In the very first few months of life, some babies experience a flaky, yellowish, greasy skin a look alike of dandruff or a general scaling and redness around the scalp area. The condition known as ‘cradle cap’ or neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis is possibly caused by overactive sebaceous glands in the skin of newborn babies, as the mother’s hormones are still in circulation in the baby’s body.

The glands release a greasy substance that makes old skin cells attach to the scalp as they try to dry and fall off. Thankfully, the cradle cap is neither irritating nor bothersome for the babies.

Cradle cap can occur in any baby, and most commonly begins sometime in the first three months. The same rash is often prominent around the ear, the eyebrows or the eyelids.

Here are a few tips to clear your baby’s skin.

  • Massage a vegetable oil into the crust-like scales. Let the oil soak in for fifteen minutes to soften the scales, then remove them with a soft baby hairbrush, toothbrush, comb or cloth. But if not done very gently, this can worsen the condition and can trigger temporary hair loss.
  • Use of over-the-counter tar based shampoo once a week helps getting rid of scaling. But use of these shampoos is not recommended in babies under two years.
  • Applying petroleum jelly liberally overnight is another popular treatment. The softened scales either fall off during the night, or can be brushed off in the morning.
  • Hydrate the skin: Some cases of dermatitis may also be due to the inability of the skin to retain moisture. For this, after bathing your baby with a mild, moisturizing soap, rinse the soap off well. Gently pat the skin partially dry, leaving a slight layer of water on the skin — just enough so you can feel the moisture. Apply an emollient ointment over the affected areas. The ointment seals in the water above the crusted areas and hydrates the skin.
  • Making a paste from Bicarbonate soda (baking powder) and leaving it on the affected area for 10 minutes can also help lift the scales.