Cradle Cap: What Is It And How To Get Rid Of It

Mom brushing baby's hair

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If you notice your baby’s head getting dry and flaky with some yellow crusty patches, it could mean that he/she is suffering from cradle cap or infantile seborrheic dermatitis.

This condition is quite common among babies but it is also harmless so no need to worry. Although it could look alarming, it isn’t actually itchy or painful.

There are some ways you can try to prevent cradle cap as well as remedies to treat it.

Here’s what you need to know about infants cradle cap:

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is a common condition affecting around 70% of babies usually in the first 3 months of their life. It is when your baby’s scalp becomes irritated and is visible in the form of dry patches of skin/ flakes.

Think of it like baby dandruff that is harmless. It isn’t contagious and it also just goes away on its own, most of the time.

Often, cradle cap occurs on the child’s head but it may also appear on the ears, eyelids, eyebrows, armpits, diaper area, or the back of the neck – basically in the creases. Some babies may also just be born with this condition.

Cradle cap is noticeable around 3 weeks to 6 months of age and can clear up at around 6 to 12 months after, but in some rare cases, children up to 3 years old might still have it.  

There could be different factors affecting when does cradle cap go away. For mild cradle cap, you don’t need to worry too much about it lasting too long but for more severe cradle cap, a fungal infection could occur.

This is when your doctor could prescribe a steroid cream like hydrocortisone to treat the problem.

There are also some instances and situations where you need to contact or see your doctor:

  • when home treatments don’t work
  • the rash is getting worse and spreading throughout the body
  • the rash is getting itchy and causing hair loss
  • there is bleeding
  • there is oozing of fluid
  • your baby seems to be scratching and getting irritated by it
  • the skin becoming redder.

Related: 14 Must-Have Items For Your Baby’s Medicine Cabinet

What cradle cap looks like

Cradle cap usually is yellowish in color and is greasy, thick and flaky. It is different for every baby, but it is usually found grouped together. It is also rough and hard when you touch it.

You can also notice a slight oily scent but it shouldn’t be too pungent since this could mean it has turned into a yeast infection and would need to be addressed by your doctor asap.

It may look like it could be itchy, but it isn’t and it doesn’t correspond to any allergies and doesn’t mean any future allergies for your child.

What causes cradle cap?

There is no definite reason why cradle cap happens but some doctors believe that hormones from the mother are the reason for the overproduction of oil from the sebaceous glands.

Because of the extra oil on the scalp, the natural shedding of the skin is interrupted and a build-up of dead skin will start to accumulate on the scalp. This excess of oil and build up is what causes the yellowish dry flakes of skin.

Another possibility is irritation from the yeast coming from the sebum that could cause a problem. There has been no evidence though that cradle cap is caused by any form of allergies or because of poor hygiene.

There are also other theories out there:

  • Bacterial imbalance in the gut – this usually happens when antibiotics are given during a C section.
  • Yeast infection – when there is an imbalance of the Malassezia yeast in the body, it can lead to dandruff.
  • Weak immune system – if you aren’t breastfeeding, your baby might not be getting enough nutrients to build up and keep a strong immune system. This is another reason why breast milk is beneficial and can protect your baby against different illnesses.
  • Lack of nutrients – when there are certain nutrient deficiencies, your baby will have a higher chance of getting cradle cap. Make sure your baby gets enough zinc, B6, selenium, or manganese in order to minimize the risk of cradle cap.  

Related: Colic Remedies: How To Provide Colic Relief To Your Baby

How to prevent cradle cap

Many moms out there would take a look at their baby’s cradle cap condition and wonder what they can do to prevent it from happening.

There is no sure way of preventing cradle cap since it is a natural and normal occurrence, but there are some things you can do to try to control or minimize it:

Regular cleansing and brushing of baby’s scalp

By shampooing baby’s scalp every day and also brushing it using a soft brush, you are making sure there is no buildup of those flakes and dry skin.

Prevent scalp irritation

As tempting as it is to pick on a rash or your baby’s flaky scalp, it is best to not to do this so that you can prevent irritation and infections. The more you leave it alone, the faster it will heal and clear up by itself.


Breastfeeding is one way you can ensure baby is getting proper nutrients or feeding your baby nutrient-rich foods when they are starting to eat solids. To keep skin health at its optimum, you can also incorporate omega 3s, biotin, zinc, and vitamin D either through food or supplements.

You can even use a few drops of cod liver oil to cradle cap sores or place under baby’s tongue. By addressing nutritional issues with diet or supplements, you can get into the root cause and prevent cradle cap as best as you possibly can.

