Pityriasis Capitis

Table Contents

The Many Names of Flaking

As humans we constantly form new epidermal cells. When these cells get closer to the surface of the skin, the cell slowly dies and the visual manifestation of this is flakes. This is a normal process that happens to everyone all the time. In some people the rate of epidermal cell development is accelerated.

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis is a condition involving the increased rate of shedding of the topmost layer of the skin called the epidermis. With seborrheic dermatitis there is a greater turnover rate of skin cells than in dandruff.

Pityriasis Capitis
Pityriasis Capitis

Pityriasis Capitis

Cradle Cap” is a name many Americans give to the condition that causes flaking and scaling on a baby’s scalp and eyebrows in the first few months of life.

Australians call cradle cap “pityriasis capitis.”

When it also involves redness on ears, armpits, neck folds and the groin area, it tends to be referred to as “seborrheic dermatitis” or “seborrhea.”

An Australian Study (Foley, Zuo, Plunkett, Merlin, & Marks, 2003) looked at how often these conditions occurred in the population. Of 1,634 children from ages 11 days to 6 years old, 42% had pityriasis capitis (cradle cap) and 10% had seborrheic dermatitis.

In this study, the amount of children that had pityriasis capitis that were less than 1 year old was 36%.

In the United States there are around 4 million births per year, and 36% of kids in their 1st year of life get cradle cap or pityriasis capitis. So 1.4 million kids each year will get scaling and crusting of their scalp.

In addition to the visual appearance some people find the smell of cradle cap disagreeable.

In summary, 1 in 3 kids in their first year of life will get some degree of flaking, redness, scaling, and scalp irritation from seborrheic dermatitis.  Pityriasis Capitis is best treated using a medicated baby shampoo for Cradle Cap containing Pyrithione Zinc.


Foley,P., Zuo,Y., Plunkett,A., Merlin, K., & Marks, R. (2003). The Frequency of Common Skin Conditions in Preschool-aged Children in Australia: Seborrheic Dermatitis and Pityriasis Capitis (Cradle Cap). Arch Dermatol. 139(3), 318-322.


  • Contains the active ingredient, Pyrithione Zinc, approved by the FDA to control the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff
  • Pyrithione Zinc is thought to help by reducing yeasts which convert oils (sebum) on the scalp into acids that irritate the scalp
  • Pediatrician-created, dermatologist-tested, clinically tested, medicated shampoo
  • Fragrance Free, Dye Free, Sulfate Free
  • Contains natural Licorice Root Extract to help soothe redness
  • Rich lathering shampoo and body wash rinses off easily

OTHER Pityriasis Capitis Products

  • Ingredients NOT reviewed or approved by the FDA to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff
  • The mode of action for treatment is unclear
  • Non-medicated, clinical tests unclear
  • Perfumes or unpleasant odor
  • Licorice Root Extract Ingredient NOT present
  • Non-lathering, sometimes greasy, NOT easily rinsed

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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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