EEWWW! What’s that crud all over your kid’s head??!!”
It’s Cradle Cap.
No, it’s not something you put on your baby when you put him to bed for his nap! Believe it or not, there are people out there who have never heard of Cradle Cap…usually people who have never had, or spent time around, babies.
“Cradle Cap”, or seborrheic dermatitis, is close kin to the dandruff which often affects older children and adults.Cradle Cap can also develop on older babies and toddlers. It presents as a patchy, sometimes yellowish crust that forms on newborns’ scalps. It can spread to the face, ears and neck if not treated.
Basically harmless, cradle cap can be a cause of discomfort to babies and an embarassment to parents who feel they are neglecting their babies’ health and hygiene.
Cradle Cap and dandruff are both often caused by Malassezia yeasts and, depending on how they are treated. Once can find a plethora of home remedies on the internet and old wives’ tales abound. For the most part, for a relatively new condition, these remedies will do the trick.
Parents must use common sense, though, when choosing a remedy for their child’s Cradle Cap, as some home remedies may exacerbate, or complicate, the condition. Also, when trying to get rid of it by combing it out, you can really hurt your baby!
The most common home remedy for Cradle Cap is the application of oil to baby’s scalp. The trick is finding the best kind of oil to use. Some advocate vegetable or olive oil, others: baby oil, still others say mineral oil is the best oil to use to “cure” cradle cap. But because the exact causes of cradle cap are not known, the type of oil used as a home remedy may be the difference between cure and complication.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “…one contributing factor may be hormones that pass from the mother to the baby before birth. These hormones can cause an abnormal production of oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles.
Another factor may be a yeast (fungus) called malassezia (mal-uh-SEE-zhuh) that grows in the sebum along with bacteria.” (Cradle cap: Causes. (nd). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cradle-cap/DS01074/DSECTION=causes on May 7, 2013.).
Cradle cap isn’t really harmful, just disconcerting. It generally clears up by itself within a month without medication so you can simply wash your baby’s hair once a week with a mild baby shampoo, then brush his hair with a soft baby brush to loosen the scales.
If you want to take a more active approach, you can use one of the home remedies. The most popular is to massage oil into your baby’s scalp, one to three times a day, wash baby’s hair with baby shampoo and towel dry. Using a baby comb, which is fairly flexible, comb the hair in the “wrong direction”, opposite of how the hair grows, lifting the scales up and away. Apply the oil again after baby is all bathed and ready for bed.
You have to be very careful about not applying too much pressure when combing out the baby’s hair, though, or you may damage his scalp and cause it to become painful. Use short, quick strokes…just enough to get underneath the scales. Don’t continue to go over the same spot over and over again. If you do this carefully, within a few days to a week, the cradle cap will be gone.
A word or two on the types of oil to use. Baby oil is mild and formulated for baby’s skin but, because of the perfumes often found in it, perhaps mineral oil may be the best choice. Olive oil has the added advantage of being all natural and also contains a natural sunscreen, which can be beneficial to babies who have very little hair.
HOWEVER, vegetable or olive oils are not the best choice if the cradle cap has been there for awhile and should only be used if you’ve just noticed its presence. This is because the Malassezia yeast will actually feed on the fatty acids in the sebum (the oily substance produced by hair follicles). So the nutrients in these oils can only make the yeast thrive! As a matter of fact, when scientists want to grow a culture of the Malessezia yeast, they grow it in olive oil!
If frequent washing of baby’s hair, or treatment with home remedies aren’t working, talk to a doctor. He may recommend a stronger shampoo or a hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation of your baby’s scalp. NEVER use over the counter anti-fungal creams without being advised by your baby’s pediatrician, as only he knows your baby’s health as well as, or better, than you.
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