Can Cradle Cap Make a Baby's Hair Fall Out?

Newborn baby bath
Those flakes don't need to be scrubbed off. (Image: Philip Lange/iStock/Getty Images)

Cradle cap, also known as "seborrheic dermatitis" or "seborrhea," is basically the baby version of dandruff. Although cradle cap usually resolves itself within your baby’s first year, you may want to help alleviate the symptoms. Regardless of your treatment method and approach to the issue, hair loss is not part of the cradle cap equation.

Recognizing Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is easy to spot by its white flakes, yellow scales, skin redness and/or greasy, oily patches of skin on your little one’s head or other areas of the body. This harmless skin condition may collect in a small area, in several small patches or cover the whole scalp. Although cradle cap is often found on the head, it can also be found in other hairy parts of your baby’s body, like the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, face, chest, armpits, back of the neck or in the diaper area. Hair loss is not a normal symptom of cradle cap.

Causes of Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a noncontagious affliction with an unknown origin. It is believed by some researchers that overactive skin oil glands and a yeast called "malassezia" may have something to do with it. Extreme weather and not enough bathing could also increase your baby’s risk of getting cradle cap. This condition may run in families. None of these causes, however, would make hair fall out.

Treatment

Since cradle cap is not contagious, itchy or painful, you don’t have to take harsh measures to get rid of it. Start with a mild, unmedicated baby shampoo. Lather the shampoo on your infant's scalp and use a soft-bristled hair brush or toothbrush to gently loosen the scales. Baby oil or olive oil can be used as an alternative; just let the oil sit on the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes before using a soft brush to remove the flakes. Always wash the oil off the skin after you’re done. Regardless of which method you use, be gentle when rubbing the area so you don’t cause irritation or break the skin. This could lead to infection, and roughness may pull some of your child’s hair out.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Sometimes at-home remedies just don’t cut it. If the affected area looks infected, it seems to be spreading or doesn’t clear up within a few weeks, contact your pediatrician. She may prescribe a medicated shampoo that contains 2 percent ketoconazole or instruct you to use an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo. If your baby is losing large amounts of hair, more than the normal 50 to 100 strands a day, discuss this with your pediatrician as well.

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