How to Easily Clean Baby's Cradle Cap Dandruff Without Hurting the Baby
Cradle cap, also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is an oily, patch of thick white, yellow, or brown scaly skin. Though it commonly occurs on the scalp, it can also occur on the ears, nose, eyelids, and groin. Doctors believe that it is caused by the oil glands and hair follicles in the baby’s skin producing too much oil. It may also be caused by a fungus called malassezia yeast that grows in the scalp's oil glands.It is not contagious, not caused by an allergy, and is generally not itchy. It is not dangerous and usually clears up on its own within a few weeks to a few months, but you can take actions to speed along the process.
Taking Care of Cradle Cap at Home
Rub a small amount of mineral oil, baby oil, or petroleum jelly into the scaly patches.Allow the oil or jelly to soak in for 15 minutes. This will soften and loosen the crusts, making them easier to remove.
- Because chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, including the scalp, be sure to read the manufacturers’ labels on the products to be sure that they are safe for babies.
- Don’t leave the oil/jelly on the baby, because this will make the crusts sticky and prevent them from naturally coming off.
- Coconut oil and shea butter are common natural remedies that can be applied.
- Don’t use olive oil because it may encourage the growth of skin yeasts, or malassezia, and this may make the cradle cap worse.
- Wash the oil off with warm water.
Shampoo the baby gently with a mild baby shampoo to remove the oil/jelly and scales.This will also remove any natural oils that may have built up and caused dead skin cells to stick to the scalp, forming scales.
- While shampooing gently massage the scalp to soften and loosen the scales. This can be done with your fingers, a washcloth, or a soft bristled baby brush. Don't scrub your baby's skin too hard, or you could irritate it.
- Don’t use dandruff shampoos because they may contain chemicals that aren’t recommended for babies and could be absorbed through the skin.
- Thoroughly rinse all of the shampoo out of the baby’s hair to prevent irritation and if necessary, shampoo the baby daily.
Brush the loosened flakes out of the baby’s hair with a soft brush.Strands of hair may come away with the flakes, but the hair will grow back. Don’t pick at the scales as this may cause an open wound which will make the baby vulnerable to an infection.
- Brushing the flakes out will be easiest after the bath when the baby is dry. When the flakes are wet, they will stick to the hair.
Part 1 Quiz
How can you treat cradle cap at home?
Using Natural Remedies to Cleanse the Scalp
Make a gentle disinfectant out of natural remedies such as apple cider vinegar or baking soda.This will help prevent the growth of bacteria or fungus.
- Mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts water. Massage this solution into the cradle cap. Let it sit for 15 minutes or until dry. This will help dissolve and loosen the scales.
- Mix a paste of baking soda and water. Use 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda and a 1:1 ratio of water. Dab the paste onto the infected area and let it dry on the baby for 15 minutes.
- Do not apply vinegar or baking soda to broken skin or open wounds because it may sting. Instead, seek medical attention from a doctor.
Comb out the flakes using a fine-toothed comb.Gently comb against the hair slowly lifting and removing the loosened flakes.
- A lice comb works particularly well. The thin narrow teeth will catch even the smallest flakes.
- Do not scrape off flakes that are still attached to the scalp as this may hurt the baby.
Shampoo the baby to wash out any remaining apple cider vinegar or baking soda paste.Be careful to avoid rinsing the apple cider vinegar or baking soda mixture into the baby's eyes.
- Use a mild shampoo that is approved for babies' sensitive skin.
Part 2 Quiz
True or False: A lice comb is perfect for combing out small flakes.
Knowing When to Seek Professional Care For Your Baby
Seek medical advice if home care does not help or your baby’s condition worsens.Signs that your baby should be seen by a doctor include:
- Symptoms of infection, such as bleeding, pus oozing from below the scales, or extreme redness, pain, or fever.
- Swelling and severe itching causing the baby to scratch. This may be a symptom of another skin condition called eczema.
- Cradle cap occurring on areas of the body other than the scalp, particularly the face.
Follow any treatment prescribed by the doctor.If your baby’s cradle cap becomes infected or very inflamed or itchy, the doctor may prescribe one or more of the following to treat the infection and reduce inflammation:
- Antifungal cream
- A dandruff shampoo containing tar, antifungal medications such as ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide
- A mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone 1% cream
Do not use over-the-counter medications without consulting a doctor.Steroid creams, antifungal medications, or dandruff shampoos containing salicylic acid may be dangerous for the baby when absorbed through the skin. Your doctor may recommend steroid creams or antifungal medications in some cases, and you should always follow her instructions.
- Dandruff shampoos containing salicylic acid are never used on babies.
- Also consult your doctor before applying natural remedies with medicinal properties, like Calendula. Calendula is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, but talk to your doctor before applying it to a baby.
Part 3 Quiz
When should you consult a doctor?
QuestionDoes cradle cap have a foul smell? The spot where my baby has it smells a bit funny. The scales are grayish when water touches it. Do I still apply baby oil after his bath?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should go to the baby clinic or doctor. Cradle cap does not generally have an offensive odor.Thanks!
QuestionWill a raw egg clear up cradle cap?Beau GaviganCommunity AnswerShampoo, olive oil, coconut oil, baby oil, Vaseline, and shea butter are all good choices. Raw egg? Never heard of using that.Thanks!
QuestionShould I use the baking soda and water paste before or after my baby's bath?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI would use the paste before you give your baby a bath.Thanks!
QuestionMy baby is 3 months old and was suffering from cradle cap. After applying baby shampoo, some has disappeared, but her head was some reddish in color. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMassage a vegetable oil into the crust-like scales. Let the oil soak in for fifteen minutes to soften the scales, then remove them with a soft baby hairbrush. To completely get rid of the scaliness, use an over-the-counter tar-based shampoo once a week.Thanks!
- Tea tree oil may be toxic and is an allergen for some people so it is not recommended for babies.
- Be careful with home remedies using nut oils or egg whites as they may cause allergic reactions.
Sources and Citations
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