Cradle Cap

The cradle cap presents as the skin rashes to the scalp (similar to dandruff) though they are thicker and harder to peel off. These are often prominent on the forehead, behind the ears, eyebrows, eyelids. They may appear in other parts such as the nose and groin.

Cradle cap is an extremely common skin disorder in newborn babies. As a matter of fact, about half of the babies are affected by it. The majority of which have a mild version while other babies rarely experience the severe version. In some cases, the condition persists until their toddler years and less likely in the latter years of their childhood.

Cradle cap

On the bright side, this condition is not itchy although if it becomes worst, it might itch] and contagious.

Cradle cap is the common term for infantile seborrheic dermatitis. Aside from that, this neonatal condition is also referred to as:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis (the adult version of cradle cap)
  • Crusta lactea
  • Milk crust
  • Honeycomb disease
  • Pityriasis capitis

This neonatal skin condition presents on the scalp as crusty patches; flaky or scaly scalp; can be dry like that of dandruff; oily and greasy; and even appear as yellow, pink, white, or brown scales.

Contributing factors that makes up the cradle cap

Cradle cap is not a result of poor hygiene, bacterial infection and allergies. As a matter of fact, until now, the cause of this neonatal condition is still unknown. Despite of that, here are the following factors that contribute to the cradle cap:

Pregnancy week by week

Hereditary hormones

Hereditary hormones are the ones that pass from the mother to the unborn baby. These in turn overstimulates the production of oil in the hair follicles.

Overactive sebaceous glands

Sebaceous glands (also called as seborrheic glands) are tiny and exocrine glands triggered by the hereditary hormones to secrete sebum (oily and waxy substance) to moisturize the skin and hair of mammals, particularly newborn babies.

The sebaceous glands tend to become overactive during this stage because the mother’s hormones are still circulating in the newborn’s body. This then result to the glands secreting sebum that helps old skin cells moisten and attach themselves to the scalp instead of becoming dry and automatically falls off.

Skin yeast infection

Fungal infection, particularly the malassezia furfur, is a genus of yeast (fungus) that grows in the oil glands along with the bacteria. This eventually appears on the mammals’ skin surfaces which include humans.

Biotin deficiency

Biotin deficiency refers to the rare nutritional condition caused by the insufficient volume of water – soluble B vitamin that is, the Biotin. This may be due to the partial influence of Biotin on fatty acid biosynthesis.

Signs and symptoms of Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is often mistaken with another skin condition, the infantile eczema. A major distinction between the two is that, eczema is usually the root of constant itching. On the other hand, this can also be a sign of another skin condition, the seborrheic dermatitis.

In addition to that, similar symptoms in older babies are more likely to be dandruff than the cradle cap.

To know what separates the cradle cap from an infantile eczema or adult dandruff, enlisted below are the distinctive differences between the two:

Common signs

Enlisted below are the common signs of having a cradle cap:

  • Patchy scaling
  • Flaky scalp
  • Oily skin covered with yellow scales that are difficult to peel off
  • Dry skin covered with thick and large white flakes that are difficult to peel off
  • Thick layers of dandruff or scales on the scalp
  • Mild redness of the scalp

Warning signs

Enlisted below are the warning signs of having a cradle cap:

  • Patches starts to spread and appears on his face and body parts such as the eyebrows and eyelids, behind the ears, nose, and groin
  • Scaly skin
  • Scalp becomes red and irritated
  • Baby has developed a thrush (fungal mouth infection) and/or fungal ear infection (ear infection that cannot be treated with anti – biotics)
  • Cracked and bleeding scalp and/or skin which provide a place for bacteria to develop and grow
  • Persistent diaper rashes
  • Impetigo – is a contagious skin infection which commonly affects infants and young children (and rarely on adults). Impetigo is the worse version of cradle cap that is caused by fungal infection and/or bacterial growth. presented by blisters and sores which usually appears on the face, neck, hands and diaper area
  • Occasionally, newborns with cradle cap are affected with immune disorders such that of diarrhea.

Curing options for the cradle cap

Did you know that cradle cap usually resolves by clearing up on its own within a few months (around 6 – 12 months old)? It commonly appears when he is 2 – 4 weeks old ( (around 3 months old) however some infants wear the cradle cap in a longer duration.

This condition does not require any medical condition but if it bothers a mother, there are a variety of treatment options available out there to prevent it from spreading.

