Cradle Cap --Causes and Cures

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November 5, 2011, June 3, 2014

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist







Cradle cap sounds cute but it’s really not. Does your baby look like he’s
got dandruff? The infant skin condition is probably "cradle cap", also
called "seborrheic capitis".

Cradle cap, sometimes called "baby dandruff",  is a form of seborrheic
dermatitis that affects young babies’ scalps.

Cradle cap is so common your baby is highly likely to suffer from the
condition at some point in his or her early months. According to
researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia (2003) cradle cap
affects up to 70 percent of newborns during their first three months of life.

You may feel distressed or embarrassed by your baby’s appearance but
the condition is harmless – almost a rite of passage in your baby’s life – so
try not to worry if your baby shows signs of cradle cap. But can you do
anything about it? Can cradle cap be cured? Are there any natural
remedies for cradle cap?

What Are the Symptoms of Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is an inflammation of the upper layers of skin and it turns your
baby’s scalp flaky and dry. It may look like your infant suffers from
dandruff or she may have crusted patches on her scalp, yellowy or brown
scaling, or thick and oily areas. The same signs can appear on your baby’s
eyebrows or her ears, in her armpits or around the diaper area.

What Are the Causes of Cradle Cap?

No one really knows the exact causes of cradle cap. Experts post many
theories about this irritating infant skin condition. Some believe that the
hormones the mother gives her child during the end stage of pregnancy
over-stimulate baby’s oil-producing glands. The oil on the scalp --- sebum
---prevents old skin cells from falling off the scalp. Other experts point to
a possible link between cradle cap and family members who suffer from
conditions like asthma and eczema, but this link is unconfirmed. (Read
more about
natural remedies to control excess sebum secretion.)

Don’t give yourself a hard time about your baby’s cradle cap. The
condition definitely isn’t caused by poor hygiene, not washing your baby
correctly, an infection, or allergies. Cradle cap isn’t contagious and your
baby probably doesn’t even notice it. In most babies, cradle cap clears up
on its own in anything from six to 12 months. But there are things you can
do to cure cradle cap if you don’t want to wait. We’ve investigated the
scientific treatments for cradle cap so your baby’s scalp can be clear and
smooth once more.

Cradle Cap: Top 10 Cures
























1.
Do Nothing to Cure Cradle Cap

This “cure” may sound pointless but most cases of cradle cap actually
clear up on their own in a few months so you don’t have to do anything to
rid your baby of this condition.

If your baby’s scalp bothers you then try shampooing his hair more
frequently to get rid of the dry flakes, and brush his scalp with a soft
brush or a soft towel after bathing.

Do not, whatever you do, pick at the scalp or try to pull the flakes from
his skin
. This could cause a more serious infection.

And avoid over-shampooing – this could stimulate the oil-producing
glands even further. Once the dry scales have disappeared, continue
shampooing his hair with a mild shampoo every few days.

2.
An Oil Remedy for Cradle Cap

If your baby’s scalp isn’t responding to gentle shampooing, try using a
small amount of pure, natural oil on her scalp. According to the University
of Southampton School of Nursing and Midwifery, UK in 2007,
moisturizers may soften the scales but you often need a greasier emollient
to shift the loose skin.

Rub olive oil, baby oil or petroleum jelly onto your baby’s scalp, leave it
there for 15 minutes then brush the flakes away with a soft brush, towel
or cloth. Follow up by washing your baby’s hair with a mild shampoo to
get rid of all the oil on her head.

3.
Use a Medicated Shampoo to Shift Cradle Cap

If oil and regular shampoo aren’t helping and you want to get rid of cradle
cap, try a medicated baby shampoo to treat the condition. Check the label
for any ingredients your baby is allergic to and avoid getting the shampoo
in your baby’s eyes. Coal tar shampoo is proposed as a treatment for adult
seborrheic dermatitis – in a 1999 study from PPD Development,
Chelmsford, Essex, UK coal tar shampoo was significantly better at
treating dandruff than placebo – but it may be too harsh for babies. Ask
your pharmacist for the best medicated shampoo for infants with cradle
cap.

