If you have ever had dandruff then you know how embarrassing and hassling it can be. The little white flakes that develop on your scalp are more than unsightly; they’re disgusting. Dandruff is especially terrible for young kids and teenagers who must deal with peer pressure while already being self-conscious about the way they look. Luckily, dandruff is not harmful in any way besides to a kid’s self-esteem. On top of that, there are ways to get rid of it.
What is dandruff?
Ordinary dandruff is something that millions of people deal with every day. There are dozens of over-the-counter shampoos to deal with it, and usually it goes away pretty quickly. However, toddler dandruff is something just a little different. It is sometimes called “cradle cap” and isn’t rare at all.
The scientific name for it is “seborrheic dermatitis” or “seborrhea.” It develops on the scalp of a child and appears to be a scaly, ugly patch of dry skin. This particular type of dandruff is extremely common in children, but adults can get it too regardless of their race.
What does it look like?
Seborrhea is a type of toddler dandruff that is easy to spot. It looks like little flakes of white, yellow, or brownish skin on the top of your little one’s head. Interestingly, it can actually form on any part of the body that is overly oily. Common areas where you might see dandruff developing on your child are:
- On the eyebrows.
- In the crease of the nose.
- On or around the groin area.
- In the armpits.
- On the eyelids.
- On or behind the ears.
- Inside the bellybutton.
- On the back of the neck.
Be sure to check often to see if your child has any seborrheic dermatitis developing on their body. Remember that if you do find some, it is not a medical emergency and can be treated pretty easily.
Are there any side effects to dandruff?
Aside from toddler dandruff being very unsightly, it can also be somewhat uncomfortable for your child. The area might start to itch once it becomes too dry or crusty. The condition may cause some local redness and on rare occasions minor hair loss was experienced by those children whose parents did not treat it properly. However, be advised that any hair lost as a result of seborrheic dermatitis will eventually grow back once the condition is treated.
Also be aware that malassezia (a type of yeast fungus) and bacteria can both grow rapidly within the sebum of the dandruff if not properly cleaned.
*NOTE: Dandruff, though sometimes genetic, is not contagious at all. It is also not indicative of having poor personal hygiene.
What causes dandruff?
Knowing what causes toddler dandruff can help you to avoid or treat it. Unfortunately, the exact causes for seborrhea are unknown. However, some experts believe that it is caused by the over-production of oil in the glands of a person’s body. This hormonal component may be what’s responsible for the presence of seborrhea in teenagers and other people with unbalanced hormonal levels. Still, dandruff tends to form under the following conditions as well:
- The skin is too dry.
- Other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or acne already exist.
- Washing hair too much or not enough.
- Using harsh products on the hair.
- Members of the family have seborrhea.
In general, the sex of the child determines his or her chances of ever developing dandruff. Usually, males are more likely to get seborrheic dermatitis than females, but that doesn’t mean females won’t ever deal with it. In addition, it seems as though oily skin and lots of stress can play a role as well. Moreover, immune system disorders and neurological diseases might also factor in on the development of seborrhea.
What are the best treatment options for toddler dandruff?
Usually, toddler dandruff can be remedied by washing the area daily with a gentle and hypoallergenic shampoo which can help to remove buildup. Those children with extreme cases of dandruff might seek the assistance of a doctor or dermatologist. Special shampoos and creams can be given with a prescription and applied to the area without many side effects. You may have to try a few different kinds of over-the-counter shampoo to find the one that works for your child, if that is the route you choose.
While trying to find the best shampoo to treat your child’s seborrheic dermatitis, consider the following options:
- Ketoconazole – an antifungal that is also available by prescription.
- Zinc Pyrithione – a shampoo which kills the fungus that causes seborrhea.
- Salicylic Acid – removes flaky skin cells from the scalp, may cause excessive dryness.
- Selenium Sulfide – slows the rate that your skin cells die while fighting the fungi that cause dandruff.
- Tar-based – prevents skin cells from flaking off or dying too quickly.
Begin the treatment regimen by following the instructions on the product or products you choose. In general, you want to wash the area at least once per day until the situation starts to improve. After you see progress, start washing the area once or twice per week.
*TIP: Be sure to gently massage the shampoo into the scalp or affected area. Let it sit there for at least 3 to 5 minutes before you rinse it out. Because some dandruff shampoos can have unpleasant smells, it is perfectly acceptable for you to follow up by re-washing your child’s hair with a regular shampoo or rinsing it with a light conditioner.
Important things you need to know about toddler dandruff
Keep in mind that you can always speak to a doctor or dermatologist if the shampoos or treatments you choose don’t work for your child’s toddler dandruff. It may then become necessary for you to use prescription-strength products such as antifungal lotions or steroid creams. Go over the side effects with your health care professional before making your choice.
Regardless of your path, realize that some cases of dandruff produce areas of the skin that are lighter than others, especially in people with dark complexions. However, the patch will eventually turn back to normal over time. Additionally, please note that seborrhea is a chronic condition, which means that it cannot be cured – only treated. To keep it under control you must do your best to detect the problem before it gets out of hand.