Cradle Cap

What is Cradle Cap?

Let’s turn to some of the disorders of the skin related to the fat-producing glands that occur by the millions in the upper skin layers. These are termed sebaceous glands. They constantly produce a greasy, fatty material called sebum. The gland is usually attached to a hair shaft under the skin’s surface, and tracks up the shaft, and usually covers it. In normal healthy life, it is the sebum that gives the hair its natural, sparkling sheen that we all love. But it also spreads over the skin surface to act as a waterproofing agent. Where do things come unstuck then and produce problems?

Cradle Cap can overproduce, causing large amounts of sebum to be pumped onto the skin surface. This may build up, especially in parts where the glands are most numerous, on the scalp and face. So a yellowish brown greasy coating may form. It may occur on the scalp, but extend down to the face, eyebrows, ears and skin creases being involved. This is called cradle cap because it does look like a little cap perched on baby’s scalp.

The greasy, oily material in older children may flake off and form the typical greasy bits of white material known as dandruff. This is a form of seborrhoeic dermatitis – sebum overproduction. Often the skin becomes moist and greasy, especially in the creases of the elbows, the armpits and groin. Sometimes there are pimples as blocked ducts cause the gland underneath to swell up.

Cradle Cap Treatment

For cradle cap, apply olive oil or liquid paraffin to the scalp at night and rub gently into the skin. Next day at bath time, it may be gently washed away with warm water. The material usually lifts away quite readily. Use a rough washer. Repeat until it has all gone.

If this is not sufficient, adding salicylate in an olive oil base can give further assistance (such as Egocaprol) or a mild tar (0.5 per cent) lotion will help.

Older youngsters should shampoo the scalp two to three times a week with a soapless shampoo. Using any of the excellent commercial products around is also worthwhile. Selenium sulphide (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (ZP11, or Dangard) is suitable. The directions are clearly set out on the label.

Maintaining good health will give the skin a better complexion, as well as prevent illness from attacking the system. That is why plenty of fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercises are always to be recommended. So is eating three good meals a day, with nutritious food. There should be an emphasis on fresh fruit, vegetables – preferably raw or not overcooked. Reducing the daily intake of sugar in all forms and refined flour is advisable. Chocolates, lollies and sweets in general are not a good idea and the less taken, the better.