Self – management

Enlisted below are the following self – management methods to prevent the cradle cap from worsening:


  • Wet the hair and scalp with lukewarm water and brush off the scales and flakes with a soft – bristled brush until its all gone (2 weeks in estimation)
  • Gently massage the baby’s scalp with wet hands to soften the scales


  • Gently rub the baby’s skin with a damp washcloth to loosen the scales (for easy peeling)


  • Wet the eyebrows (prevent it from getting into the eyes) with lukewarm water and brush off the scales and flakes with a soft – bristled comb until it’s all gone (2 weeks in estimation)

Homecare remedies


  • Topical anti – fungal treatments (either soap or shampoo) – dab anti – fungal treatments (preferably ketoconazole) to prevent the cradle cap from worsening
  • Clotrimazole – rub on some clotrimazole if the cradle cap is associated with fungal infection


  • Wash the baby’s scalp once a day (no more than once a day), every day with baby shampoo [either mild or organic] to soften up the scales and flakes. Leave the shampoo onto the scalp for a few minutes to help cut the secretion of oil. Afterwards, rinse out the shampoo thoroughly. Once the scales and flakes are gone, continue to shampoo the baby’s hair and scalp every few days to prevent it from building up. After shampooing, dry up the hair and scalp using a terrycloth towel
  • Brush the scalp using a soft – bristled comb or a fine – tooth brush [during and after rinsing off the shampoo] to peel off the scales and flakes gently. Take note to brush and shampoo the hair as much as possible
  • If the scales are still hard to peel off, swab on some petroleum jelly and leave it overnight. This then soften the scales which will fall off automatically as the baby sleeps. The mother can also brush off the cradle cap for hygienic purposes
  • An hour/s before taking a bath, add a few drops of pure, natural oil or ointment (such as plant – derived, mineral, almond, olive oil, and coconut oil) onto the baby’s scalp. This type of oil could clog the pores and cause the scales and flakes to stick. Leave the oil for a few minutes to hours (depending on the hardness of scales and flakes)
  • Make a paste from baking soda and leave it for 10 minutes to lift off the scales and flakes

Eyebrows and eyelids

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Baking soda paste
  • Diluted mild baby shampoo – pour a diluted mild baby shampoo on a cotton pad to cleanse the eyebrows and eyelid

Behind ears

  • Petroleum jelly
  • Baking soda paste


  • Baking soda paste


  • Miconazole – rub on some miconazole on the groin if the cradle cap there is associated with yeast infection
  • Petroleum jelly

Clinical trials

Opt to schedule an appointment with the pediatrician if the cases of the cradle cap are as follows:

  • If homemade remedies were unable to treat the cradle cap
  • Flakes and scales continue to spread beyond the scalp
  • Cradle cap becomes severe to the point that the baby begins to itch the patches, and these begin to bleed due to continuous itching

Preparing for the appointment

Prior to the appointment, here are the questions that a pediatrician will ask to the mother:

  • How long the baby has had the cradle cap?
  • How often the baby’s hair does is being shampooed?
  • The over – the – counter products that the mother has applied to the cradle cap
  • Self – management and homemade remedies that the mother has already tried before contacting the pediatrician

In addition to that, a pediatrician will suggest the following medical treatment options.


  • If the cradle cap has spread within the body, the pediatrician will recommend a medicated lotion and other alternatives
  • Hydrocortisone cream – slather on some hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and irritation
  • Medicated soap which contains 2% anti – fungal ketoconazole
  • Low – dose steroid cream


  • If the cradle cap persists and becomes worst, the pediatrician will prescribe a medicated shampoo
  • If everyday shampooing does not help, the pediatrician will recommend keratolytic shampoo, an adult dandruff shampoo

Eyebrows and eyelids

  • Ketoconazole shampoo and/or cream
  • Low – dose steroid cream


  • Ketoconazole shampoo and/or cream
  • Low – dose steroid cream


  • Low – dose steroid cream


  • Low – dose steroid cream
  • Medicated soap which contains 2% anti – fungal ketoconazole

Precautionary measures

  • Do not scratch the cradle cap
  • Do not and never leave the mineral oil in the baby’s scalp as it will worsen the cradle cap
  • During bath time, be sure to prevent the shampoo from getting in the baby’s eyes as to avoid irritation.
  • Do not purchase nor apply over – the – counter cortisone and anti – fungal creams without consulting a pediatrician. This is because some of these products can intoxicate the baby’s skin once absorbed. In line with this, dandruff shampoos with salicylic acid are not recommended to use on babies due to the same effect (skin intoxication once chemicals are absorbed in the skin)