Some babies are completely bald, some have a thick head of hair that would make Rapunzel jealous!!  How should you care for your baby’s hair? Will it stay the same colour, texture and as curly? How do you treat cradle cap?  As a new parent, you’re bound to have lots of questions, and here we hope to answer them…

Will my newborn baby’s hair change colour?

It is common for children who had very light coloured hair as a newborn or young baby to have darker hair as they get older. Although the reasons are not very clear many think it is to do with pigmentation.

Eumelanin determines the colour of your baby’s hair. A lot of eumelanin means your baby will have dark hair and a small amount means he will have blonde hair. As his parents, you give your baby the genes for making eumelanin. Some of these genes will be on and some will be off. Hair colour is not necessarily ‘dominant’ which explains why your baby may have different hair colour and texture to either of his parents or even siblings. Quite simply, the more ‘on’ genes a baby has, the more eumelanin he makes and the darker the hair. The same principal works for texture. The levels of these pigments increase as a child gets older, often contributing to the changing hair colour.

Why does my newborn have hair on his shoulders and ears?

This thin, soft hair is called lanugo and is common. All foetuses grow it in the womb. It usually disappears by 36 to 40 weeks gestation, which explains why babies born early are especially likely to have it.

Health visitor Debbie Honer says, “This usually rubs away in time. As your baby begins to move around, the hair will gradually disappear.”

It is normal for this hair to remain for 4 or 5 months and is especially noticeable on dark haired babies.

Dr John Pillinger says, “This isn’t unusual. Every hair follicle on the head alternates between a growing phase (anagen) and a resting phase (telogen) before the hair is shed (catagen) and the cycle starts all over again. About one sixth of the hairs on the average head will be resting or falling out at any one time. Most adults lose approximately 50-100 hairs each day. More dramatic hair loss of this nature is relatively common in young babies and is usually followed by gradual regrowth.”

Is it normal for a baby’s hair to fall out?

Sometimes it’s a surprise to find that your baby, who was born with a full head of hair, is experiencing some hair loss and thinning. This is something that happens to many babies, although the timing can differ. “It varies, either before delivery or right after birth during those first few weeks of life,” says Dr. Stephen Muething of Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The cause is relatively unknown, although it may have to do with hormone levels. Just as it disappears, new hair grows at varying times. “Some babies have a full head of hair shortly after they are born, but usually during the nine- to twelve-month range you can begin to see hair growth. Although, some babies can go until their first birthday and still be bald,” says Dr. Muething.

Will shaving my baby’s head make his hair grow thicker?

Hair expert Karen Shelton says that this is a common myth with no scientific proof. “The reason that this all started was because when people do get their hair cut it just appears to be thicker. In reality, it is not.” She says cutting the hair makes it look healthier but adds, “It does not help it grow faster and/or thicker.”

My 10 month-old doesn’t seem to have much hair, is this normal?

Don’t focus on the hair, look to the scalp for answers. If your baby’s scalp looks healthy, the hair loss is just a normal part of being a baby. A healthy scalp looks soft, with no scaling, redness, or oozing. If these symptoms occur it is best to discuss it with your GP who can prescribe a topical ointment. She adds that if hair growth is still sparse by age two, a doctor should look into the cause.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is quite a common condition in young babies where a scaly rash and general redness develops on the scalp. It doesn’t itch your baby or hurt them in any way and usually clears up on its own.

However, most parents don’t like the look of it and if you want to treat it, health visitor Debbie Honer suggests olive oil as the best treatment. She says, “Rub some oil on to your baby’s scalp covering the cradle cap, leave this to soak in for as long as possible (a couple of hours will do), then get a soft baby brush and gently rub the cradle cap in a circular motion.

“Do not panic when you see that the scalp is very red, this is just the new skin underneath the cradle cap. This should completely clear it, but you will find that you need to repeat this process every couple of weeks.”

When should my baby have her first hair cut?

There are no hard and fast rules about this but most babies have their first haircut at about a year old. Some parents choose to do it themselves, others will visit a salon or barbers as it allows the professional to cut while mum or dad keeps baby happy. Hairstylist Judee Norton-Andrews says, “”In most cases, babies hair is fine and makes for a quick cut – just a basic haircut to get the hair out of their eyes and keep them looking well-coiffed.”

How often should I shampoo my baby’s hair and which shampoos are suitable?

Paediatrician Karen Wiss suggests that you do not over wash your baby’s hair as it can dry the scalp and cause cradle cap. She says, “Wash your baby’s hair no more than every other day, using a gentle baby shampoo.”

This advice is supported by hair specialists everywhere. Karen Shelton says, “Shampooing can be done on an ‘as needed basis’ and does not have to be done every day.”

Many manufacturers make shampoos especially for baby hair. The big advantage of these is that they do not contain many of the sulphates present in adult shampoos. They are therefore much milder and kinder to eyes. However, Karen Shelton warns, “One relatively unknown danger from traditional baby shampoo is the pH balance. While baby shampoos formulated specifically for babies are less prone to stinging if they get into the eyes, when they contain a high pH (which many do), they may cause unnecessary tangling of the baby’s hair. Whether you use a special baby shampoo or some other type of mild shampoo, it is important that they contain a balanced pH. This means a pH factor that falls in the 4.5 – 6 range.

My baby hates having his hair washed any tips?

Most babies dislike having their hair washed because it means getting water in their eyes. One way round this is to wrap them in a large towel and hold them under your arm so that they are leaning backwards over a bowl of water.

How should I treat head lice?

We really hope you don’t have to deal with this one for a few years, as head lice are most common in children aged 4-11 years, but it’s important to know that they can occur in people of all ages. They are spread by close head to head contact, so if you have an older child who has become infected at school, your little one could get them too.

Nits are the eggs laid by the lice which hatch in seven days and mature into adult lice after 10 days. There are two ways to treat lice.

  • Wet combing (non-insecticide method)

This involves using a fine-toothed plastic comb and lots of conditioner on wet hair to part the hair in sections, find the lice and remove them. The combing needs repeating every two to four days until all the lice have hatched and been removed by combing

  • Insecticide lotions and rinses

These are quite powerful (some are only available on prescription) and should be used carefully, following the instructions. Some head lice are resistant to certain insecticides so you may need to try several types before successfully killing them off

However, consultant dermatologist Michael Sladden says it is important to make sure lice are present before treating.

“Treatment should not be applied unless live lice are discovered, in order to minimise the development of drug resistance,” he says. “Automatic treatment of family members is not necessary, but contacts should have detection combing for live lice and be treated if positive.”

And GP, Dr Jo Lee says, “Most preparations are considered safe to use in children over six months,” although she recommends that you check with the pharmacist when you collect the product.

Why does my baby have a bald patch at the back of her head?

As your baby spends a lot of time on her back in the first six months, a lot of friction from the floor or mattress can cause this sort of hair loss.

“We have noticed that since parents have been advised to lay babies on their backs to reduce the risk of cot death, this has become more noticeable,” says Dr Jo Lee. “However, it is not a problem.”

Once your baby becomes more active and is able to roll and crawl, the pressure and friction on the back of the head will not be so great and the bald patch will gradually disappear.

How should I wash my baby’s hair?

If your baby hasn’t got much hair, you only need to rinse his scalp during the bath, by pouring some water over it with your hand or a jug. Longer-haired babies may need a tiny drop of mild shampoo applied to wet hair and then lathered up and rinsed off. The easiest way to hold your baby for hair washing is to support his head and shoulders as he lies in the bath, and pour the water over with your other hand.