Toddler dandruff may be uncomfortable or visibly unnerving, but it need not be long-term. There are many reasons dandruff occurs, and with some insight into lifestyle factors and personal habits, many cases of dandruff can be prevented. There are also home remedies, in addition to medicated dandruff shampoos.
There are two main culprits in the creation of dandruff, according to the National Institutes of Health: sebum (skin oil) and yeast (malassezia). Both ingredients occur naturally on the scalp and in a state of health, lubricate the skin without buildup as the yeast eats the excess oil. However, when the yeast is overproduced and eats up too much of the sebum, the scalp becomes overly dry, spurring the normal process of skin regeneration to speed up. Too many skin cells are produced, and the excess flakes off as dandruff.
Differentiating Dandruff and Cradle Cap
Parents whose toddlers have dandruff may first consider whether the child has ongoing cradle cap. Cradle cap is a scaly rash that begins as a red, irritated scales and may build up and spread across the skin, becoming yellow in color due to accumulated oil. Cradle cap is most common in newborns and is rare past age 3, according to the British Broadcasting Service (BBC). However, cradle crap typically doesn’t itch, and the excess skin is often stuck to the scalp and must be removed by the parent. Dandruff is characterized by an itchy scalp with more obvious skin flaking.
Dandruff Due to Sunburn
Toddlers playing outdoors may develop a sunburn that leads to a peeling scalp, warns the website babycenter.com. Since playing in the shade may be difficult in the summer, toddlers should at least wear hats for sun protection and non-comodogenic sunscreen for the face and neck.
Dandruff Due to Shampoo, Soap or Laundry Products
Wiggling toddlers may not sit still in the bath, leading some parents to dry them off before the shampoo has been thoroughly rinsed out, says babycenter.com. The shampoo may dry on the scalp and flake off, causing parents unnecessary worry. The website recommends using at most a dime-sized amount of shampoo and spending twice as much time on rinsing as washing. Keep in mind that toddlers may also develop skin allergies to shampoos, soaps or laundry products, which may lead to irritation, itchy skin and flaking skin. Moreover, therapeutic dandruff shampoos may be too harsh for toddlers and further irritate their scalps. Parents may need to try dye- and fragrance-free cleaning products, avoid hair styling products, and consult a dermatologist for shampoo recommendations.
Dandruff and Diseases
Toddlers who experience other skin conditions, such as eczema, may be prone to developing dandruff, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Moreover, parents must be vigilant to determine whether an itchy, flaking head is lice or ringworm. Have your toddler sit in a brightly-lit room, part his hair, and observe the scalp. If your child has lice, they will quickly move away from the light. However, toddlers with scaly patches and adjacent hair loss may have ringworm, which is also contagious. The AAP encourages parents to obtain professional medical advice for all of these conditions.
Toddler Dandruff Strategies
Parents may need to brush toddler hair gently but thoroughly before the bath, to loosen any skin that can further be removed by washing. Avoid hot water and hot air settings on a hairdryer, which can further dry or irritate the skin. Parents can encourage toddlers to eat healthfully to support skin health and immunity. They can also keep an eye on the toddler’s calcium levels, because it helps develop the protein found in hair follicles. Before using over-the-counter medicated dandruff shampoos that are formulated for adults, parents may consult a dermatologist to get appropriate advice and products.