Baby With Cradle Cap

What Is Cradle Cap and How Can I Soothe My Baby’s Skin?

Are you noticing scales or flakes of skin on your baby’s head (or elsewhere on her body)? This may be infantile seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, as it’s more often known. This skin condition is quite common, and although it can look a little unpleasant, it isn’t harmful to your baby. In fact, it usually clears up within just a few months. Unfortunately, there aren’t any quick cures for cradle cap, but there are some things you can try to help soothe your baby’s skin.

What Is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap consists of thick, crusty, oily, or scaly patches that appear on your newborn's scalp. It can sometimes be accompanied by mild redness or a rash on her head. Cradle cap may also appear on your baby’s face — including the ears, eyelids, and nose — and in the groin area. The good news is that this condition isn't contagious, and it generally isn’t painful or itchy. Plus, it won’t leave any scars.

Cradle cap can be easy to confuse with conditions such as eczema or dandruff, but your GP can help confirm a diagnosis. Unlike eczema, cradle cap usually isn’t itchy or uncomfortable.

Sometimes cradle cap appears past the newborn stage, when a baby’s a little older or is even a toddler. It tends to last for only a few months, and often clears up on its own. In some cases, cradle cap may last a year or more, and a medicated shampoo or cream may be required to help it clear up.

Cradle Cap Causes

It’s not known what causes cradle cap, but experts say it's not caused by poor hygiene or an allergy to something you’re using. It comes from the production of too much oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles, trapping dead skin cells. Another contributor may be malassezia, a yeast (fungus) that grows in the sebum along with bacteria.

Washing your baby's hair with a mild baby shampoo every few days might help prevent cradle cap.

Is It Possible to Treat Cradle Cap?

These thick white or yellow scales aren't easy to remove, but these cradle cap treatments may help reduce the build up of scales on the scalp:

  • Wash your baby's hair regularly with a mild baby shampoo as you bathe your baby. You can ask your midwife or health visitor to recommend a shampoo specifically designed for cradle cap. Then use a soft brush to gently brush over and loosen the scales.
  • Soften your baby’s scalp with baby oil, before gently brushing and then wash off with baby shampoo.
  • Try massaging petroleum jelly or vegetable oil onto your baby's scalp and leave overnight. Wash your baby’s hair in the morning with shampoo.

When to See Your Paediatrician

See your GP if shampooing doesn’t help, if the cradle cap seems severe, or if it has spread to your baby’s face or body. Your doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo or cream, or an anti-fungal treatment. Although you might have heard of natural or home remedies for cradle cap, it’s best to ask your doctor before trying any of these.

Cradle cap can look unpleasant, but in time, it will clear up. You may also be interested in reading more about general baby skin care tips and how to treat nappy rash.

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