Many parents ask “How do I treat scalp eczema in babies?” Sometimes it’s confusing because it can be mistaken for other similar medical problems, such as cradle cap. It’s important to get the right diagnosis from your child’s physician before starting treatment. Unfortunately, scalp eczema is a common inflammatory skin condition and affects many children and babies. Some studies show that up to 20% of children may be affected by eczema. ­[1]

Eczema in babies is commonly present on the scalp and forehead. It can also affect other areas of the body such as cheeks, arms, legs, etc. In this article, we will talk about eczema on the scalp of babies. Causes of eczema on scalp and treatment will be discussed as well. We will also discuss how eczema can be differentiated from other similar conditions and some ways to prevent it.

treating scalp eczema in babies

What does eczema on the scalp look like?

Eczema on the scalp of babies may appear as dry, rough patches of skin with scales. Sometimes, it can resemble dandruff scales. It can also appear as moist and weeping on the scalp. In very bad cases, the scalp can appear very red and swollen. [2]

Causes of Scalp Eczema

Like eczema on other parts of the body, eczema on the scalp is related to family history (i.e. genetics) and allergies, especially food allergies. Eczema tends to run in families in most cases. If one or both parents of the baby have eczema, the child is more likely to have eczema. Sometimes, scalp eczema in a baby may also be due to contact allergy. In some babies, contact with different kinds of shampoo and chemicals in hair products can cause eczema on the scalp. ­[1] ­[3]



Can it be something else?


Eczema on the scalp may be confused with some other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis (AKA cradle cap). Please see your physician who can easily distinguish between cradle and eczema on the scalp.


Seborrheic dermatitis (AKA cradle cap) is the most common skin condition that is confused with eczema on the scalp. It should be kept in mind that seborrheic dermatitis appears during the baby’s second week of life and may persist until 4 to 6 months. At this point, it tends to go away on its own. It is mostly mild and self-limiting and appears less red than scalp eczema. The rash in cradle cap (click link for more information about cradle cap) is not itchy or painful, which is the opposite in the case of scalp eczema.  [3]


Treatment of Scalp Eczema

Ok, so let’s start answering your question, “how to treat scalp eczema in babies.” Treatment of eczema on the scalp is very similar to the treatment of eczema on other parts of the body.


A) Frequent baths should be avoided


Experts recommend that you should avoid frequent baths if your baby is suffering from scalp eczema or any other form of eczema. The concern is that this may dry out the skin. If you do decide to bathe daily, make sure to moisturize. A LOT!  [4]


B) Avoid drying of the scalp skin


If the skin on the scalp dries out, it may exacerbate eczema. Dry skin increases itching which can further worsen the condition. This leads to the vicious cycle of the itch-scratch cycle(Click link to find more information about how to stop itching). Hypoallergenic oils may be added to bathwater in order to prevent itching or drying of the skin. Jojoba oils are considered to be helpful for sensitive skin.  [4]


C) Use oil to remove the scales


The scalp can become dry and scaly in eczema. I have tried oils such as olive oil and coconut oil to help soften and loosen the scales. It is advised to gently massage the oil on the scalp of the baby before giving him a bath. Once the oil has softened the scales, they can be removed by gently rubbing the scalp in a circular motion with a soft brush or fine-tooth comb. [5]


D) Use a moisturizer on the skin


A moisturizer can be used on the area of scalp affected by eczema as well. This will help reduce dryness and redness of the skin. It will also prevent itching at the site of eczema. Unscented moisturizer is the way to go. Sometimes fragrances can irritate sensitive skin. The use of moisturizers is best right after a bath because the scalp of the baby is still moist. This helps lock in the moisture. [4]


Prevention of Scalp Eczema


At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any intervention will decrease the chances of having scalp eczema in babies. Regardless, general practices such as maintaining good hygiene of the baby, keeping baby in good health, avoiding contact with any allergen, etc. can help prevent eczema flare ups to some extent. ­[1]


Some doctors advise avoiding shampoo for children under one year. There is concern that it can dry and irritate the skin. If you decide to get shampoo for our child, make sure it’s a gentle shampoo (click link for best eczema shampoo) and works well with eczema. I personally use the Mustela Foam Shampoo, which works well for my child and it is very gentle. Of course, talk to your physician first. [5]




Scalp eczema is a type of eczema or atopic dermatitis in which dry, rough, itchy patches are formed on the skin of the baby’s scalp. There is a genetic component to it and also can be triggered by allergens.  Scalp eczema should be differentiated from other similar skin conditions such as cradle cap, psoriasis, etc. It is highly recommended to see your physician regarding the correct diagnosis. Make sure to take good care of eczema on your child’s scalp. This includes avoiding frequent washing of the scalp, drying out the skin, using an ointment to remove scales and using a moisturizer afterward. Some interventions can be helpful in preventing scalp eczema flares ups although no scientific evidence exists for such practices. I hope this article helps you answer questions about how to treat scalp eczema in babies.