Cradle Cap: Causes and Treatment

Team Peanut8 months ago4 min read

With its funny color and crusty appearance, cradle cap can look a little scary. But while you might expect it to cause discomfort or pain for your little one, it almost certainly won’t. In fact, it is harmless, and should disappear all by itself in a matter of weeks or months.

Cradle cap

So, what is cradle cap? And is there a way to treat it? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the common name for infantile seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that occurs in newborn babies. The symptoms? You’ll notice oily skin, crusty or scaly patches, and white or yellowish areas — usually on your baby’s head. However, cradle cap is a bit of a misnomer. The symptoms can also appear on your baby’s nose, ears, eyelids, and/or diaper area.

While cradle cap can look a little unpleasant, it is painless. If your baby’s skin condition seems to be causing them discomfort, itching, or pain, it probably isn’t cradle cap. Instead, it’s possible your baby has eczema, or atopic dermatitis. If you are in doubt about your baby’s skin condition, it’s a good idea to talk with your pediatrician.

What causes cradle cap?

Are you wondering how to prevent cradle cap? As we’ll learn, doctors aren’t really sure what causes it. But we do know that cradle cap is definitely not your fault, and it probably can’t be prevented. Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes.

No one is sure what causes cradle cap, but doctors tend to think it all comes down to hormones. When your baby is still in your tummy, you are sharing all sorts of things with each other through the placenta. It’s possible that too many hormones pass from you to your little one and overstimulate their oil glands. The excess oil causes dead skin cells to stick to your baby’s head rather than falling off.

Another possible cradle cap cause is a particular fungus called malassezia. This guy is responsible for many cases of dandruff in adults. It lives in oil on the scalp and may cause dead skin to crust up and peel excessively. It is not harmful and won’t cause any long-term problems.

Some other things to know about cradle cap:

  • It’s not contagious – meaning that your baby hasn’t caught it anywhere.
  • It is not a sign of bad hygiene or uncleanliness. It’s just there through no fault of anyone’s – and will disappear in a few weeks or months.

How to treat cradle cap

What is the fastest way to get rid of cradle cap? As we said, cradle cap doesn’t necessarily need treatment. However, we get that some mamas don’t want their babies to look like the before picture on a dandruff shampoo ad. So, how do you get rid of cradle cap on babies? Here are a few things that should do the trick.

  • Rub vegetable oil or petroleum jelly onto the affected areas. This can loosen the flakes and help them come off easier when you shampoo.
  • Wash your baby’s hair and scalp (or other affected area) with a gentle baby shampoo. With the shampoo still in, you can use a very soft, fine-toothed comb to gently loosen the flakes.
  • Gently rub baby’s scalp with a damp cloth. “Gently” is the keyword here.

And a common question: can I pick my baby’s cradle cap? It’s probably best not to. Scratching should be avoided too. They can both cause infection.
But like we said earlier, you can definitely just leave your baby’s cradle cap alone. The flakes will fall off on their own soon enough, revealing that baby-soft skin we all know and love.