Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)?

Seborrheic Dermatitis, also referred to as “cradle cap” in babies, can cause a variety of irritating, uncomfortable, and unsightly skin conditions. This can include redness, itching, irritation, scaly or crusty patches of skin, excessive oil, and flaking. “Cradle cap” most commonly presents on the scalp, down to the eyebrows, but can also be found in the diaper area or along creases and folds of skin.

But what causes seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups and cradle cap flare-ups in kids?

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)?

While researchers seek to find answers to the frustrating skin condition that affects more than 40% of children before the age of 6, exactly what causes “cradle cap” is still unknown. Experts believe that there are multiple factors that play a role in causing Seborrheic Dermatitis, ranging from genetics to lifestyle habits.

Doctors believe the most common “cradle cap” causes are:

Overactive Sebaceous Glands

Sebaceous glands are naturally present on the topmost layer of our skin called the epidermis. These glands produce an oily substance known as sebum. Sebum keeps our skin soft and moist and provides protection from outside irritants.

When these sebaceous glands start producing excess sebum, this process can trigger the development of seborrheic dermatitis and cradle cap, because Malassezia yeast thrives in damp, oily places.

Hormonal Changes

When babies develop cradle cap there are chances it is caused due to hormonal changes. After birth, hormones are transferred to the baby’s body during pregnancy change. The change and fluctuation in these hormones can trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum and oil.

Malassezia Yeast

A fungal organism that is found in most animals, including humans, could be an underlying factor for “cradle cap” and other skin conditions. When Malassezia yeast comes in contact with excess sebum, it creates a byproduct. This byproduct irritates the skin and causes inflammation and skin barrier breakdown, leading to scaling, flaking, and redness associated with seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap, and dandruff. 

One indication that Malassezia yeast is a contributor to what causes “cradle cap” is that in many cases, symptoms are relieved by using a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc. 

Certain Medical Conditions

Other medical conditions do not need to be present for dandruff or “cradle cap” to occur, though certain illnesses, such as neurological conditions, compromised immune systems, and other diseases, have been shown to increase the chances of developing Seborrheic Dermatitis.

Some of the most common conditions are

  • Psoriasis
  • HIV
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart Attack
  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s Disease

What c Seborrheic Dermatitis Flare-up?

  • Gender and Age

Children under three and adults between the ages of 30 and 60 are most likely to experience seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Men are also more likely than women to experience symptoms.

  • Environmental exposure

Cold, dry weather seems to correlate with flare-ups of itchy, scaly skin. Some experts contend that a good dose of sunshine (with proper sunscreen, of course) can help to ease symptoms.

  • Stress and Depression

Stress, depression, and other psychological disorders can throw the body’s hormones off balance and could lead to many physical symptoms, including skin conditions like dandruff.

  • Lifestyle habits

Those with poor diets or who consume large amounts of alcohol are more likely to develop Seborrheic Dermatitis. They are also at a higher risk for many other health conditions.

  • Reaction To Medication

According to the American Academy Of Dermatology, People who are who are taking prescription medication are at more risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis. Some common medications that are linked to seborrheic dermatitis are

  1. Auranofin
  2. Fluorouracil
  3. Lithium
  4. Dopamine antagonists
  5. Immunosuppressants
  6. Psoralen/PUVA

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

Even though there is no permanent cure for seborrheic dermatitis, the flaking, scaling, and redness can be managed using a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo. Look for a shampoo that is free from harsh chemicals, as it can further irritate your skin and worsen the condition.

A seborrheic dermatitis shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc will be most suitable for managing seborrheic dermatitis. It will not only cleanse the excess oil but also control the production of Malassezia yeast.

Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for adults contains pyrithione zinc and is specially formulated to reduce the flaking and scaling associated with seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap, and dandruff. It can also be used as a body wash and face wash to manage the symptoms on other body parts.

Managing “Cradle Cap” in Children

When trying to manage the effects of “cradle cap,” it is important to look for a dandruff shampoo for kids that can help to relieve itchy, scaly skin without exposing children to harsh ingredients typically found in adult dandruff shampoos.

Cradle Cap Shampoo

Best Shampoo For Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children is the only pyrithione zinc shampoo for kids on the market that is designed for children of all ages. It harnesses the positive and safe effects of pyrithione zinc and other naturally derived ingredients to help eliminate flaking and scaling of the scalp and skin associated with seborrheic dermatitis while leaving out all of the other stuff—like synthetic fragrances, dyes, sulfates, parabens, alcohols—that could irritate your child’s skin. 

Cradle Cap Brush

Cradle cap brush is a soft-bristled brush that is specially formulated to remove scales from the scalp. While shampooing use the cradle cap brush to gently massage the scalp and hair in a circular motion. This will remove loose scales and flakes easily. 

Try Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Cradle Cap Brush. It is a pediatrician-developed, BPA-free silicone brush that is safe for toddlers, infants, and newborns. It can also be used when your baby is not experiencing cradle cap to massage their scalp.

Find our products on Amazon, select Walgreens stores,, and all Buy Buy Baby stores nationwide.

Additional resources:

  • National Institutes of Health,
  • Mayo Clinic,


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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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Who is most likely to have seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis can affect people of all ages, but it is most likely to appear in babies during the first year of their life as a cradle cap. In adults, it is common for individuals between the ages of 30 and 60.

Is seborrheic dermatitis common in babies?

Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap, is widespread in babies. Almost 1 in 3 babies experience it in the first few months after birth. It is also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis.

Is seborrheic dermatitis harmful?

Seborrheic dermatitis, in general, is not considered harmful to overall health. If seborrheic dermatitis is not properly dealt with it can lead to temporary hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.

Can stress cause seborrheic dermatitis?

Stress alone may not cause seborrheic dermatitis, but it can trigger and further exacerbate the condition.

Which triggers can worsen seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis may worsen due to stress, extreme weather, certain skin products, and hormonal changes.

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