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Apparently, Toddlers Get Cradle Cap Too!


The other day I was brushing my daughter's hair, when I noticed some funky looking scales on the top of her head. I had seen this before when she was an infant and I knew exactly what it was - CRADLE CAP.

I battled her cradle cap for months when she was first born. It haunted me for what seemed like forever before I thought we had finally seen the last of it, but here we are again. What. The. Heck?!?!?

After doing some research, consulting my mom friends and talking to a pediatrician, it turns out that cradle cap in toddlers is totally normal. It isn't contagious and it isn't a sign of poor hygiene or  bad parenting. Phew!

If your toddler suffers from cradle cap, like mine does, here is some helpful information for you.

First, what is toddler cradle cap?

Toddler cradle cap is a type of seborrhoeic dermatitis and it is very common. The sebaceous glands in the skin of babies and adults make a greasy substance called sebum, which helps make the skin waterproof.

Toddler cradle cap happens when the glands of the scalp make too much sebum, which then traps the skin that constantly flakes. This is why cradle cap looks scaly.

The glands may make more sebum than usual because of hormones from the mother which are still present in the baby, or skin yeasts (Malassezia furfur) may be part of the cause. Other things that can cause a scaly rash on the scalp include eczema, psoriasis, tinea and scabies, but usually a yellowish, patchy, greasy, scaly and crusty skin rash is cradle cap. 

What does it look like?

If your toddler's scalp has flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches, it's most likely cradle cap. 

How do you treat it?

Toddler cradle cap usually goes away after a couple of months, but you can speed up the process or just make it look better with these measures. (Severe cradle cap is rare, and if you think your toddler has it, then consult your pediatrician.)

  • Only wash hair every 3 to 4 days. Over-washing only causes dryness, which worsens the problem.
  • You can consider using an anti-dandruff shampoo on your toddler's hair, but you have to be very careful that it doesn't get in their eyes. Also be aware that these shampoos contain chemicals and strong fragrances.
  • Instead, you can massage a natural oil into your toddler's scalp about an hour before bath time. I prefer to use coconut oil because it is a natural anti-fungal (some cradle cap is caused by yeast), won't irritate sensitive skin, and smells great. After you've treated the scalp with oil, take a soft brush or old toothbrush and carefully brush your toddler's scalp. This will remove any excess flakes and encourage the cradle cap to soften and loosen.
  • Be very gentle when removing the flakes caused by cradle cap. You don't want to damage your toddler's skin, leaving it exposed to bacteria and prone to an infection that can make your child very sick.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly to treat cradle cap, because some children have reactions to petroleum products that include irritation and skin weeping.

How can I prevent toddler cradle cap?

There's nothing you can do to keep the cradle cap from reoccurring. 

Cradle cap may go away permanently after treatment, but it also may come back during the next few months because the treatment only removes the scales - it does not stop the glands making too much oil.

Some babies with cradle cap may go on to have other rashes, such as eczema. In some cases, the child may be prone to dandruff around puberty because the sebaceous glands again make more sebum than is needed. 

Does your toddler suffer from cradle cap too? What do you do to treat it? 

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