Cradle Cap – Prevention and Treatment

Cradle cap is infant dandruff or dry skin on babies’ heads which may look ugly. It worries parents but is temporary and will go itself with time. New parents can relax now.

What Is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is crust-like, greasy scales on the infant’s scalp. It looks like white or yellow oily and sticky dandruff on the baby’s head. It is also called the cot cap, honeycomb disease, milk crust, infantile or neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis, crusta lactea. 

It’s simply a visible flaky newborn dry scalp skin that seems difficult to get rid of. 

Nearly 10% of infants get the cradle cap in the first month. 70% may be affected by the third month. In babies aging 1+ year the condition is prevalent merely by 6%

Should You Be Worried About Cradle Cap?

No, the baby hair dandruff is a harmless and painless condition. It is not itchy either. It will go away in a few months. It’s a common condition in newborns. So, nothing to be worried about.

Is Cot Cap Painful Or Contagious?

It is not at all contagious. Nor is it caused by poor hygiene. Cradle cap is not painful or discomforting. Although it may look ugly and trouble parents infants are not affected by it.

What Does the Cradle Cap Look Like?

It looks like oily scales on the scalp in yellow, grey, or white color. It resembles peeled skin flakes. On some, It may look like a layer of dirt on the head or skin. In others, it may just look like pigmented skin.

Cradle cap is like dandruff in infants. When cradle cap shows on toddlers scalp or on grown-up kids, it is dandruff.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

The exact cause of infant cradle cap isn’t decided yet. but it is not caused by any allergy, bacterial contamination, or poor hygiene. It may occur due to excessive oil produced by skin glands around hair follicles. The reason may be hormones that pass from mother to child. These hormones produce an oil-like substance called sebum in the oil glands.

Another cause may be Malassezia. This is the yeast that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. In such cases antifungal treatments are effective.

Antibiotics given to the mother may be another reason. Antibiotics prevent damage, but they can also kill the useful bacteria that restrict infections like fungal infections.

Studies say that if anyone from the baby’s family have skin conditions like eczema etc are more prone to getting cot cap.

Few doctors say it may also be due to nutritional deficiencies.

How is Cradle Cap Diagnosed?

Experienced parents or healthcare providers can diagnose seborrhoeic dermatitis just by looking at it.

Common signs of cradle cap include:

  • Patchy scaling or dandruff-like dense deposits on the scalp
  • Flaky white or yellow scales on skin or scalp
  • Chipping scalp skin
  • Mild redness

Similar skin dandruff may also be seen on the ears, eyelashes, and diaper area.

Can I Pick Dandruff on Baby’s Scalp?

You may feel tempted to get rid of cradle cap, but do not pick. Don’t even try to scratch a little. This may lead to infection.

You may also pull hair follicles out.

Cradle Cap Treatment

The dry skin on newborn head usually clears up on its own. Follow basic hygiene and gentle shampooing.

Mild cases need no treatment. You can visit the doctor if you see red rashes and the baby seems fussy. A medicated shampoo can help in severe cases. If there is an infection or skin inflammation, the doctor may prescribe antifungal lotion, shampoo, and antibiotics.

After the patches disappear, practice gentle washing to prevent flakes to reappear.

Prevention of Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

You can hardly do anything to prevent the cradle cap as its causes are still debated. Its nothing to worry about. It will go on its own.

You can practice hygiene, keep scalp skin moist, brush and shampoo daily. That’s all you can do.

Home Remedies to Get Rid of Cradle Cap

Here are a few ways you can try to get rid of newborn dandruff. You may try any that suits you and your baby.

  1. Baby Shampoo: Apply any mild baby shampoo gently. Rinse with lukewarm water. You may do this every day or every third day. Use a soft hairbrush on the baby’s scalp after shampooing to loosen up the snowy flakes. Make sure to clean the brush after every use. Stick with a mild baby shampoo unless your doctor recommends any medicated option.
  2. Breast Milk: Rub Mother’s breast milk on the dry skin on the newborn head gently. It will loosen up the flakes too
  3. Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a gentle solution for antibacterial and antifungal small infections. you can apply it anywhere on the baby’s skin to get rid of any kind of rash or pigments. It works wonders on treating scalp dandruff too. It’s a good moisturizer as well. Leave the oil on the baby’s scalp for at least an hour. Wash with a mild soap or shampoo.
  4. Vaseline: Any purified petroleum jelly locks skin moisture and keeps the skin soft and supple. Take a generous amount of vaseline. rub on the baby’s head. Leave it overnight and wash the next morning with a mild shampoo.
  5. Olive Oil: Olive oil contains vitamin E. It has anti-infection properties. It also nourishes the skin and hair. Leave olive oil on the newborn’s scalp overnight. wash with a gentle shampoo.
  6. Tea Tree Oil: It is known to control Sebum production from oil glands. Mix tea tree oil and almond oil in 1:8 ratio respectively. Apply this mixture on baby scratching scalp for 15 minutes maximum. Wash it off with a gentle shampoo.
  7. Shea Butter: Before giving a bath, apply shea butter generously on the baby’s head. Scrub gently with washcloth followed by shampooing twice.
  8. Avocado Oil: Avocado is loaded with antifungal agents. Mix Avocado oil and almond oil in 1:5 respectively. Let it sit for 15 minutes in the baby’s hair. Wash it off with a mild shampoo.
  9. Calendula: Calendula is full of antibacterial and anti-fungal chemicals. You can buy Calendula creams. It is a mess-free application and works wonders on the cradle cap.
  10. Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is known for its medicinal properties. Either use a fresh aloe gel or aloe gel-cream from the market. Both work equally well. Apply for 10 minutes on the baby’s patchy scalp. Wash off with baby shampoo.

Cradle Cap and Hair Loss

The baby may lose hair in the areas where she has seborrhoeic dermatitis. However, the hair grows back once the cradle cap clears.

Don’t scratch the scalp skin flakes. You may unknowingly pull the hair strands along with the skin. Picking the baby’s flaky scalp also irritates the skin and may lead to fungal infection.

When to See the Doctor?

See your child’s doctor if:

  • You’ve tried all remedies at home, all in vain
  • The dandruff flakes spread to other parts of the body
  • You see baby fussy trying to take hands to her head
  • You see red patches which seem like the infection or inflammation
  • Areas feel cracked or bleeding
  • If the baby seems to suffer any other internal or external infection like diarrhea, vomiting, etc.

Although the cradle cap is seldom dangerous, it should be watched over in case it goes grave.

Farha Naaz

Farha Naaz is a mother of a 10-month old baby.