Cradle Cap

Topic Overview

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is an oily, yellow scaling or crusting on a baby's scalp. It is common in babies and is easily treated. Cradle cap is not a part of any illness and does not imply that a baby is not being well cared for.

See a picture of cradle cap.

What causes cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the normal buildup of sticky skin oils, scales, and sloughed skin cells.

How is it treated?

Home treatment is usually all that is needed for cradle cap.

  • An hour before shampooing, rub your baby's scalp with baby oil, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly to help lift the crusts and loosen scales.
  • When ready to shampoo, first get the scalp wet, then gently scrub the scalp with a soft-bristle brush (a soft toothbrush works well) for a few minutes to remove the scales. You can also try gently removing the scales with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Then wash the scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and gently towel dry.

When should I call a health professional?

If the above measures do not work, talk to your health professional before using a dandruff shampoo, such as Selsun Blue, Head and Shoulders, or Sebulex. If these products get in your baby's eyes, they can cause irritation. Your health professional may prescribe other medications.

Cradle cap is not harmful to your baby. It usually goes away by a baby's first birthday.

Credits

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last Updated June 30, 2009

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