Cradle cap (infantile seborrheic dermatitis) what is it all about and how can you treat it without using all the medications?
Cradle cap is prevalent in children usually under the age of 3 months, usually appearing within the first 6 weeks of life.
It is a oily, flaky, usually yellowish, scaley skin condition that is present over the areas of the body that are the most sebum rich. Typically on the top of the scalp, but in more severe cases can be over the face and trunk (this is then named seborrheic dermatitis of infancy).
It is not related to uncleanliness, nor part of an illness and is not related to the child not being cared for.
Whats the cause?
The most recent understanding in medicine is that cradle cap is related to a normal amount of yeast malassezia, but an abnormal immune response of the skin cells. This is typically related to overactivity of sebaceous glands, causing more oil to but put on the skin surface, causing skin cells to stick that would normally have been shed. Some doctors also relate this overactivity to the remaining mother's hormones in the child's circulation after birth.
So what can you do at home without having to get to the parmacy and spend a fortune?
In the research, the most common advice is to wash the scalp regularly with a mild baby shampoo and gently comb the scalp with a baby brush to help remove the excess flaky skin.
To aid the removal of the flaky skin, another aid can be applying mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the scalp/skin over night and then gently brush in the morning to remove. Then wash regularly...
It seems that applying olive oil to the area, as I have heard, is actually not a good thing. By applying more oil (typically vegetable oil) to the area, you are allowing yeast to increase its growth and therby creating a possible pathway to secondary infection. This secondary yeast infection typically occurs more in the skin folds than on the top of the scalp. This is something to watch out for, as cradle cap/ seborrheic dermatitis should not be itchy, if it is, then it is likely that there is an underlying infection - which does require medication.
Do not use anti-dandruff shampoo. This is too harsh for a baby's skin and can create further irritation.
Do not use eczema creams (like Elidel) this is also too harsh for a child's skin and has not been tested on the under 2's.