Why do babies have cradle cap?
When a baby is in utero, they are in a controlled environment. However, when they are born, they are exposed to new things that their skin has never encountered before. Your baby has tender, sensitive skin, and this is when infant cradle cap can occur.
Cradle cap typically appears on babies' scalps and looks like white or yellowish scaly or crusty patches. It can also be found on the eyelids, eyebrows, nose, ears, neck, armpits, and groin. Don't worry if your baby develops cradle cap. It does not mean that they will necessarily have dandruff as an older child or adult.
Yellow spots on babies' skin
Small white or yellow bumps on your baby's skin can indicate two different conditions. These conditions are not related to cradle cap but are commonly seen in the first few weeks of life. The first is called erythema toxicum. The cause is unknown, and it looks like small red patches with a white or yellow dot in the middle.
The other skin condition is milia. These small white or yellow spots on the skin occur as a result of blocked oil glands. Both of these conditions can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks and will resolve on their own without treatment.
Cradle cap on the face: is it a problem?
It is normal for babies to develop cradle cap on their face, neck, underarms, and diaper area. Treatment in these areas is similar to that for the top of the head. Gently wash these areas with baby shampoo once a day. If the areas are crusty, mineral oil applied a few hours before bathing can help loosen this buildup of cradle cap.
Cradle cap is not contagious, and it is not caused by poor hygiene. The cause of cradle cap is unknown, but one theory is that hormones are a contributing factor. Hormones can pass from the mom to the baby before birth and cause an overproduction of sebum in the hair follicles and oil glands. Another theory is that cradle cap results from a yeast infection that grows alongside bacteria in the sebum.
Cradle cap tends to be crusty and sticks to the scalp. This is very different from a dry scalp, where the skin easily flakes off. Dry skin can appear on your baby's head just like it can on any other part of their body. Baby skin can get dry, flake off, or even peel during this time.
If your baby's scalp seems to be dry and flaking, try to wash their hair no more than two or three times per week and be sure to thoroughly rinse their skin with clean, warm water. Soap residue can be irritating to delicate baby skin. Make sure that you always use products that are specially made for babies, and ask your baby's doctor about a moisturizing shampoo or body wash if it continues to be a problem.
If this dry, flaky skin continues beyond the first few weeks of life, your baby may be experiencing another type of skin condition such as eczema or an allergic reaction. This may require a different kind of treatment for your baby, and their doctor can evaluate their skin condition.
For many babies, cradle cap requires no medical treatment and will resolve on its own. There are some basic things that parents can do to help their baby's skin clear up.
1. Try oils
Before you wash your baby's hair, apply oil to the areas where they have cradle cap. If you leave this oil in place for 15–20 minutes, it can help loosen the flaking skin and make it easier to remove. Some suggested products for this include:
- Mineral oil
- Petroleum jelly
- Baby oil