3 Possible Causes Of Cradle Cap (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)

causes of cradle cap

Is your baby plagued by those scaly rough patches that are characteristic of cradle cap? Cradle cap, medically known as seborrheic dermatitis (which manifests as dandruff in adults), typically causes yellow or white scales on the scalp. It can also appear on the eyebrows, nose crease, ears, eyelids, diaper area, armpits, or back of the neck. While cradle cap usually disappears after a few months on its own, some children tend to have it longer – even up to the age of three.

Cradle cap, fortunately, is not a dangerous condition. It’s not indicative of poor hygiene or contagious. Neither is it an allergic reaction. So then what causes cradle cap? While there is no definitive answer yet, experts think that the following factors play a role in its development.


1. Excess Oil

Sebaceous glands produce sebum, a greasy substance that oils the skin and waterproofs it. Overproduction of sebum by these glands is considered a cause of cradle cap. Some component of sebum, which is yet to be identified, is also thought to trigger skin inflammation.1

2. Hormones

A baby’s body tends to have high levels of their mother’s hormones for several months after birth. These hormones may enlarge sebaceous glands, leading to the overproduction of sebum. It is also worth noting that seborrhea typically occurs in babies and teenagers. And hormone levels are high during both these stages of life.2


3. Fungal Growth

Fungi known as malassezia may grow along with bacteria in sebum. While these are naturally part of human skin surfaces, factors like overproduction of sebum on the scalp can cause them to develop rapidly. This is thought to trigger and aggravate cradle cap.

Other Risk Factors

Some factors like immune system problems, weather extremes, any stress the infant is under, and skin disorders may increase your baby’s chances of getting cradle cap.3


What Can You Do About It?

Cradle cap typically resolves on its own. You can also help it along by loosening the crusts with a mineral oil massage. Use a soft brush to lift them off and follow up with a gentle shampoo. If you are dealing with a severe case, your doctor may advise a medicated shampoo.