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Paula Prezioso, MD

Cradle Cap

Baby’s got a flaky scalp? Here’s how to spot cradle cap and how to get rid of it.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the nickname for seborrheic dermatitis when it’s just on baby’s head. If your baby has cradle cap, she probably has dry, pink patches on her head and some waxy, scaly peeling.

What are the symptoms of cradle cap?

Cradle cap is noticeably different from other infant rashes because of its waxy texture and its location: on baby’s scalp, forehead, eyebrows, ears and/or behind the ears, but not on other parts of the body.
Are there any tests for cradle cap?

Nope. Usually, doctors can diagnose cradle cap just by examining baby’s rash.

How common is cradle cap?

It’s pretty run-of-the-mill. Cradle cap is most common when baby’s two to four weeks old and typically resolves by her first birthday.

How did my baby get cradle cap?

We don’t know! There really isn’t a known cause. But many babies with cradle cap experience dandruff as older children and adults.

*What’s the best way to treat cradle cap?
Try using baby oil or ointment and following with a soft brush to remove the scales. In severe cases, baby’s pediatrician may recommend a dandruff shampoo, since seborrhea is really dandruff. And (rarely) she may recommend a low-dose steroid cream to resolve any severe redness.

What can I do to prevent my baby from getting cradle cap?

Washing baby’s hair every few days with a gentle shampoo may help prevent cradle cap. Don’t worry if baby does get it, though: It doesn’t bother her, and it will likely slowly clear up over the next few weeks or months.

What do other moms do when their babies have cradle cap?

“Both girls had cradle cap, and it is awful. We bought some cradle cap shampoo for like $3 at Target and just put it on their heads at bath time and brushed their hair with a brush or comb. Sometimes I would get their hair wet and kind of rub it off with my finger. It took about two weeks to go away, but theirs were mild cases.”

“I noticed after my baby’s bath the other night that she had developed some cradle cap on her scalp and on her eyebrows. I try olive oil, so I did. I put it on with a cotton ball and left it on for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then I washed her hair and brushed her scalp and even her eyebrows with a soft baby brush. It did wonders! I was just blown away by how good her skin looked right away and even better the next morning.”

“We just brushed it once a day (with warm water and a hairbrush), and two weeks later, it's pretty much gone.”

Are there any other resources for cradle cap?

American Academy of Pediatrics’