Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Truth About Infant Hair Loss

Its very mention makes grown men quake in their boots, and chances are good your baby will (or already has) experience it. We’re talking about hair loss (or alopecia). It is common for babies to lose their hair during the first six months of life. This is because hair alternates between two stages—a growing stage and a resting stage. In newborns all of the hair follicles reach the resting stage at the same time, causing them to fall out in bunches. This is nothing to worry about, however, as the fallen follicles will soon be replaced by thicker, often darker hair.

Curbing Cradle Cap

Cradle cap, a common (but temporary) skin condition in infants under 6 months of age, causes flakey or crusty patches to appear near the back of the head or just above the eyebrows. These patches are often red and have an oily, scaly feel to them. In more advanced cases, the scales will become thicker and take on a yellowish tint.

Fortunately, you can clear up cradle cap in just a few weeks by washing your baby’s hair each day with a mild shampoo. This will soften and loosen the scales, allowing you to brush them out delicately. For more stubborn scales, apply a modest amount of mineral oil to your baby’s scalp before shampooing, and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Use a soft brush to gently remove the scales; shampoo when done. If the scales remain or worsen after a couple of weeks, contact your pediatrician, who may prescribe a cortisone cream or lotion.

How to Wash Baby’s Hair

Unless your baby has cradle cap or has gotten her hair dirty, you don’t need to wash her hair more than once or twice a week. To wash your newborn’s hair:

  • Place a washcloth or cup your hand across her forehead to help keep water out of her eyes.

  • Dampen her head gently with a washcloth or cupped hand.

  • Apply a pea-sized blob of mild shampoo to your baby’s scalp. Gently massage the entire head, including the area over the fontanels (soft spots), until you work up a nice lather.

  • Rinse out the shampoo using a small plastic cup filled with clean, lukewarm water. (Bath water should never exceed body temperature, 98.6° F.) Repeat as necessary, always remembering to shield your baby’s eyes from soapy water.

  • Pat dry with a soft, clean towel.

Safety Tip

If your baby shows excessive hair loss after 6 months of age, contact your pediatrician immediately. She may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency and require medical treatment.