Newborn Baby

Caring for Your Baby's Scalp

It's perfectly normal for your baby to occasionally experience mild irritation of the scalp. From dry scalp to cradle cap to other less common scalp conditions, your baby's' skin is always growing and changing.   

What Causes Dry Scalp in Babies?

It's normal for newborns to have white flakes on their scalps. This is not an indication of a dry scalp condition but instead the remnants of old skin being shed. Do not use oils, lotions, or Vaseline to treat dry scalp for babies, as this will only adhere to the flakes to the scalp and make the condition worse.

Over-washing is a common culprit of baby dry scalp. Make sure to rinse thoroughly, as residual shampoo can contribute to baby dandruff. Baby dry scalp treatment is fairly simple. Simply wash your baby’s hair two to three times per week with a gentle baby shampoo and brush his or her hair with a soft baby brush. A humidifier can also help to prevent dry skin, particularly in the winter. Baby dandruff is common a common skin condition in newborns and is no cause for concern. However, you should monitor your baby's dry scalp for redness and irritation.

What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a skin condition characterized by thick white or yellowish scales. In addition to the scalp, it can also occur on the back of the neck, diaper area, armpits, and eyelids. It may be tempting to apply oils or lotions to the affected area, but this is actually counterproductive since the buildup of dry skin is caused in part by an overproduction of oil beneath the surface of the skin. 

How Do You Treat Cradle Cap?

You can treat cradle cap by removing scales with a soft brush and washing with a dandruff shampoo like Sebulex daily for one to two weeks. In many cases, the skin condition will go away on its own. If the condition persists, gets red and irritated, or if it spreads, see your physician.


What is the Difference Between Cradle Cap and Eczema in Babies?

Eczema in babies can look similar to other common skin conditions, like cradle cap. It typically begins as a patch of red or dry skin and will feel rough to the touch. However, babies can get eczema on any part of their body, and it often affects the cheek area as well as the inner folds of the arm and leg joints. Eczema in babies can often be confused with cradle cap, but there are a few key differences: 

  • Cradle cap is less red and scaly.
  • Cradle cap typically only appears on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. 
  • Cradle cap generally clears up by 8 months, but eczema can last longer.

If you're unsure about which condition is affecting your little one, schedule an appointment with your child's pediatrician. 

Other Scalp Conditions in Babies

Occasionally, your little one may experience itching, flaking, or crusting of the scalp that cannot be attributed to dandruff, cradle cap, or eczema. If this occurs, it may be caused by one of the following skin conditions:

Head Lice

Though most common in school-age children, babies can also contract head lice as well. These tiny wingless insects can cause itching and raw patches on the scalp. 


Ringworm is a fungal infection of the outer layer of the scalp. It appears as circular patches with raised, red edges that create its characteristic ring shape. 


Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by the overproduction of skin cells which form red, scaly patches known as plaques. Though it is rare, psoriasis can occur in babies. 

Lichen Planus

Also very rare in babies, lichen planus is a recurrent skin condition that appears more often during stress, fatigue, or exposure to medicines or chemicals. 

Sores, Blisters, or Bumps on Your Baby's Scalp

Your baby can also occasionally develop painful sores, blisters, or bumps on or around the scalp. These temporary scalp abrasions may be caused by one of the following skin conditions:

  • Folliculitis 
  • Contact dermatitis 
  • Chickenpox
  • Baby acne
  • Epidermal cyst

When to Visit the Pediatrician

If your baby’s skin condition has not improved after using over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or ointments for babies, or if you’re concerned about redness or rashes, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

At Pediatrics East, our pediatricians are always happy to meet with you to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s health and wellness. Schedule an appointment online today or call our appointment line at (901) 757-3535, Option 1. Our appointment staff is available from Monday through Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.



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