Cradle Cap: What Is It and How to Treat It

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Cradle cap is a commonly seen skin condition in new baby’s.

It is common for your new baby to experience a skin condition as they adjust to life outside the womb. 

These conditions are usually noticed by your baby’s healthcare provider. Typically at their first well check-up.

Discover the best way to treat cradle cap naturally. 

What is Cradle Cap? 

Cradle cap is a crusty or oily patch that is most commonly found on your baby’s scalp. 

It typically looks like thick white or yellow scaly patches. They are difficult to remove and don’t come off with regular shampooing. 

The medical term for cradle cap is seborrheic dermatitis. 

Cradle cap can be found in places other than the scalp. It can be on the forehead, eyebrows, behind the ears, on the neck,  in the diaper area, the armpits, or other skin folds on the body. 

Cradle cap is self-limiting. Self-limiting means that if it is not treated it will eventually go away on it’s own. 

Baby’s up to three months of age are more likely to have cradle cap. Though it can last for a year, or longer. 

Sometimes cradle cap continues all the way through toddler-hood. 

What Causes Cradle Cap in Babies? 

The exact cause of cradle cap is not known. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is believed that there is a combination of things that may cause cradle cap. 

Cradle cap may be caused by the combination of too much oil being produced by the oil glands and yeast that grows in the oil. 

Excessive oil production may be caused by the hormones that a mother passes to her baby before birth. 

Cradle cap is not caused by dirty hair or by the foods a breastfeeding mother eats. It is also not contagious. 

removing cradle cap naturally from baby's scalp and face

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How To Treat Cradle Cap in Babies? 

Cradle cap is self-resolving and will go away on its own, in time. It can take weeks, months, and in some cases years for cradle cap to resolve. 

However, there are ways to treat cradle cap. Once cradle cap is treated, it rarely comes back. 

Apply Oil to Scalp

The first step in treating cradle cap is applying oil. The oil should be gently rubbed in a circular motion, to the affected areas. If your baby still has soft spots, you must take extra care in these areas to not push down. 

Allow the oil to stay on the area for ten minutes. 

If your child does not have any allergies, then you can use olive oil or coconut oil on the scalp.

Personally, I prefer this all-natural oil. Calendula has proven to be effective on many types of rashes, yeast infections, and wounds.

Scrub With Brush

Once the oil has softened the cradle cap you can use a soft-bristled brush, or cradle cap massager, to loosen the cradle cap. 

You will gently rub the scalp, in a circular motion, with the brush/massager. This will allow the cradle cap to loosen from the baby’s scalp. 

Wash Hair

You should wash your baby’s hair once you have softened and loosened the cradle cap. 

A gentle baby wash is ideal. 

This soap is specially created for cradle cap. 

Comb through hair

The loosened cradle cap will need to be combed out after washing the hair. 

A fine toothed comb will work best to remove the loosened bits from the hair.

Comb in the direction of the hair growth, from the scalp to the end of the hair. Be extra careful around any soft spots on the baby’s scalp. 

How to Prevent Cradle Cap in Babies

If your baby has not has cradle cap, there is no real way to prevent it.

However, once you have treated cradle cap, you can help to prevent it from returning by washing your baby’s hair every 4-7 days using a mild baby shampoo. 

Continuing to use a soft-bristled brush regularly, brushing in the direction of hair growth, may help prevent cradle cap from reappearing. 

Cradle Cap in Babies

Does your baby have cradle cap? What have you tried that doesn’t work? Have you tried any remedies that have worked?

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

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