Definition: Seborrheic dermatitis, or “cradle cap”, often begins in the first weeks of life and is characterized by fine white scales. It is often on the scalp, but it can also occur in the diaper area, face, neck and trunk. Symptoms often include dry or scaly skin that can be red and sometimes has a yellow and oily appearance to it.
Cause: The exact cause of this skin condition is unknown. Adult hormones that crossed the placenta before birth may cause it.
Expected course: Seborrhea is not at all uncommon in infants and in this age group it usually clears within the first year of life. Without treatment, cradle cap can last for months, with treatment it may be cleared up in a few weeks.
Home Care and Treatment
Although the condition responds to treatment, it may recur. The condition almost always goes away eventually with no treatment at all. The main goal of any treatment is to control the symptoms enough to prevent secondary skin infection.
Softening thick crusts: If your child’s scalp is very crusty, put some baby oil or olive oil on the scalp or other areas where the seborrhea is occurring. Apply the oil 1 hour before bathing the baby so as to soften the “crusting.” Wash all the oil off, however, or it may worsen the condition. You can also use a soft brush to help wash off the scaly skin.
Antidandruff shampoo: Buy a non-prescription antidandruff shampoo from any drugstore and wash your baby’s hair with it once a day. While the hair is lathered, massage the baby’s scalp with a soft brush or rough washcloth. Don’t worry about hurting the “soft spot” on the head. Once the cradle cap has cleared, use a regular (preferably non-scented) shampoo twice a week.
Resistant and severe cases of cradle cap: If the rash is very red and irritated, we sometimes advise applying a 1% (non-prescription) hydrocortisone cream up to three times a day for a few days. We only recommend this for severe cases as steroids may cause permanent thinning of the skin or have other side effects. Please check with your child’s physician or nurse practitioner before beginning this.
Call the office…
During office hours if:
- The cradle cap lasts more than two weeks with treatment.
- There are concerns of possible secondary skin infection, such as increasing redness or oozing of the skin.
- You have other concerns or question.