What is cradle cap?
Cradle cap is a very common condition often seen in infants. Arp is dead skin cells and dead skin fat that accumulates in the skin instead of being shed as normal. The cause is probably due to the baby's sebaceous glands being affected by maternal hormones. However, it is not known why some babies get scars and others do not.
Cradle cap appears as red, brownish or yellowish oily scales on the scalp. It can be in a small area or on the entire scalp. It can also start as early as the eyebrows or hairline.
Cradle cap is completely harmless, it's not contagious and it's not caused by a lack of hygiene. So there's no need to be embarrassed if your baby has it. It is very common.
Who gets cradle cap?
Cradle cap is a variant of the condition seborrheic dermatitis. It is typically referred to as scars when the rash affects infants and babies and as eczema when it affects adults.
Whilst scars affect infants and babies, dry skin can first appear in adults and adolescents in late puberty or post-puberty. After infancy, a child will not develop dandruff or dandruff eczema - it will only appear in late puberty or post-puberty.
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Cradle cap or dandruff eczema?
Cradle cap and eczema are very similar, but while cradle cap affects infants and babies, it's eczema that affects adults.
Dandruff eczema (including cradle cap) is also known as seborrhoeic eczema. It is a very common type of eczema that causes itching, redness of the skin and dry, whitish scales or yellowish, oily scales. The scales occur in places where there are many sebaceous glands, so it will typically be on the scalp and possibly also as a scaly eczema on the face, especially on the forehead, eyebrows, eyelashes and nasal wings.
Symptoms - what does cradle cap look like?
Cradle cap appears as yellowish, brownish or reddish scales on the scalp. Cradle cap may cover the entire scalp and start at the hairline or be limited to a smaller area. In some cases, the eczema can also be located on the forehead and/or the child's eyebrows.
Babies can get cradle cap from as early as a few weeks old. Typically, babies grow out of new outbreaks of cradle cap quite quickly; and most often, no new cradle cap will appear after 3-4 months of age.
Cradle cap is a greasy dandruff that is clearly visible. It can also have a slight odour. The odour is often described as a bit bland. It's completely harmless for your baby to have scabs, but you should make sure to remove them as they won't go away on their own. What's more, the thin layer of dandruff may eventually turn into a thicker crust if it's allowed to remain. Once the scab has become a thick crust, it's also harder to get rid of.
Cradle cap retains body heat, so a thick layer of cradle cap can be particularly uncomfortable for your child. It can also start to itch. Most mums and dads don't like the look of cradle cap either, so they want it removed.
If your child has cradle cap, you will notice it quickly. First as small dandruff and a little later - if not removed - as a thick crust.
Cradle cap on the forehead
Cradle cap is typically seen on the scalp, but it can also appear on the forehead and eyebrows. It looks the same no matter where it is located. And it should be treated the same way.
Cradle cap on the forehead appears as yellowish, brownish or reddish flakes of skin or scales that are firmly attached to the skin. On the forehead, the breakout will be very visible, so the best thing to do is to treat it as soon as you see it. If you're not sure what your baby has on their forehead, you should have it checked by a doctor or nurse. In some cases, it may be eczema instead of cradle cap.
Cradle cap on the face
Cradle cap on the scalp is commonly seen in infants. However, in some cases, the yellowish, brownish or reddish dandruff can spread to the face and possibly behind the ears. If this happens, you should have it checked by a doctor.
Facial crale cap is still harmless, but a different type of treatment may need to be initiated. For example, if an infection with bacteria or fungus is suspected. The treatment could be a special cream or dandruff shampoo with an antifungal effect.
Cradle cap in adults
In infants, this is known as cradle cap, while in adults, the yellowish, brownish or reddish scales and crusts that can form on the scalp are known as dandruff eczema or seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Dandruff occurs when dead skin cells and dead skin fat are shed from the scalp. Dandruff eczema is caused by a yeast fungus that lives in the oily skin, called Pityrosporum Ovale. The fungus naturally lives in the skin, but if it is given too favourable conditions to grow, dandruff and itching can occur.
All adults can develop dandruff, both men and women, and it is a very common condition. However, men seem to get dandruff more often than women.
There does not appear to be a correlation between having had cradle cap as a child and developing dandruff as an adult.
This is how you remove cradle cap
Cradle cap is water-repellent, so a shower won't help. It takes more than that. It can be tempting to just scratch the scar with a fingernail, and that way you can also remove a large part of the dandruuff. However, this is not a good method because you risk removing too many layers of skin, which will cause the baby's skin to become red and irritated.
