Your baby is perfect and thriving. But you can’t help but notice that her scalp appears to be scaly and dry. This common skin condition – seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as “cradle cap” – may appear unsightly but don’t worry. Cradle cap is not painful and can be quite easily treated. For both new and experienced parents, here’s what you need to know about cradle cap.
Causes of Cradle Cap
There is no definitive reason why your baby might have cradle cap; it is not the result of poor hygiene nor is it contagious. Rather, doctors speculate that the most likely causes of cradle cap are either due to Malassezia (mal-uh-SEE-zhuh), an opportunistic fungus commonly found growing on the skin; or an excessive amount of sebum (oil) that affects both hair follicles and pores.
Identifying Cradle Cap
Cradle cap presents as a dry, scaly crust on the scalp. Dry flaking or scaly sections may be adjacent to more oilier patches. Cradle cap can create thick whitish or yellowish scales on your baby’s scalp; rashes may appear elsewhere on the body should the dermatitis becomes more severe.
Treating Cradle Cap
In most cases, cradle cap can be easily treated by washing your baby’s scalp daily with a mild children’s shampoo. Gently lather baby’s scalp, using a soft cloth to massage the scalp and help loosen the scales. Some parents opt for a very soft brush to massage the scalp before rinsing away the shampoo. If the scales don’t flake away easily, consider rubbing a small amount of either petroleum jelly or mineral oil onto the scalp. Allow it to soak for a few minutes, then brush the scalp and hair out as normal. Continue this process every few days and within a few weeks you should notice the scales loosening and falling off on their own.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you find the scalp is not healing or has gotten worse, or that a rash has spread to other parts of the body, seek the care of a pediatric dermatologist. With more advanced cases of seborrheic dermatitis, scaly rashes may appear on other parts of the body, to include the ears, eyebrows, back of neck, and in folds of the body. Because some cradle cap can be fungal in nature, it may also appear in the crotch area. A pediatric dermatologist can prescribe anti-fungal creams and other specially formulated treatments to hasten healing. Remember – never use an over-the-counter treatment on your baby. Always seek the advice of an expert.
Children’s Skin Center is Miami’s premier pediatric dermatology practice. There, Dr. Ana M. Duarte and her expert staff offer a welcoming, inclusive, and kid-friendly practice that offers an array of pediatric dermatological treatments to treat conditions ranging from acne to cancer. For the best in children’s skin care, call the Children’s Skin Center today at (305) 669-6555 or request an appointment online.