Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

This is a common condition that affects infants where they may have yellow greasy scales and red patches on areas that have a lot of sebaceous (oil) glands including the scalp, eyebrows, around the ears, middle of the face, chest, or other areas where skin is touching itself like the neck, armpits or occasionally the diaper area. The cause is unknown but may be a response to the skin being colonized by normal yeast from the environment or stimulation of the oil glands by maternal hormones.

This condition commonly affects infants around 1-6 months of age. It often resolves within a few weeks to several months.

How is it treated?

No treatment is necessary for this condition, however, there are a couple of things you can do at home to speed up its resolution.

  • Apply oil (olive oil, mineral oil, baby oil, coconut oil) to the scalp after bathing and leave the oil on overnight. Massage the scalp in the morning with a washcloth or a soft brush such as a toothbrush to break up the scales.
  • Frequent shampooing with a mild baby shampoo followed by massaging the scalp with a washcloth or a soft brush.
  • You can also use an anti-dandruff shampoo 2x/week (e.g. Head and Shoulders, Selsun Blue, Neutrogena T-Gel). Massage shampoo into the scalp, let sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse being sure not to get it into your baby’s eyes.
  • In some cases you may be instructed to apply a steroid cream like hydrocortisone 1% over the counter cream 2X/day for 1-2 weeks (NOT to be used on armpits, face, or groin area) or ketoconazole 2% prescription cream 1x/day for 1-2 weeks.

When should I call the doctor?

Call the clinic to schedule an appointment if your infant develops tenderness, blistering, pustules, or drainage from skin lesions, or if you feel that prescription medicine may be needed.