Yellow flakes on scalp

Yellow Flakes On Scalp

If you see flakes on your scalp, you might just assume it’s dandruff and move on. However, not all scalp flakes are the same, and the color of the flakes can tell you a lot about your scalp’s health. If your scalp has yellow flakes, you are most likely suffering from a condition called seborrheic dermatitis.

Why Do I Have a Yellow Crust on My Scalp?

Seborrheic dermatitis, usually called “cradle cap” in babies, is the most probable cause of a yellow crust or yellow flakes on the scalp. It is an inflammatory skin condition that causes symptoms including:

  • Yellow flakes
  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Oiliness
  • Scaling

In the simplest terms, seborrheic dermatitis is an extreme case of dandruff. But, unlike its other flaky relative, seborrheic dermatitis can appear on the eyebrows and nose and behind the ears in addition to on the scalp.

What are the Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The exact cause of this common skin condition isn’t known, but specialists think overactive sebaceous glands and a fungus called Malassezia are involved. The skin is full of sebaceous glands that secrete an oil – sebum. 

The glands can become overactive and secrete too much sebum, leading to the overproduction of Malassezia yeast. The yeast then releases irritating byproducts that can contribute to the inflammation that causes seborrheic dermatitis.

Is it Dandruff, Cradle Cap, or Seborrheic Dermatitis?

It’s common for people to confuse dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis as they are related and look similar. However, you can tell the difference between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis by their symptoms.

Seborrheic dermatitis causes yellow, crusty flakes and red, scaly, peeling, and inflamed skin. It can pop up almost anywhere on the body, including behind the ears, in the neck folds, around the eyebrows, and in the diaper area on babies. 

However, dandruff on the other hand causes fine, white flakes or scales without any other inflammation or redness. It generally sticks to the head and eyebrows.

The basic difference between cradle cap and seborrheic dermatitis is that cradle cap appears on babies in the first year of their life. When occurring in that time frame, it is classified as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, crib cap, honeycomb disease, and pityriasis capitis. 

It usually disappears before their first birthday, but sometimes it can persist into toddlerhood. It can continue to appear as thick, greasy, crusty scales on the scalp.

Meanwhile, seborrheic dermatitis targets adults and causes yellow flakes on the scalp that are bigger than dandruff flakes but smaller than those of cradle cap.

You generally can’t control if you or your baby get seborrheic dermatitis, but you can help clear it up with a shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis flakes.

Wet Dandruff vs. Dry Dandruff

Another name for seborrheic dermatitis is wet dandruff. When the flaking and scaling are caused due to excess sebum and overproduction of Malassezia yeast, it is considered as wet dandruff. In wet dandruff, the flakes are greasy and oily.

However, in dry dandruff, the flakes are dry and smaller in size. Dry dandruff is caused by the rapid shedding of dead skin cells on the scalp. Learn more about the difference between oily and dry dandruff in our blog.

Can Yellow Flakes Cause Hair Loss?

A lot of people consider that these yellow flakes can cause hair loss. But in reality, neither seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap or dandruff can directly cause hair loss.

However, excessive scratching of the scales and flakes can weaken the hair follicles and lead to temporary hair loss. But don’t worry. Once the scaling and flaking are relieved, your hair will grow back.

How To Get Rid Of Yellow Flakes On Scalp?

How To Get Rid Of Yellow Flakes On Scalp?

Though seborrheic dermatitis and its yellow flakes aren’t dangerous, they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Sometimes, these flakes may fall off from the scalp and land on your shoulders and clothes, causing discomfort, especially if you are wearing a black dress.

Luckily, you can relieve the redness, inflammation, scaling, and flaking associated with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff with a Medicated Shampoo.

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash is a shampoo for cradle cap flakes specifically designed to be tough on seborrheic dermatitis but gentle on the sensitive skin of all ages. 

This 95% natural seborrheic dermatitis shampoo and body wash features FDA approved active ingredient zinc pyrithione to clear away flakes associated with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, provitamin B5 to hydrate, and licorice root to soothe redness.

If you want to get rid of those yellow flakes fast, then you can also try using a cradle cap brush. Brush your hair and scalp while shampooing in circular motions to get rid of the excess scales on the scalp.

Happy Cappy Beanie brush is a great option to choose from as it is designed for babies, toddlers and adults. 


You might misunderstand those yellow flakes on the scalp as dandruff. Dandruff causes small white flakes. So, these yellow flakes on your scalp are actually caused by seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap in babies.

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by the overproduction of sebum on the scalp, which may lead to the overproduction of Malassezia yeast. The yeast then produces a byproduct that causes inflammation and scaling on the scalp. 

Even though you can not control these yellow flakes from appearing on your scalp, however, you can easily manage them by cleaning your scalp and affected area with the help of a cradle cap shampoo. 

A seborrheic dermatitis shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc is best for cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff as it helps in managing the yeast on the scalp.

Use Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash to fight back against yellow flakes* and prevent new flakes from forming*.

*flakes associated with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff


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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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Are yellow flakes on my scalp dandruff?

No, dandruff usually appears as white or gray flakes. These fall off from the scalp. If you are experiencing yellow or brownish flakes on the scalp, you might be experiencing seborrheic dermatitis

How to clean these yellow flakes on my scalp?

To clear the yellow flakes on the scalp, wash your hair daily with a mild medicated shampoo for cradle cap or dandruff shampoo. These can help in removing the scales and prevent future buildup.

Why do I have yellow flakes on my scalp?

The most common reason for having yellow, crusty flakes on the scalp is seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap in babies.

Can these yellow flakes on the scalp cause hair loss?

No, these yellow flakes or seborrheic dermatitis do not cause hair loss. But scratching and picking at these flakes can cause some hair to fall off.

Are cradle cap and seborrheic dermatitis different?

Cradle cap is another name used for seborrheic dermatitis in babies. It usually appears on the baby’s scalp, which is why it is known as cradle cap. When an adult experiences it, it is known as seborrheic dermatitis, as it can also appear on other parts of the body.

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