Always ask your doctor about cradle cap treatment options and product choices.
Good remedies and methods when you want to remove cradle cap:
- Treat with a cure for cradle cap. There are specialised products available to treat cradle cap on the scalp. These are products that effectively fight and treat cradle cap on the scalp and dandruff, but without being too harsh on the scalp. You can find these products at the pharmacy.
- Treatment with oil or cream. The best and most effective way to get rid of cradle cap is to soften the skin. You can do this with oil or cream. You can use baby oil, or maybe you've been told you can just use cooking oil like olive oil or sunflower oil. You can do that too, but it can get quite greasy and it's not the most effective remedy.
- Use a brush or dense comb. Once the oil has worked for a while and the scar has come off, you can now gently rub the scar, for example with a soft baby toothbrush or baby brush. You can also use a close-tooth comb and gently comb your baby's hair in the opposite direction.
- Wash with shampoo. Oils and creams are greasy, so they need to be wiped or washed off afterwards. If you want to wash it off, remember that both scars and oil are water repellent. It can therefore be a good idea to apply shampoo to the scalp before putting water in your hair. You can use baby shampoo or another suitable shampoo, such as a specialised shampoo for scars and dandruff.
You will rarely be able to remove cradle cap with a single treatment. More often than not, you will need to apply a cream, oil or treatment several times. The cradle cap can also reappear, and then you will need to treat several times.
Video: How to use products for dry and itchy scalp
How to prevent cradle cap
The best way to prevent cradle cap is a light daily massage of your baby's scalp. This increases blood circulation, which can help prevent the formation of cradle cap. You can massage the scalp with a towel, with a baby toothbrush or baby brush, or gently comb the hair with a fine-tooth comb. Your baby's scalp can easily withstand a light massage and as long as you just gently touch the soft spot (fontanelle), nothing will happen.
Along with the daily massage, you can use a scalp treatment. This could be the Scalp Serum from Australian Bodycare, which contains tea tree oil, which is known to be effective against bacteria, itching and irritation of the skin. Scalp Serum is soothing and nourishing, and you can use it daily as it contains 100% natural actives. However, traditional medicines and creams for cradle cap, dandruff, bacteria and fungus can only be used for a limited period of time.
Causes of cradle cap in babies
Cradle cap and dandruff typically occur where the skin is oily and where there are many sebaceous glands. This includes the scalp. Normally, dead skin cells and dead skin fat will be shed, but when they accumulate in the skin, they will appear as yellowish, brownish or reddish dandruff, i.e. cradle cap.
Cradle cap is thought to occur because the baby's sebaceous glands are affected by hormones from the mother. However, the exact reason why some babies develop cradle cap is not known. Therefore, it is also not known why some babies get cradle cap and others don't.
Fortunately, cradle cap is completely harmless and treatable, so there's no need to be alarmed if your baby has cradle cap.
FAQ about cradle cap
What is cradle cap?
Cradle cap is dead skin cells and dead skin fat that has accumulated in the skin instead of being shed as normal. Cradle cap appear as yellowish, brownish or reddish oily scales, typically on the scalp.
Is cradle cap dangerous?
Cradle caps are not dangerous and do not bother the baby. However, if the cradle cap turns into a thick crust, the crust may start to itch and cause some discomfort because the cradle cap retains body heat. So, cradle cap isn't dangerous, but it doesn't look nice, which is why most people want to remove it from their baby's scalp.
How do you remove cradle cap
The best, gentlest and most effective way to remove cradle cap is to use oil or a specialised treatment and at the same time lightly and gently massage the scalp. You can massage your baby's scalp with a soft baby toothbrush, baby brush or gently with a close comb. Don't be afraid to massage your baby's scalp as long as you do it gently and carefully.
Why do you get cradle cap?
It's not known exactly why babies get cradle cap. Cradle cap is dead skin cells and dead skin fat that accumulates in the skin instead of being shed. Cradle cap typically appears when the baby is a few weeks old and typically disappears by the time the baby is a few months old at the very latest.
How do you treat cradle cap?
The best and most effective way to treat cradle cap is with a specialised oil or treatment. The oil or treatment will dissolve the cradle cap and then you can gently remove the scar by massaging or rubbing lightly on the skin. You can then use a specialised shampoo or scalp treatment as a preventative to prevent the dandruff from recurring.