What is Cradle Cap?
Understanding this common baby skin condition
Being a first-time parent can be tough. Between the sleep deprivation and the feeding schedules (or lack thereof) and the ‘keeping the tiny human alive’ part, each day can feel like a marathon. So, when your baby gets sick for the first time, or things start to appear on their skin – whether it’s a rash, a mosquito bite, or cradle cap – it can be pretty overwhelming because it’s all so unknown. But thankfully cradle cap is one of those issues us parents don’t need to be too concerned about. Because, although it may not be the prettiest thing, it’s not going to harm your baby. Here are a few things you should know about cradle cap.
You may have heard the term being used, but what exactly is cradle cap?
What is cradle cap exactly?
Cradle cap is a common skin condition that presents itself in young babies – generally from birth to three months. It forms on the baby’s scalp (or sometimes on the eyebrows) and looks like scaly, flaky, oily, and sometimes even waxy, crusts, that are yellow in colour. These can also be accompanied by reddening or inflammation on the skin.
What causes cradle cap?
Technically speaking, cradle cap is a form of dermatitis. It occurs when the baby’s oil glands (called sebaceous glands) make too much sebum (what we commonly think of as oil), and something in this sebum causes inflammation. During puberty, this would often present as acne on skin, but in babies it inhibits the natural process of skin shedding, and instead, the sebum sticks to the old skin cells causing the yellowish build up. Why it happens in babies is largely unknown, however there are some theories that the sebaceous glands are so active because babies still have their mother’s hormones present in their bloodstream. Interestingly, after this time the sebaceous glands won’t be active again until puberty.
What to do
Although it’s not the prettiest affliction, cradle cap is not serious or even contagious. Generally it will usually right itself within a few weeks, however a lot of parents choose to try and remove the scale, helping the process along. However, there is a chance that it will come back, as the glands continue to produce more sebum.
If the scale is concerning you, it may help to apply a gentle (paraben and sulfate-free) moisturising lotion to the scalp at night (which will help loosen the flakes), followed by washing the hair with a gentle baby shampoo in the morning. This should help soften the crusts, and they should easily come off by using a soft brush (or, as some recommend, a soft toothbrush) or cotton bud. Never pick at or force the scale off as this can further irritate the scalp.
When to see a GP
Although cradle cap it is not dangerous in and of itself, there is a possibility that the skin underneath could get infected. This will present as sores or small blisters that may weep. If it becomes infected and/or spreads to other areas (including the face), seek medical advice as it could be something more serious. And, if it continues past three months it could be a sign of another skin condition (such as eczema) so it’s best to consult your GP.
Cradle cap. Looks like scaly, flaky, oily, and sometimes even waxy,
crusts, that are yellow in colour.
Cradle cap. Can also be accompanied by reddening or inflammation
on the skin.