Family health

How to take care of your kids' dry scalps

Keep kids’ scalps healthy, and their hair looking great, with these simple strategies.

By Karen Robock
How to take care of your kids' dry scalps

Photo by ktaylorg/

Even little heads of hair can be bothered by seemingly grown-up issues, says dermatologist and director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre, Benjamin Barankin. But, you can banish itchy scalp, pesky flakes and oily strands. Here’s how.

Fight those flakes
An oily scalp causes dead skin cells to bind together as they shed, creating bigger, more noticeable flakes. An over- growth of the sebum-loving fungus called malassezia can also develop, resulting in even more of the white stuff. Regular use of a medicated shampoo containing zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide will solve the problem. The adult formulations are safe for kids but should be used carefully because they can irritate eyes.

Soothe a scaly scalp
Large yellowish flakes on your baby’s scalp could be cradle cap, a condition caused by a buildup of sebum and sometimes fungus. Washing more frequently can help, but if the scalp is thickly crusted, this home remedy might do the trick: Rub a small amount of olive oil into the scalp, wash hair normally, then brush off loose flakes with a soft toothbrush. Cradle cap isn’t usually anything to worry about, but if the skin looks swollen or doesn’t clear up within a few months she may need an oral antibiotic or medicated lotion.

Say bye-bye to oily hair
Oily hair is a common problem as kids hit puberty, but some younger children also experience greasy-looking strands. If they have fine, straight hair — as opposed to thick, curly locks — the excess oil will be more obvious. Oily hair can be solved with daily shampooing using a gentle, fragrance-free product. Skip the conditioner altogether, or alternate with a leave-in spray applied just to the ends.

This article originally appeared in our June 2012 issue with the headline "Lock Lustre" (p. 36). For more conversations about kids' health visit our community message boards!

This article was originally published on May 30, 2012

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