cradle cap

This term refers to a characteristically scaly scalp in the newborn. It is a very common condition, usually a manifestation of seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea), which in turn is an inflammation of the skin oil producing glands, especially around the head and upper body region. Affected babies have patches of thick, somewhat greasy scales primarily in the scalp, but also sometimes in the eyebrows or on other areas of the face. There may be associated redness and cracking of the skin in the crease behind the ears.

Treatment is simple but sometimes frustrating; it may take a while for the condition to subside. My personal remedies:

  • Shampoo the hair every couple of days with baby shampoo, or if the condition is severe, with Head and Shoulders® or similar mild dandruff shampoo. These shampoos contain substances that inhibit the oily overprduction.
  • Apply 1% hydrocortisone cream to the bad areas (especially behind the ears) several (2 or 3) times a day. Don't get the cream too close to the eyes - eyebrows are OK. You can indeed rub the hydrocortisone into the scalp if it is your desire... it might be messy but it will help.
  • If the scales are particularly thick and stubborn, try massaging a little baby oil into the worst areas before shampooing to soften the scales. Then when you shampoo baby's hair, scrub the areas gently with a baby hairbrush - the kind with very soft bristles you probably got in the take-home pack from the nursery.

Be aware that other conditions may coexist with or masquerade as cradle cap. Among these are atopic dermatititis (eczema) and others which are more significant. For example, a milk allergy could be manifest in this way. Simple cradle cap should be a problem you can manage with simple measures. If it seems that your baby's problem is severe, stubborn to treat, or especially if it is associated with more extensive rash on other areas of the body, you should consult your pediatrician or a dermatologist.

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