Over the counter products

There are a range of products to treat cradle cap which can be purchased over the counter. These are easily available at your local supermarket or pharmacy and are effective at treating this skin condition. These products are shampoos which are effective and include the following:

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo which is specially formulated for babies.
  • Cradle cap shampoo, e.g. ‘Dentinox Cradle Cap Shampoo’ (www.dentinox.co.uk) which is suitable for babies.
  • Medicated shampoos which are designed to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and seborrhoeic dermatitis. They contain mild detergents known as ‘keratolytics’ which include salicylic acid, selenium sulphide and coal tar. But these can irritate the eyes and so are not recommended for babies. They are suitable for older children and adults.

Shampoo controversy

The use of shampoo to treat cradle cap has not met with universal approval.

Why is that?

Shampoos are a product that we are all familiar and take for granted. They are effective at cleaning the hair and help to ensure that it remains in tip top health.

But opinions are divided as to their effectiveness and safety in babies. Some people argue that they irritate the scalp which can worsen cradle cap as well as stinging the eyes. They argue that these shampoos especially medicated ones which contain ingredients such as salicylic acid are known to dry out the skin. They dry out the scalp which exacerbates the symptoms of cradle cap. The other risk is that of absorption into the bloodstream which is not advisable for babies. 

So, the issue is that of finding a suitable product which does not cause irritation to the eyes and skin.

Another issue is that of frequent shampooing: some argue that this needs to be done on a regular basis whereas others state the opposite. A mild shampoo which is designed for babies appears to be the best option but these contain ingredients which may be potential irritants. However, there has not been any research undertaken on these products so one can assume that they are safe to use.

Dentinox shampoo

Another option is to use a cradle cap shampoo such as ‘Dentinox’ which has been specially formulated to treat cradle cap. These are less likely to be greasy and kinder to the skin.

Dentinox cradle cap shampoo appears to have attracted some very good reviews so is worth considering. The comments praise the gentle formula which means no tears from baby if it gets in his /her eyes, a clear set of instructions and a pleasant smell. It contains sodium laurel sulphate which can irritate the skin; but it has been designed with babies in mind and that plus the fact it has attracted positive reviews is a good recommendation.  It is probably a good idea to find a shampoo which contains the least amount of potential irritants and is kind to the skin. Avoid shampoos which contain peanut oil (this will be listed as ‘arachis oil’) as this can result in baby developing a nut allergy later on.

Medicated shampoos

These contain keratolytic agents such as salicylic acid and zinc pyrthione and are specially formulated for skin rashes. These include psoriasis, eczema and dandruff and are characterised by patches of itchy, flaky skin. They are effective at treating these conditions but have a few side effects which include skin irritation, dryness and hair loss. They also cause stinging in the eyes so rinse this out straight away if you do. They are useful for stubborn cases of cradle cap and seborrhoeic dermatitis but are problematic for babies due to the issues mentioned above. 

Medicated, antifungal shampoos

There are brands of medicated shampoo which contain ‘ketoconazole’ - an antifungal agent which is designed to treat and prevent skin rashes. These are used in cases of moderate or severe seborrhoeic dermatitis and are available at your local pharmacy or via your GP.

These shampoos are discussed in more detail in the next section.

So what is the best option for you?

Choose a mild or specially formulated baby shampoo which is least likely to cause any irritation and is gentle on your baby’s skin. It may help to speak to your health visitor, pharmacist or GP as to what is the best type of shampoo to use. If you know of any other mothers whose babies have experienced cradle cap then ask them for their opinion. Ask them about which shampoos they have used and why.

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