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Cradle Cap

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap (also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis) is a skin condition. Scaly patches develop on the top of your baby's head. The skin on your baby's face, ears, or groin may also be affected. Cradle cap may be caused by a fungal infection, a baby's oil glands, or by hormones passed to the baby from his mother during pregnancy.

What are the signs of cradle cap?

  • Patches of scaly or flaky skin
  • Greasy skin that has white flakes or yellow crusts
  • Red patches of skin
  • A diaper rash, or a rash on another part of his body

How is cradle cap diagnosed and treated?

Your baby's healthcare provider may know he has cradle cap by looking at his skin. Tell him when the scales appeared. Tell him how often you wash your baby's hair and the kind of shampoo you use. Treatment may not be needed. Cradle cap usually goes away between 6 and 12 months of age. The following can help treat, manage, or prevent cradle cap:

  • Mild baby shampoo may help control cradle cap. Wash your baby's hair once per day. Your baby's healthcare provider may recommend a stronger shampoo if the cradle cap does not improve. You may need to use an adult dandruff shampoo or a shampoo that contains antifungal medicine, such as ketoconazole. Do not use these shampoos unless directed by your baby's healthcare provider. Do not let the shampoos get into your baby's eyes.
  • Remove scales when you wash your baby's hair. Do not pull on the scales. This can spread infection and may cause hair loss. If the scales do not come off easily when you wash your baby's hair, apply mineral oil or olive oil to the skin before you shampoo. Let it sit for 1 hour. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove the scales. Then shampoo your baby's hair as usual.
  • Medicines may be given as creams to apply to your baby's skin. Antifungal cream helps treat scales that appear on your baby's body. Antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream helps treat inflammation or red skin. Do not use over-the-counter creams unless your baby's healthcare provider says it is okay. Some creams are dangerous when they are absorbed into a baby's skin.

When should I contact my baby's healthcare provider?

  • Your baby has new or worsening signs.
  • Your baby's cradle cap does not improve, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.