4.
Anti-Fungal Cream for Treating Cradle Cap

Your baby’s scalp may, in certain cases, become inflamed or infected. This
is rare, but if it happens you will need an antifungal cream or antibiotics
prescribed by a doctor to clear it up. Topical antifungal creams include
ketoconazole, bifonazole, and ciclopiroxolamine.
You could also use a mild hydrocortisone cream for a rash. Ketoconazole
has been widely tested. In a 2007 study from the University of Alabama at
Birmingham 1,162 people with mild to severe seborrheic dermatitis
received ketoconazole foam twice daily and 56 percent of these
experienced success in treating their condition.

5.
Is Biotin a Cure for Cradle Cap?

Biotin, also known as Vitamin H or Coenzyme R, is a type of water soluble
B vitamin. Biotin has been touted as a beneficial treatment for cradle cap.
Does it actually work?

But here's the rub. There are no clinical trials proving biotin as a cure for
cradle cap. A 1981 study from Erlichman, Goldstein, Levi, Greenberg,
Freier in Jerusalem, Israel found no beneficial effect from biotin and a
1976 study by Keipert JA entitled “Oral use of biotin in seborrhoeic
dermatitis of infancy: a controlled trial” did not find a significantly
significant advantage of biotin over placebo in treating cradle cap.

6. Essential Fatty Acids Treat Cradle Cap?

Experts also recommend essential fatty acids for the treatment of cradle
cap but do they actually work? According to a 1993 study from Karolinska
Institutet, Department of Dermatology, Stockholm, Sweden, they do.
Topically applied borage oil (which contains high amounts of the fatty acid
gamma-linolenic acid) successfully treated 37 babies who had cradle cap.
Their symptoms cleared up within three to four weeks.

7.
Aloe Vera Treats Cradle Cap

The traditionally soothing gel from inside the leaves of the aloe plant has
been used down the ages to treat burns and cuts. And aloe vera can help
cradle cap, according to a new study.

A 1999 study from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva,
Israel suggests aloe vera is also suitable for treating the symptoms of
seborrheic dermatitis and cradle cap.

The study looked at 44 adults who applied an aloe ointment or a placebo
cream to the affected area twice a day for four to six weeks. Sixty-two
percent of those using the aloe reported their symptoms had improved,
compared to 25 percent of the placebo group.

8.
Use Tea Tree Oil as a Treatment for Cradle Cap?

The verdict is still out on this remedy. A 2002 study from Royal Prince
Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, NSW, Australia looked at 126 people in a
four-week trial of 5 percent tea tree oil shampoo. The use of the shampoo
significantly reduced symptoms of dandruff and was well tolerated by the
group. But be cardeful. This trial was for
adults – check with your
pediatrician before you use any type of essential oil or remedy on babies.

9.
Using Folate as a Cure for Cradle Cap

There have been a couple of highly preliminary studies carried out in the
1950s and 1960s which report beneficial effects from treating seborrheic
dermatitis with folic acid taken orally (which would not be suitable for
babies) or vitamin B6 applied topically. The studies (Callaghan TJ. “The
effect of folic acid on seborrheic dermatitis” 1967 and Effersoe H. “The
effect of topical application of pyridoxine ointment on the rate of
sebaceous secretion in patients with seborrheic dermatitis” 1954) suggest
the vitamin may relieve symptoms but these trials have never been fully
followed up.

10.
Exposure to Sunlight May Help Treat Cradle Cap

Of course, you’ve got to be careful about exposing baby’s delicate scalp to
sunlight and you should make sure baby’s skin is never in strong sunlight
unprotected. Certain studies, such as a 1989 report from Karolinska
Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, state improvement in symptoms of adult
seborrheic dermatitis after exposure to sunlight.

However, on the contrary, there are reports that mountain guides who
have a high level of long-term occupational exposure to sunlight
experience a higher prevalence of seborrheic dermatitis (a 2000 study
from the University of Tübingen, Germany.) Best to play it safe and keep
your baby out of the sun while treating his scalp with oils, medicated
shampoos or natural remedies.










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Cradle cap is a common scalp problem
for infants.