baby with cradle cap

What is Cradle Cap? How to Get Rid of Cradle Cap Gently

Are you a new mom or dad perplexed by the irritated, scaly skin on your baby's scalp? You may be wondering what is happening with your little one and what you can do to help. 

Cradle cap is a common condition that affects many babies throughout the first few months of life, but is generally harmless. To ensure that you have all the facts when treating cradle cap, read on for an in-depth look at this harmless yet irritating condition.

What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is a common, non-contagious rash found on babies' scalps. It appears most prominently in the first few months of life, in the form of yellow, greasy, and sometimes scaly patches on baby's head. Additionally, cradle cap can appear behind the baby's ears and around the baby's neck as well as on the baby's eyebrows, eyelids, chest, or groin area. It is generally harmless and goes away on its own over time. However, if a baby experiences pain due to the presence of cradle cap or if it does not go away after 6 weeks, parents should contact a pediatrician for treatment advice.

What Causes It?

Cradle cap is caused by an overactive sebaceous gland that produces too much oil and leads to inflammation of the baby's skin cells, resulting in the formation of crusty scales and flakes. Though the exact cause of cradle cap is unknown, it typically appears in babies within their first few months of life and usually resolves with regular bathing and gentle brushing. Though sometimes unsightly, cradle cap is generally harmless and mostly goes away without special treatments or medications.  

What Are The Symptoms?

Common symptoms include scaly and yellow patches on the baby's scalp, eyebrows, eyelids or behind the baby's ears. It may also spread to the baby's neck, armpits or diaper area. If left untreated for too long, cradle cap can cause baby discomfort and itchiness. Consulting a healthcare provider is important for proper diagnosis and treatment options to alleviate this condition.

Who Is At Risk?

Cradle cap is found on babies’ scalps. Despite frequent occurrence in roughly 70% of newborns, there is still uncertainty about who exactly is at risk for developing cradle cap. In general, babies ages 1 month to 1 year are most likely to develop this condition, but genetic factors from the baby's parents can predispose the child to cradle cap development. Additionally, some studies suggest that certain skin microbiomes may lead to a baby becoming susceptible to cradle cap; however, no definitive answer has been reached yet. Ultimately, any baby could potentially develop cradle cap, and parents’ awareness that the condition exists can help with treatment and prevention.

Related Link: 5 Ingredients to Avoid for Sensitive Skin

How to Prevent Cradle Cap

Taking special care of your baby’s scalp is the best way to prevent cradle cap. The most important thing to do is to keep your baby's scalp clean. This means gently washing the baby's head with a baby-safe shampoo at least twice a week, and afterward, lightly brushing the baby's scalp to ensure all the excess oil and dead skin cells have been removed. Be sure to avoid scrubbing the scalp as this can irritate your baby’s delicate skin; instead, use light circular strokes and be wary of scratching baby’s tender scalp. Afterward, you can use moisturizing oils such as olive or almond oil (mixed with any pH correcting serum) and massage it into the baby's scalp at least once a week. This helps keep your baby’s scalp free from dryness and ensures circulation so that cradle cap does not form in the first place.

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How is Cradle Cap Treated

Treatment for cradle cap typically involves gentle brushing with a baby brush, combined with daily shampooing with baby shampoo or non-drying soap. After bathing or showering, it may be helpful to apply mineral oil or baby oil to the baby’s scalp in order to soften and loosen the scaly patches. Another treatment option if cradle cap persists is steroid cream prescribed by a doctor, which could provide relief from flare-ups and help gradually reduce overall inflammation. Lastly, it is important to keep the baby cool and dry while this condition resolves itself, as sweat can worsen flare-ups.        

Related Link: How to Bathe a Newborn or Infant: Baby's Bath Guide


person touching baby head


Safe Ways to Get Rid of Cradle Cap


As a parent, cradle cap can be stressful to deal with. Here are some safe and easy methods to help treat the symptoms of cradle cap while providing relief for your little one's delicate skin. 

1  Loosen & Remove Crust

For those looking for ways to help manage and relieve a baby's cradle cap without harsh chemicals, gentle loosening and removal of the crusty patches through wiping with a muslin cloth and warm water is an effective method. As always, take care to ensure you are gentle while wiping the baby's cradle cap affected areas in order to ensure both safety and comfort during treatment.

2  Use Baby Oil

Baby oil is an easy, effective way to naturally get rid of cradle cap, a type of baby acne. To use baby oil, simply massage the scalp with the oil for about three to five minutes. This helps break up any white or yellow flakes and moisturizes the baby's scalp. Let the baby oil sit on their head for around 10 to 20 minutes before gently brushing off any remaining flakes and then rinsing with lukewarm water. When finished, dry the baby's head thoroughly with a soft towel, and you can also apply a thin layer of baby oil depending on how dry their scalp is. 

3  Massage Baby's Scalp

Massaging a baby's scalp is one way to help reduce some of the symptoms of this condition. Massage the baby's scalp with gentle strokes so that the affected areas can be softened. Make sure that the baby remains calm throughout this process while you are massaging their scalp. This method has been known to help reduce the flaking and drying of cradle cap in babies and may encourage healthy hair growth. With consistent and gentle massaging, parents should notice results quickly.

4  Gently Shampoo

One of the most important components of treatment is daily shampooing with a gentle baby shampoo or one specifically designed for cradle cap. Start by washing the baby's scalp with warm water and baby shampoo and gently massage in circles with your fingertips. Then rinse thoroughly with warm water. Cradle cap should gradually decrease as the baby's scalp is cleansed. Be sure to avoid shampoos that contain harsh detergents or fragrances and use only baby-safe solutions, so the baby is kept comfortable and safe.

5  Use a Mild Cream

Another effective way to help sooth cradle cap is the use of a mild cream on baby's scalp. The cream should be applied twice a day, for a few weeks. It is important to always use moisturizers that are specifically formulated for baby's delicate skin and not products meant for adults, as the ingredients in those products can cause more harm than good. 


sleeping baby


When to Visit the Doctor


Cradle cap usually resolves on its own. It presents as dry, scaly patches on the baby's scalp which can sometimes cause redness or irritation. However, if you notice that the baby seems uncomfortable or distressed, or if the rash does not improve after a few weeks of simple home remedies, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. A doctor can evaluate the baby for other causes of rash and infection, and take appropriate steps to address them. If cradle cap persists despite trying self-care strategies at home, don't hesitate to visit your pediatrician for advice and treatment.  

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Dealing with Cradle Cap

Dealing with cradle cap can be a frustrating experience for both parents and babies. But by following the tips in this blog post, you should be able to successfully treat your child’s cradle cap without too much trouble. And if you're looking for some amazing skincare products to help keep your baby's skin healthy and moisturized, be sure to check out our site. 

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