Besides the joys of colic, reflux, and sleep deprivation – you and your new baby may also be faced with a case of cradle cap, or seborrhoeic dermatitis. Cradle cap looks like yellow or brown scales on your baby’s scalp. As it turns out, how you treat cradle cap can either make it worse or get rid of it completely.
Other places you might find traces of cradle cap:
- Around the ears
- At the brow line
- In the armpits
- Around the diaper area.
Cradle cap is incredibly common, showing up in over 70% of babies during their first 3 months of life. It isn’t painful or dangerous for your baby. And fortunately, most cases will clear up at around 4 – 6 months. But a stubborn case of cradle cap can last as long as 2 years and show up again during puberty.
The Most Common Culprit of Cradle Cap Is Yeast
Your baby’s body home to trillions of microbes, like bacteria and yeast. For the most part, we harmoniously co-exist with these microscopic bugs. And many of them are essential in fortifying protective “barriers” – such as your baby’s:
- Digestive tract
Sometimes, a microbe goes rogue and begins to take over its environment. This is what happens in the case of cradle cap.
According to a review published in 2014 through the Cochrane Library, there is a solid link between cradle cap and the yeast, Malassezia. Which explains why cradle cap tends to improve with antifungal drugs.
It turns out that this particular yeast breaks down sebum (a waxy, oily substance secreted from the skin) and then consumes the fatty acids found in sebum. In particular, the saturated fatty acids – which are hard fats that you would find in coconut oil or ghee.
In a nutshell, the yeast Malassezia feeds on fat. And many home remedies – like olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter – contain fat that feed the yeast. In fact, scientists often use olive oil in the lab to grow Malassezia.
Mineral Oil – It Works
Elaine Siegfried, a medical doctor at St Louis University School of Medicine, explains
Saturated fatty acids likely encourage Malassezia overgrowth and excess unsaturated fatty acids may induce inflammation and scaling. As non-digestible oil, mineral oil may provide a triglyceride-free alternative to organic oils.
Mineral oil is a by-product of crude oil refinement, which is used to make gasoline and other petroleum products. And even though it has a slick and oily texture, it does not contain fat.
It’s important to note that mineral oil is good for starving and softening colonies of Malassezia yeast, but…it does not nourish or protect your baby’s skin.
In other words, the only time to use mineral oil is when getting rid of cradle cap. And because Malassezia is typically the culprit, I recommend adding 1 – 2 drops of an antifungal essential oil – like lavender or blue tansy – for every two tablespoons of mineral oil.
When shopping for mineral oil, look for pharmaceutical grade or USP mineral oil. This is the cleanest version on the market. Do your best to avoid Johnson’s Baby Oil. According to the Environmental Working Group, the fragrance is a concern.
Get Rid Of Cradle Cap In Three Steps
- Massage oil into the scalp. Leave for 30 – 60 minutes.
- Wet the scalp with warm water and loosen the scaly patches of cradle cap with a soft-bristle brush or a brush-comb combo like this.
- Shampoo with a gentle, non-toxic baby wash such as Earth Mama Angel Baby or a baby shampoo with anti-fungal lavender and tea tree oils, such as California Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
* I found that in contrast to coconut oil or olive oil, you don’t see the same return or “bloom” of scales. That said, you may have to apply and comb through two or three times to get rid of cradle cap.