Baby dandruff, which is sometimes commonly known as cradle cap, is a normal occurrence in newborns that can typically be treated at home with just a few simple steps. Usually, washing a baby's hair every couple of days, treating it with oil, and combing out the flakes works well to get rid of any dandruff that may occur. The product that should be used on a baby's head will often depend on the severity of the cradle cap and the sensitivity of the baby's skin.
Cradle cap is an inflammatory skin condition, or dermatitis, that typically occurs between the time an infant is born and when he or she reaches three months of age. The usual presentation is dry, peeling, crusty patches of yellow or brown skin on the scalp. Affect skin may also appear on other areas of the body such as the face, armpits, diaper area, and the back of the neck. The condition may cause the skin to dry out, which can make the affected area itchy, but the dandruff does not cause discomfort and can not be spread to anyone else.
The type of dandruff that babies experience usually does not involve the shedding of dead skin cells as it does in teens and adults. Many doctors believe that cradle cap happens after a baby is born because of changes in hormones that lead to an excessive amount of oil being produced in the skin and hair. These changes may occur naturally as a result of the birth, or may occur before a baby is born because of the exchange of hormones from the mother. Another possible cause for the condition may be found in yeast that develops in the glands that secrete oil onto the face and scalp.
Treatment for baby dandruff is not truly necessary because it usually goes away by itself within a year. To speed up this process, though, a new parent can apply baby oil or a type of vegetable oil to the baby's head and let it stay on the skin for about 15 minutes. A comb or brush can be used to gently remove the peeling skin from the infant's scalp. Due to the sensitivity of newborns' scalps, it is important to take care to not brush the head too hard or comb in the same spot for too long. After all of the loose baby dandruff is gone, the baby's head can be washed gently with baby shampoo.
If a caregiver does not feel comfortable applying oil to a baby's head for fear of the oil getting into the infant's eyes, another alternative is to wash the baby's hair more frequently to get rid of excess oil buildup. This may mean increasing the number of washings to two or three times per week, but no more. Shampooing too much can lead to excessive oil production on the face and scalp. Regular baby shampoo may work, but if the baby dandruff is persistent, other shampoos specifically made for dermatitis of the scalp may be purchased over the counter or by prescription. These shampoos tend to be strong, and should only be used after consultation with a pediatrician.
Should a baby become noticeably uncomfortable because of cradle cap, a visit to the doctor may be needed. Generally, if there is a lot of irritation and itchiness, a physician may prescribe a topical hydrocortisone cream. Irritation and redness may also be present if the baby dandruff is accompanied by a yeast infection, which can usually be taken care of with an anti-fungal cream.