Using probiotics

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Using probiotics can up baby’s gut flora and prevent cradle cap. If baby is being breastfed, mom can incorporate more probiotics into her diet like eating fermented veggies, yogurt, kombucha, or sauerkraut. If your baby is bottle fed, you can add infant probiotics to the formula.  

Cradle Cap Remedies

There are times when cradle cap doesn’t need to be treated and will just go away on its own, but there are also multiple ways to treat it if you wish to do so.

Aside from letting it run its course, treating cradle cap can be done at home most of the time using remedies that don’t require a prescription. Just remember to always be gentle and take your time.

Here are some cradle cap remedies you can try out:

Olive oil

This provides moisture for baby’s scalp and loosens up those flakes. Aside from this, it can also help to soothe the skin and reduce any inflammation.

Massage a bit of the oil onto baby’s scalp with your fingers and use circular motions or use a cradle cap brush to work it into the scalp. Leave it for a bit, around 10 to 15 minutes to let it work its magic.

You can then rinse thoroughly with a gentle shampoo afterward. Make sure there are no residues left behind. Never leave oils overnight though since this could clog the pores worsen cradle cap.  

Additional Oils For Cradle Cap:

  • Almond oil
  • Raw, vegetable oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Baby oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Mineral oil

You can also use shea butter or calendula infused cream to provide that nourishment and ease inflammation. Vaseline is also another option you can use to soften those tough flakes of skin.

Baking soda

This exfoliant is alkaline and is also useful for removing those scales and flakes. You can mix a ratio of 1 part baking soda to 1 part of water and massage on baby’s scalp. You can also mix baking soda with shampoo or even coconut oil.  


Using a humidifier in baby’s room can prevent the skin from drying out and keeps it moisturized which can help address cradle cap.

How To Get Rid Of Cradle Cap

There are many simple and effective ways you can treat cradle cap. For mild cases of cradle cap, you can begin by shampooing and brushing your baby’s scalp. While you can still see those flakes and scales present on baby’s scalp, simply apply a mild shampoo once a day.

After the patches have disappeared, you can shampoo two times a week. Brushing your child’s scalp is also important since it helps prevent thick buildup.

If the cradle cap has spread to other parts of the body, you can check with your doctor for other creams that you can use.

It is important to also let those flaky areas soften before you remove them in order to prevent removing some of the baby’s hair. You can also use a terrycloth towel to dry the scalp while massaging it at the same time.

Patience is key when it comes to treating cradle cap. You may have to repeat the same routine for a while. But surely in time, the symptoms of cradle cap will subside.

Cradle Cap Brush

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This tool is specially designed to remove cradle cap. Generally, cradle cap brushes are a fine tooth comb with soft bristles. Soft or natural bristles are important so that it won’t damage or irritate the scalp.

Make sure you are brushing from different angles to get everything out. It is also essential to clean and wipe your cradle cap brush frequently so you won’t be putting back those flakes on the baby’s head.

Cradle Cap Shampoo

Mustela Foam Shampoo, 5.07 oz
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You can try using a regular hypoallergenic baby shampoo. Pick a product that is gentle enough yet also cleanses baby’s scalp well.

If regular mild baby shampoo isn’t doing the job, you can start to try shampoos that are made especially for cradle cap. These would usually contain beta hydroxy acid and salicylic acid.

Mustela’s Foam shampoo is a gentle shampoo that you can use to treat cradle cap. It also contains an antifungal agent which can help with the condition.

Be sure to prevent from over washing as well so you won’t make the condition worse.

Coconut Oil For Cradle Cap

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There have been findings that virgin coconut oil is the best kind of oil to use as an effective skin barrier. It also has antibacterial properties making it extra beneficial.

Massage it unto the baby’s scalp concentrating on those flaky areas and wait 10 to 15 minutes before brushing it off to remove the flakes. You can then wash it off ensuring that all the coconut oil is gone and the baby’s scalp is clean.

You can do this every two days until cradle cap is gone.

Cradle cap is something that most moms will have to deal with. But luckily, the condition won’t last long and isn’t harmful for your baby.

By following a routine, you can treat cradle cap without difficulty. There are also other various methods that can be used to address infant cradle cap. What’s great is that cradle cap cures are not that complicated and it can easily be remedied.

If you do notice that the cradle cap has come back, don’t be discouraged since this is totally normal. You can always repeat the same treatment and keep up with your routine and it will again go away.

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