Pediatric Dermatology Consult

A 2-month-old infant with a scalp rash that appeared after birth

A 2-month-old male is referred to our pediatric dermatology clinic for evaluation of persistent seborrheic dermatitis. The mother reports that he presented with a rash on his scalp a few days after birth. She has been treating the crusted areas with clotrimazole and hydrocortisone and has noted improvement on the crusting, but now is worried that there is some scarring. The affected areas are not bleeding or tender. There are no other rashes elsewhere in the body.

He was born at 36 weeks from a 35-year-old gravida 1 para 0 woman with adequate prenatal care. The mother was diagnosed with preeclampsia and was induced. She had a prolonged labor and had premature rupture of membranes. The baby was delivered via cesarean section because of failure to progress and fetal distress; forceps, vacuum, and a scalp probe were not used during delivery. He was admitted to the neonatal unit for 5 days for sepsis work-up and respiratory distress. No intubation was needed.
Besides the preeclampsia, the mother denied any other medical conditions and was not taking any medications. He has met all developmental milestones for his age. He has no history of seizures.
On physical exam, there are semicircular patches of alopecia on the scalp. Some areas have pink, rubbery plaques with loss of hair follicles. On the frontal scalp, there are waxy plaques.
There is a blanchable violaceous patch on the occiput and there are some erythematous papules on the cheeks.

What is your diagnosis?

Aplasia cutis

Neonatal lupus

Scarring seborrheic dermatitis

Halo scalp ring

Dissecting cellulitis

With the perinatal history of prolonged labor and prolonged rupture of membranes, the diagnosis of halo scalp ring was made. This occurs secondary to prolonged pressure of the baby’s scalp with the mother’s pelvic bones, uterus, or cervical area, which causes decreased blood flow to the area, secondary ischemic damage, and in some cases scarring and hair loss.1

Dr. Catalina Matiz, a pediatric dermatologist at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, San Diego

Dr. Catalina Matiz

The degree of involvement is variable as some babies have mild alopecia and others have severe full-thickness necrosis and scarring. These lesions also can present with associated caput succedaneum and scalp molding, but these were not seen in our patient. Predisposing factors for halo scalp ring include caput succedaneum, prolonged or difficult labor, premature or prolonged rupture of membranes, vaginal delivery, vertex presentation, first delivery, as well as prematurity.2 On physical examination, a semicircular patch of alopecia with associated scarring, crusting, or erythema can be seen in some more severe cases. Most of the published cases of babies affected also had associated caput succedaneum.3

The differential diagnosis includes aplasia cutis. In aplasia cutis, there is congenital loss of skin on the affected areas. The scalp usually is affected, but these lesions can occur in any other part of the body. Most patients with aplasia cutis have no other findings, but there are cases that can be associated with other cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, or central nervous system abnormalities. Neonatal lupus also can present with scarring lesions on the scalp, but they usually present a little after birth, mainly affecting the face. The mothers of this children usually have a diagnosis of connective tissue disease and may have positive antibodies to Sjögren’s syndrome antibody A, Sjögren’s syndrome antibody B, or antiribonucleoprotein antibody. Seborrheic dermatitis does not cause scarring alopecia. The lesions present as waxy scaly plaques on the scalp, erythematous waxy plaques behind the ears, face, and folds. Some patients can have hair loss secondary to the inflammation, but the hair grows back once the inflammation is controlled. Dissecting cellulitis is a type of scarring alopecia seen in pubescent and adult individuals. No cases of neonatal dissecting cellulitis have been described.

Halo scalp ring is not associated with any other systemic symptoms or syndromes. Extensive imaging and systemic work-up are not required unless the baby presents with other neurologic symptoms. The areas can be treated with petrolatum and observation as most lesions resolve.

In cases of extensive areas of scarring alopecia, referral to a plastic surgeon can be made to consider tissue expanders or scar revision prior to the child starting school if the lesions are causing psychological stressors.

The true prevalence of this condition is unknown. We believe halo ring alopecia is sometimes not diagnosed, and as lesions tend to resolve, most cases go unreported.

Dr. Matiz is a pediatric dermatologist at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, San Diego. Email her at [email protected].


1. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(7):673.

2. Pediatr Dermatol. 2009 Nov-Dec;26(6):706-8.

3. Dermatol Online J. 2016 Nov 15;22(11).pii:13030/qt7rt592tz.

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