Dr. Laura Miguel.

Parents come to the clinic every day alarmed because their baby has "yellow scabs" on their head even though they are very careful to wash the baby’s head every day. This idea is very common amongst parents, especially first-time parents, but, is there any truth in the rumour that cradle cap affects children due to a lack of hygiene?

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the common name for the seborrhoeic dermatitis that affects newborn babies and young children. It is very common and is characterised by the appearance of thick yellowish flakes ("scales" that look and feel greasy) on the baby’s scalp. Sometimes the area between the eyebrows, behind the ears and in skin folds can also be affected.

What causes it?

Cradle cap is not contagious and is not an indication of a lack of hygiene. An excess of sebum from the sebaceous glands can cause it to appear, influenced by hormones from the mother; the inflammation can be caused by a type of fungus and climatological environmental factors.

How can I get rid of it?

For a lot of patients the condition goes away by itself, however, in more severe cases we can use special shampoos created for this type of dermatitis consisting mainly of salicylic acid, which is a powerful keratolytic agent (it helps to loosen the "scales"); Icthyol Pale, is a natural active principle with an anti-inflammatory effect that regulates grease and itching, leaving the hair looking smooth and silky; and Sabal serrulata extract, which has a regulating effect on sebum, preventing the formation of yellowish scabs . Other compounds that can also help are zinc, selenium or ketoconazole. These types of products can be used every day until the condition improves and then once or twice a week combining them with an emollient shampoo to keep it under control.

How should I use these shampoos?

Apply the shampoo to the baby’s wet hair, gently massage it in rubbing with your fingertips to help loosen the "scales", until it foams up and leave it to act for 2 minutes. Then rinse it off with plenty of water, avoiding contact with the eyes.

How can I prevent it from appearing?

Cradle cap can go away for several months and then suddenly appear later therefore it is essential to take care with your baby’s hair every day using emollient shampoos for everyday use that protect and preserve the natural balance of your baby’s skin and hair. It is also very important to protect the areas with skin folds where the dermatitis can appear, as these babies are more likely to get red patches on their skin. We have emollient body milks that create a protective film preventing the appearance of irritations and absorbing the humidity in the baby’s skin folds soothing the itching.

In short…

Cradle cap is very common and we need to know that when we see an affected baby we must not think it is due to a lack of hygiene, it is simply an excess of sebum. Although it is true that daily care with emollient and sebum-regulating shampoos will help get rid of the condition and stop it from coming back as severely.