A dry, flaky scalp on a baby is often called cradle cap. But adults also suffer from this skin condition. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Smooth on aloe
To improve scaling and itching, apply a topical herbal cream containing 30% aloe emulsion from the Aloe vera plant
About This Condition
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory condition of the skin. Cradle cap is a type of seborrheic
dermatitis found in infants; it is usually self-limiting and subsides by the age of six months.
A qualified physician should diagnose these conditions. It is not clear whether research on cradle cap is
applicable to the type of seborrheic dermatitis that occurs in adults.
A dry, flaky scalp is typical of mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis. More severe cases have itching, burning, greasy scales overlying red patches on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis may be confused with severe dandruff. However, seborrheic dermatitis may also be found on the eyebrows, eyelids, forehead, ears, chest, armpits, groin, and the skin folds beneath the breasts or between the buttocks.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Moms: Try high-biotin foods
Nursing infants whose mothers ate foods high in biotin, such as liver and egg yolk, had improved cradle cap symptoms in one study.
An early study reported that nursing infants with cradle cap improved when high-biotin foods, such as liver and egg yolk, were added to the mother’s diet.1
Try a low-allergen diet
A low-allergen diet may be useful in treating cradle cap. The most common offending foods identified in one study were milk, wheat, and eggs.
A preliminary report suggested that an allergy elimination diet for an infant may be useful in the treatment of cradle cap. The most common offending foods identified were milk, wheat, and eggs.2 More research is needed to confirm the value of this approach in the treatment of cradle cap.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Apply a topical herbal cream containing 30% aloe emulsion
Topically applied aloe may help improve scaling and itching.
A crude extract of aloe(Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vera) may help seborrheic dermatitis when applied topically. In a double-blind trial, people with seborrheic dermatitis applied either a 30% crude aloe emulsion or a similar placebo cream twice a day for four to six weeks.3 Significantly more people responded to topical aloe vera than to placebo: 62% of those using the aloe vera reported improvements in scaling and itching, compared to only 25% in the placebo group.
Refer to label instructions
Biotin injections either for the infant or the nursing mother may be an effective treatment for cradle cap.
Preliminary studies have found that injecting either the infant or the nursing mother with biotin may be an effective treatment for cradle cap.4, 5 Studies of oral biotin have yielded mixed results in infants. Older preliminary studies and case reports suggest that 4 mg per day of oral biotin might be sufficient for mild cases of cradle cap, but 10 mg per day was required for more severe cases.6 Two more recent, controlled trials found that oral biotin (4 or 5 mg per day) produced no benefit.7, 8 Thus, the scientific support for using oral biotin to treat cradle cap is weak. The role of biotin in adult seborrheic dermatitis has not been studied.
Refer to label instructions
Topically applied borage oil may improve cradle cap symptoms.
A group of researchers found that infants with cradle cap appeared to have an imbalance of essential fatty acids in their blood that returned to normal when their skin rashes eventually went away.9 In a preliminary trial, these researchers later found that application of 0.5 ml of borage oil twice daily to the affected skin resulted in clinical improvement of cradle cap within two weeks.10
Refer to label instructions
Supplementing with folic acid has been shown to improve adult seborrheic dermatitis.
One physician reported that injections of B-complex vitamins were useful in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis in infants.11 A preliminary trial found that 10 mg per day of folic acid was helpful in 17 of 20 cases of adult seborrheic dermatitis.12 However, this study also found that oral folic acid did not benefit infants with cradle cap. A preliminary study found that topical application of vitamin B6 ointment (containing 10 mg B6 per gram of ointment) to affected areas improved adult seborrheic dermatitis.13 However, oral vitamin B6 (up to 300 mg per day) was ineffective. Injections of vitamin B12 were reported to improve in 86% of adults with seborrheic dermatitis in a preliminary trial.14 Oral administration of vitamin B12 for seborrheic dermatitis has not been studied.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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