In the simplest of terms, Seborrheic Dermatitis is a case of dandruff gone wild… the kind that goes beyond the symptoms of a dry, itchy scalp. The inflammatory skin condition is marked by flaking and itching that can also appear almost any place on the body, particularly around the eyebrows and nose, behind the ears, and anywhere oil-producing glands are in abundance. Seborrheic Dermatitis on babies also tends to show up in the diaper area, neck folds, armpits and anywhere adorable baby fat gathers to create folds on a newborn’s body.
Flaking and itching are the two most basic symptoms. Signs of Seborrheic Dermatitis in children that tend to raise alarms for parents include redness, scaling, yellow crusting, pink patches, peeling skin, and irritation. In the harshest cases, it could have an unpleasant smell, feel hot to the touch or weep fluid. In those cases, timely care is vital because the child may be uncomfortable.
It’s important for parents or anyone with the condition to know that Seborrheic Dermatitis is not an allergy, is not contagious, and is not caused by poor hygiene. It is triggered by an overstimulation of oil-producing glands in the body, leading to an increased rate of the shedding of the topmost layer of the skin (the epidermis). Add to that genetics, chemical irritants, the skin’s natural reaction to dry, cold weather, yeast levels naturally found in the skin, and stress…and you’ve got the ingredients for Seborrheic Dermatitis.
Who Gets Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis can strike at any age. In adults, a change of climate, hormonal changes and stress can trigger an episode. Most adults simply grapple with an occasional bout of dandruff…annoying but manageable. But it may be surprising for many people to learn how common Seborrheic Dermatitis is in children. 1 in 3 babies will have skin flaking, scaling, redness and irritation during the first year of life. That adds up to 1.4 million infants per year. Because the symptoms can look so alarming, it’s important to know your baby is not suffering from something rare or very difficult to treat. Knowledge is power, and the right skin regimen, consistently followed, can clear up even the worst cases of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis within a few weeks.
Seborrheic Dermatitis goes by many names. Americans call the condition in babies “Cradle Cap” because the most common version among infants is scaling that envelops a baby’s head down to her eyebrows… like a cap. In Australia, doctors call the very same condition “pityriasis capitis.”
You may also hear variations on the name… like seborrheic eczema, seborrheic psoriasis, and of course, dandruff, the mildest form of Seborrheic Dermatitis. Because some symptoms can be similar or overlap, Seborrheic Dermatitis may be confused with or exist in conjunction with other skin conditions.
With “Cradle Cap”, symptoms typically resolve themselves in 6 to 12 months. That said, it could wax and wane. Newborn dry skin, baby rash and cradle cap could give way to toddler dandruff (1 in 3 children under the age of 5 years old have flaking in their scalps). Avoiding harsh soaps and detergents while keeping a consistent, gentle skincare regimen – including daily hair-washing – will help keep any lingering symptoms at bay for your child.
Cradle Cap & Hair Loss
The hair loss is NOT permanent. In some cases, as the flakes and scales come off the scalp, hair may come with it. Your baby may be left with hairless patches on the head. Don’t fret, the hair follicles are not damaged and the hair will regrow.
How Can I tell if it’s Seborrheic Dermatitis or Psoriasis?
Whereas Seborrheic Dermatitis is extremely common in babies, the opposite is true of scalp psoriasis. Infant psoriasis is considered a rare condition. In fact, it tends to affect people between the ages of 15 and 35 far more than those under the age of 10.
It’s easy to understand why adults could confuse the two. Both skin conditions affect the scalp and can cause red, scaly skin. One of the major differences between seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis is in their appearance. Scalp psoriasis appears powdery and has a silver sheen, whereas seborrheic dermatitis is more likely to appear yellow and greasy. The scales of psoriasis tend to be thicker and drier in appearance than the scales of seborrheic dermatitis.
A doctor can determine which skin condition is causing your symptoms with an examination of the scalp, skin and nails. Psoriasis tends to be more difficult to treat than Seborrheic Dermatitis and comes with its own unique set of dietary, medical and environmental triggers. So the approach to managing psoriasis will be different than with Seborrheic Dermatitis.