In those delicious early days with your new baby where hours can disappear as you stare at their perfectly beautiful face, stroking their silky soft skin, you may be surprised to notice some greasy, yellowish, waxy scales or flakes on your baby’s scalp and forehead. Don’t panic! It may just be cradle cap – which is very common in babies. It’s not painful or itchy and usually clears by itself after a few weeks or months. But as it can be a bit unpleasant to look at and can become infected, you may want to remove it. The good news is that you can do this at home naturally.
Where Does Cradle Cap Come From?
The exact cause of cradle cap is unknown and likely due to a combination of things. Newborn babies can produce too much skin oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles and that, combined with a type of yeast found on the skin called Malassezia, may be to blame. You’ll be pleased to know it’s not contagious or caused by poor hygiene.
Natural Treatment at Home
Try these simple steps from Plunket New Zealand to gently remove cradle cap:
- Massage baby oil onto the cradle cap
- Leave for about 15 mins to soak in and soften the skin cells
- Shampoo baby’s hair with mild baby shampoo
- Rub baby’s head lightly with a towel, your finger or a soft baby’s toothbrush to gently loosen the scales
- Repeat for several days
Resist the urge to scratch or pick at cradle cap scales – this can cause an infection. If the scalp condition is caused by the Malassezia yeast, olive oil can promote its growth[i], so look for an alternative like sweet almond oil. As always with little babies, avoid shampoo and products with harsh chemicals and/or fragrances – these can trigger further irritation. Be aware that specific cradle cap treatment shampoo can also cause side effects like scalp redness, skin irritation, inflammation and dryness[ii].
A newborn baby’s skin is extremely delicate - epidermal maturation is only complete by 34 weeks of age[iii]. During this time of barrier development, their skin is vulnerable to chemical damage, microbial infections, and skin diseases[iv]. It’s up to us as parents to make sure we are treating their skin very gently during this time, choosing only products that will soothe and protect.
Our 100% certified organic and non-GMO Baby Massage Oil is great for treating cradle cap – sweet almond oil forms the base, and due to its emollient quality will keep the skin, hair and scalp soft and hydrated. Our 100% certified natural and non-GMO Baby Shampoo & Body Wash is specially formulated to gently cleanse the baby’s sensitive skin and scalp without causing dryness.
All our baby products also contain calendula: a well-researched powerhouse of healing for the skin with antiseptic, wound healing, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Clinically proven for promoting the healing of open skin, cuts and grazes, with beneficial anti-inflammatory and soothing actions in eczema, psoriasis and wounds. It has anti-fungal properties, making it particularly useful in persistent cradle crap – as suggested by Sandra Clair, a well-known health scientist, registered medical herbalist based in New Zealand.
What Else You Should Know
- Don’t be alarmed if your baby’s hair falls out, especially at the back of the head. This is a separate occurrence and also quite common. It will grow back over the next few months and doesn’t need treatment.
- You may notice redness/rash on other parts of the body, including the creases of the neck, armpits, behind the ears, on the face and in the diaper area. This could be seborrhoeic dermatitis and will usually disappear on its own, requiring no treatment. Just keep an eye on it and see your GP or health practitioner if you’re concerned.
If you spot the following, don’t hesitate to bring your baby to see a GP:
- the cradle cap is all over your baby’s body
- the crusts leak fluid or bleed
- the affected areas look swollen
- there’s no improvement after a few weeks of treatment
[i] Source: New Zealand Dermatological Society
[iii] Evans NJ, Rutter N. (1986). Development of the epidermis in the newborn.
[iv] Teresa Oranges, Valentina Deni, Macro Romanelli (2015). Skin Physiology of the Neonate and Infant: Clinical Implications.