Your newborn’s skin is soft, delicate and smells oh-so-good. That’s why it can be quite alarming when he suddenly develops scaly patches all over his scalp (or other parts of his skin) in his early weeks.
Cradle cap, or seborrhoeic dermatitis, is a common rash that occurs on the scalp of infants. It usually looks yellowish, greasy and crusty, says Dr Lynn Chiam, a consultant dermatologist at Children & Adult Skin Hair and Laser Clinic.
“It’s thought to be caused by the overactive sebaceous glands in the skin of newborn babies. Stimulated by maternal hormones still present in the infant’s blood circulation, they release a greasy substance that attaches old skin cells to the scalp — and that causes the scaling we see,” Dr Chiam explains.
It’s important to note that cradle cap is not caused by allergies, infection or poor hygiene.
Despite the name, it not only affects the scalp, but also the face and other parts of the body. “It can appear anywhere in the skin where there is a high concentration of sebaceous glands,” she notes. “This includes areas between the eyes, eyebrows, the sides of the nose, and behind the ears and neck.” It not only affects babies, but toddlers can get it, too.
“Cradle cap can appear anywhere in the skin where there is a high concentration of sebaceous glands. This includes areas between the eyes, eyebrows, the sides of the nose, and behind the ears and neck.”
Getting rid of cradle cap
Washing your baby’s head with a mild baby shampoo can remove the scales. Doing this two or three times a week should suffice. As much as you may be tempted to wash your baby’s hair daily, overwashing can cause the skin to significantly increase its oil production and actually boost your baby’s chances of developing cradle cap.
A little soft brushing helps, too. Or use a soft towel to rub the affected area gently. Think of it as a very gentle exfoliation.
For more resistant scales, apply a small amount of baby oil and comb gently. If that does not work, a doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo containing ketoconazole and mild topical steroids for the affected areas.
While it may look unpleasant and can invite unwanted questions about your little one’s skin, the crusting will go away with time. After all, your baby’s only recently arrived in the world and you should cut his little body some slack.
In most cases, cradle cap clears up after a few weeks, Dr Chiam notes. For others, it may continue for six to nine months. However, for children with eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis may occur again.
If your cutie’s cradle cap condition persists even after he turns 3 months old, he may be suffering from eczema, which requires different treatment.
Visit your doctor to discuss treatment options.