What is cradle cap?

Many babies develop red, scaly patches of skin on their scalps. This is a harmless skin condition called cradle cap (seborrheic dermatitis). Cradle cap is very common in infants. It usually disappears over a period of weeks or months.

Cradle cap does not spread from person to person. It is rarely itchy and uncomfortable for your baby. It is not due to an allergy or poor hygiene, and will not leave scars.

What causes cradle cap?

The exact cause of cradle cap is unknown. Overproduction of skin oil or a type of yeast in the oil may contribute to the condition.

What are the symptoms of cradle cap/seborrheic dermatitis?

  • Redness and crusty yellow or brown scales on the scalp
  • Redness and scaling on eyelids, in the creases of the neck and armpits, and behind the ears
  • Spreading to the face and diaper area

How is cradle cap treated?

If your baby’s seborrheic dermatitis is confined to the scalp, you can treat it yourself:

  • Wash daily with mild baby shampoo
  • Softly brush hair to help remove the scales
  • If your pediatrician approves, you may use stronger medicated shampoo (antiseborrhea shampoo with sulfur and 2 percent salicylic acid)
  • After scales disappear, cut shampoos to twice weekly

For stubborn scaling and redness, your pediatrician may also recommend drugs such as cortisone lotions or creams. Call your pediatrician if the scaling and redness gets worse after home care, forms crusts, drains liquid, or becomes very red and painful.

How can cradle cap be prevented?

Once cradle cap has been cleared up, shampooing with mild baby shampoo two or three times a week should prevent it from returning. Most children outgrow cradle cap by the time they are 1 year old.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/11/2015…#15786