We recently received an email from a mother who was worried about her baby having cradle cap and eczema. It turns out her baby was suffering from cradle cap and not eczema.
It’s a natural reaction to think your baby may have eczema when you see dried flakes of skin in their hair. But this could simply be cradle cap and not eczema.
Lets have a look at the differences and how to treat cradle cap.
What is cradle cap?
Cradle cap affects young babies and forms as red/brown crusty scales on their head. It starts on the head but can progress and spread to their face and diaper area. If this occurs it may be diagnosed by your Doctor or Gp as seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a noninfectious skin condition that’s very common in infants and babies. It usually starts in the first few weeks of their lives and slowly disappearing over a period of weeks or months.
Cradle cap is very common and should cause you no concerns at all. Cradle cap can start at birth and usually disappears before your childs first birthday. Many mothers worry about their child’s cradle cap and look for any way to treat and cure it. However, medical treatment is not called for.
Cradle cap and eczema can look very similar but the conditions are totally different. In this article, we will look at both symptoms and help you identify the differences. If you are unsure and worried about your child’s condition our advice would always be to seek medical advice from your Doctor or GP.
Our advice is given from experience, not medial training and should be taken as such. We have been treating and managing eczema in my family for over 200 Years starting back with my great grandmother and through to myself and my 3 children. One of my sons has very bad eczema and has received just about every form of eczema treatment known to man. So our advice on cradle cap and eczema has been gained from these experiences and shared to help others.
What’s the difference between cradle cap and eczema?
It’s easy to confuse cradle cap and eczema so don’t beat yourself up if you are worried or concerns, that’s natural as a new mum or dad. It’s always best to seek advice rather than risk leaving it and unconsciously making your child suffer for longer.
The symptoms of cradle cap and eczema may look similar but on close inspection, it’s easy to spot the differences. There are also historical facts that can help determine whether your child has cradle cap or eczema. For instance if eczema runs in your family the chances of your baby having it are increased.
Family history can have a big part to play in the diagnosis of eczema. It’s very rare to not have any form of eczema in your family then suddenly you give birth to a child that has the condition. We are not saying this is impossible, but there is usually a sign of eczema already in your family which is passed down from generation to generation.
Cradle cap is a build-up of natural oils and dry scaly skin. This forms a yellow & brown crust on your babies head, eyebrows or behind the ears. It is totally natural and easy to treat, treatment is not always needed and some parent choice to simply and naturally leave it to disappear naturally through washing and bathing.
Eczema is patches of red, dry and itchy skin on the face or behind the ears, and in the creases of the neck, knees, and elbows. The main issues with eczema in babies is the irresistible urge to scratch the itchy patches and the eczema can get infected as a result. This is the number one issue with eczema, therefore, most treatments involve trying to reduce the inflammation to reduce itching. Essential oils for babies are a good way to treat infant eczema we have included a link to our full review of this treatment for you. The number one rule for treating eczema is to moisturize and avoid irritants and foods that can cause flare-ups.
How do you treat cradle cap?
The good news for cradle cap is that the condition isn’t contagious, and it generally isn’t painful or itchy. Plus, it won’t leave any scars. Most people simply worry due to the appearance and the worry that it may be eczema and not cradle cap.
Treatment is simple and a natural approach is best.
Cradle cap comes from the production of too much oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles, trapping dead skin cells. Another reason may be Malassezia, which is a yeast fungus that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. The best way to prevent cradle cap is to wash your babies hair daily with a gentle and mild babies shampoo like CeraVe Baby Shampoo this will help prevent the build-up of oils and stop the scalp from becoming dry and scaly.
How to manage cradle cap:
- Apply baby oil or olive oil to your babies head before bedtime
- Wash off the oil using a mild and gentle shampoo
- Dry with a soft towel
- Brush the excess skin flakes off with a cradle cap brush
This process is the best way to treat and manage cradle cap. Don’t worry if in this process some hair falls out. It will grow back and is totally natural and will not leave any bald patches.
Brushing the excess skin from their head is very therapeutic for both mother and child. My wife loved to sit for hours taking all the bits of dead skin out from our sons head. It’s a good way to build that natural mother and child bond.
Sometimes the cradle cap can start to weep fluid and spread to your child’s face and neck area, again this isn’t anything to worry about but if you’re unsure then please seek medical advice to check that no bacteria has crept into the cracked skin. Again if it has, don’t worry this is easily treated.
Is cradle cap itchy?
Cradle cap if left untreated can become itchy if the dry scales build up which will make your child’s scalp inflamed and red/sore.
Baby eczema is very itchy and this is one of the main signs and differences between the two. Eczema is more red and sore and itchy and cradle cap is drier, flaky and not as itchy.
Cradle cap can become itchy if the skin is left and trapped in the hair. This is why most people brush the loose flakes out of their child’s hair.
What is infant eczema?
Infant eczema is red patches of dry and itchy skin. They are normally rough to touch and can become inflamed and raised.
Babies can suffer from infant eczema all over their body but it mainly affects their knees, joints, armpits and other sweaty areas of the body.
Eczema happens when the body makes too few fatty cells called ceramides. If you don’t have enough of them, your skin will lose water and become very dry. The treatment is to replace lost moisture daily.
Baby eczema is often confused with Atopic Dermatitis which is totally different. Baby and infant eczema often disappear without warning after a year or two. Treatment should be to moisturize their skin daily and remove any irritants like the ones listed below to help reduce the itchiness.
- Wool and other hot materials, keep your child’s skin cool
- Stress and tiredness
- Soaps that change the skin’s natural pH
- Some laundry detergents and washing powders. Try Bio Balls chemical-free washing
- Cleaning solutions, including dish soap, disinfectants, or surface cleaners
- Sprays and air fresheners
- Chemicals like chlorine, mineral oil, or solvents
- Dust or sand
- Cigarette smoke
- Damp and mold
If you are worried about your child having any form or eczema then please visit our website where we have hundreds of helpful eczema articles written by us and other parents coping with this skin condition.
Cradle cap treatment
Keep it natural. Wash your babies head with a good quality baby shampoo that is sensitive and gentle. Our top 3 picks are listed below and we have included a link for these products from Amazon to make it easier for you to find. These are in no particular order of preference.
Follow the steps explained above and you will have no problem treating cradle cap.
- TruBaby Eczema Soothing Hair and Body Wash
- CeraVe Baby Shampoo
- Organic baby shampoo with Cucumber & Aloe Vera
Final thoughts on cradle cap and eczema
The first thing to remember if your baby has cradle cap is not to panic! It is very common and easy to treat. Most parents you talk to will tell you their child had cradle cap of some shape or form. I don’t personally know any baby that didn’t have some form of cradle cap, even if it was just for a week or so.
Keep the treatment simple, apply oils overnight and wash off the next morning. Then dry and enjoy brushing out the dead skin and bond with your baby.
We hope you found this article helpful, please share if you do and help other parents manage their child cradle cap.