Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

This is a common condition of infancy and is characterised by erythema (redness) and yellow scale on the scalp and sometimes the eyebrows. Unlike atopic eczema it is not itchy, uncomfortable or painful but can look unsightly.

It generally affects infants under three months of age, occurring mainly on the scalp (as cradle cap), eyebrows, face and limb flexures. It can also affect the nappy area.

It will generally clear on its own with mild emollient therapy—for example, emollient bath once daily and application of emollient creams.

It may be necessary to use a mild topical steroid on the affected areas of skin, but your doctor will assess and advise which treatment is necessary.


  • Bath once daily in a bath emollient
  • Apply moisturiser twice daily
  • Apply any medicated creams as directed by the dermatology nurse.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap varies in severity from mild covering of dry flaky skin to a thick scaly scalp. It is generally a greasy yellow scale with a tell-tale crusted appearance.


  • Use a bland emollient or petroleum jelly to gently massage onto the scalp and leave for 30 minutes. Oil must not be left on the scalp as it can block hair follicles and cause subsequent infection—therefore a mild baby shampoo is recommended to wash it off.
  • A soft baby comb/brush or cloth can then be used to gently remove loosened scales
  • Do not pick at the scales as this can lead to damage of the hair follicle and result in permanent hair loss.

If scalp has an offensive odour, there may be a secondary infection.

You may be given a cream by the doctor to treat this. It should be applied after the treatment detailed above.

If you have any worries or concerns please contact your GP.


Was this page useful to you?

Share this page