil on the scalp and rinsing the next morning.

In my opinion, greasy product use is messy for you, baby, and bedding and can sometimes worsen the underlying cause of cradle cap.

Breastmilk as treatment for cradle cap: People for generations have suggested breast milk as a remedy for many things. It won’t hurt to try using some if you have it available, but it could be a bit messy as well.

What is the underlying cause of cradle cap?

In infancy there is a large amount of hormonal change that can cause in increase in the skin lubricant sebum. Sebum is an oily protector of the skin barrier and is produced in large amounts in characteristic areas:

  1. The scalp
  2. The eyebrows
  3. Behind the ears
  4. In the neck folds
  5. In the armpit
  6. In the groin folds

What is the underlying cause of cradle capHumans all have a microscopic yeast or fungus on the scalp called Malassezia. This yeast eats the sebum and the byproduct of eating the oily substance is an irritating substance that starts a cascade of inflammation that causes increase shedding of the layers of the skin. This irritation is seen by the human eye as flakes, scales, redness and crusts in the areas mentioned above. These are visual cues of a broken skin barrier.

As you can see the underlying issue with cradle cap is excess human produced oil, so adding oily products, even plant-based ones like coconut oil could contribute to a buffet for the yeast that started this cascade of angry skin to begin with!

What do the majority of pediatricians suggest as treatment for cradle cap?

Seventy percent of pediatricians suggest using an over-the-counter (OTC) adult anti-dandruff shampoo that contains active ingredients like pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole.

Pediatricians do not usually suggest salicylic acid as that is related to aspirin and that is a big no no in children except for in special circumstances.

The problem with these adult shampoos as a treatment for cradle cap is they are laden with fragrance and dyes, preservatives like parabens, and most use harsh sulfate containing surfactants which can further irritate a broken skin barrier.

Until the launch of pediatrician created Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash, with safe and effective active ingredient pyrithione zinc, there was no OTC anti-dandruff shampoo made specifically for children of all ages. Now parents, grandparents and pediatricians have an irritant free shampoo, face, and body wash, infused with natural ingredients licorice root extract and apple fruit extract, and provitamin B5 to soothe the symptoms of cradle cap. No longer do you have to rely on unreliable and messy techniques used as treatment for cradle cap.

How long until results are seen when using an OTC anti-dandruff shampoo as treatment for cradle cap?

Results may be seen in as few as one or two washes. However, most families will see improvement after 1 to 2 weeks of use. The shampoo can be used daily. More frequent use can accelerate the time to see improvement, however with any anti-dandruff product excessive use can be drying to the skin.

In kids or adults with thick scale build up, massage the shampoo onto the scalp, and leave the shampoo on for one to two minutes before rinsing. People in this latter category should start to see results in 2 weeks. Once the scaling and flaking is under control, we suggest tapering use to 2-3 times per week.

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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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