Cradle cap is a skin condition normally occurring on the scalps of infants. It appears to be a crusty looking, or flaky, layer of skin on the baby’s scalp. It can cause concern in some new parents but it should not alarm you. This is a frequent condition, and it is not going to cause permanent damage to your baby. You will treat the condition, the baby will recover and you will more than likely never see the condition on the baby again.
What is Cradle Cap?
Medically speaking this is infantile seborrheic dermatitis. When adults have the condition, or the condition is found on other areas of the body it is just called seborrheic dermatitis. Over half the newborns that are born have this condition, and it is not serious.
What Causes Cradle Cap?
There is really no definite cause of the condition. It is not caused by any type of infection on the baby’s skin, it is not an allergic reaction to anything, and contrary to popular belief it is not caused from poor hygiene, or improper care to the baby’s scalp.
There is a theory that the condition may be a result of the baby receiving a hormone from the mother right before they are born. This hormone is thought to cause the infant to have oil secretions on their scalp, or on the affected areas of their body. When these oil secretions occur it is believed to cause dead skin cells to adhere to the infants scalp, and thus cause the crusty appearance.
What to Do about Cradle Cap
- Wash the scalp very gently using a mild shampoo. When you wash the scalp it will help to remove the build up that is occurring, but you must use a gentle baby shampoo. Never apply dandruff shampoo or medicated shampoo to the scalp of an infant. These harsh shampoos can cause the condition to become worse, and can even cause the loss of hair.
- Purchase one of the baby hairbrushes that have soft bristles and gently brush the hair on the baby’s scalp using even strokes. The motion of the bristles will loosen the crust. Brush the hair before you shampoo and you will wash away more of the build-up.
- You can massage a small amount of oil into the scalp of the baby and this oil will loosen the crust, and make it easier to wash away. Use baby oil, olive oil, or even petroleum jelly to massage into the scalp. You can allow the oil to stay on the scalp for a little while to help soften really stubborn areas, but if you leave the oil for too long you could cause a thicker build-up to occur.
- If the scalp is red or inflamed you need to ask the doctor if you can apply a hydrocortisone cream to the scalp. The doctor may also recommend a different shampoo or a different method of treatment.
The scalp on an infant is delicate, and you must treat any condition carefully watching for signs of chemical reactions to the shampoo and creams you are using.