Cradle cap is the popular name for a very common disease that affects babies. It looks like an oily layer of yellow scales or crusts that develop on the scalp and can be cured with ease. This is not connected with any other disease and it can affect even babies who receive excellent care.
The condition can have similar symptoms to severe dandruff. It starts like a red zone on the scalp, which in time gets covered in yellow crusts with an oily or scaly aspect. These fall off easily after a while. Sometimes, parts of the baby's hair will also fall off when the crusts are removed. The disease is not restricted to the scalp. In some cases, it can expand to the entire scalp surface and even beyond it. The affected areas can be the nose or face but also around the nap and armpits. However, in such situations it is not named cradle cap and is known as dermatitis or seborrhoeic eczema.
This condition usually appears on young babies. It most often occurs in the first two months of life but it can happen as late as eight months. It is a very common disease, which is not very serious but can persist for a few weeks or months. It is not painful or even itchy, the main problem is the nasty look. In rare cases, the disease can affect babies older than 8 months or even toddlers.
New born babies can get cradle cap, the disease can appear after only a few days of life. The main symptom is the presence of thick scales on the scalp, which can be white or yellow in color. The size of the affected area is variable, starting from a very small one to the entire scalp. In rare cases, the disease can extend to the nose, ears, eyebrows, eyelids, armpits, neck or under the diaper. When a baby has very dry skin, eczema or other skin problems, cradle cap might lead to minor itching and small cracks on the skin that release a yellow fluid.
The good news that this disease can't be transmitted and it is not a consequence of improper care or bad hygiene. It looks a lot worse than it feels and usually kids don't feel any discomfort at all. Normally, no treatment is needed and it will disappear by itself.
Nobody knows the real cause of this condition. It is suspected that oil glands on the scalp produce too much oil or sebum, which builds up on the skin and the hair follicles. However, the sebum sometimes hosts a species of fungus named malassezia and some bacteria, which might also have an influence in the emergence of cradle cap.
It is also suspected that cradle cap might be caused by a hormonal imbalance. It usually affects only babies and kids, who have a very high levels of hormones, which might be related to the condition. It also appears that cradle cap occurs more often in certain situations that influence it. These include immunity problems, extreme weather conditions, other skin issues or stress. All of them can increase the risk of cradle cap.
The disease doesn't have a standard look and can vary from one child to another. The crusts can be isolated, at large distances from one another, or they can occur in tight groups. There are a number of symptoms that can be present, one or more at a given time. The most common one is the thick crusts that usually cover the scamp. These can appear on other areas of the body, like the armpits, nose, neck, groin, eyelids, eyebrows or ears. The crusts can also be thin, looking more like flakes that resemble dandruff. The skin might look oily, with parts of it covered with small scales, which can be yellow or sometimes white in color.
The skin is not itchy, although it can be in some cases. It is also possible for the skin to turn red in the area. In rare situations, the baby's hair can fall off with the crusts but this is not permanent and it will grow back later.
Some theories link cradle cap with high levels of hormones, in particular the hormones that develop during pregnancy and remain for some time in the baby's body. It is believed that the hormones boost the production of oil from the sebum glands, which bind the skin cells to the scalp. Once the hormone levels decrease, the condition disappears without any treatment.
Cradle cap also seems to be linked to other skin conditions. Babies from families with previous skin problems or allergies have a higher chance to develop it. Cradle cap can be a warning sign of future skin problems that occur after maturity, especially dandruff and other conditions caused by sebum glands.
No particular treatment is needed, since in a few weeks or months cradle cap will be gone without any intervention. However, products like Elma 11 Hair and Scalp Revitalizer are useful to clear the crusts as gently as possible. You only have to apply these natural products on the scalp. For an in-depth cleaning, you can let them work on the scalp during one night and remove the crusts softly in the next morning. Special baby shampoo is very effective in removing any leftovers of the products.
It is not a good idea to try to remove the crusts by hand, even if this seems easy to do. The area under them can turn into a sore and later an infection. The symptom of cradle cap infection is the area becoming red and inflamed. If you notice it, a good idea would be to ask for medical assistance.