Cradle Cap – Everything You Need to Know

New baby

Let’s talk about Cradle Cap

As a new parent, you, of course, want the absolute best for your tiny bundle of joy, and you will naturally want to protect them at all costs.

However, as a new parent, you will not help but worry about your newborn, particularly if you notice any changes in their temperament and appearance.

Cradle cap can be particularly concerning for new parents, which we want to talk about today.

Also known as Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis, this condition affecting the scalp of infants may look unsightly and somewhat dramatic, but thankfully it is nearly always nothing to worry about.

Want to learn more about the condition known as cradle cap?

Sit back, get comfortable, and let’s learn more about it.


What is Cradle Cap?

‘Oh no, there are patches of sticky yellow stuff on my baby, what the heck is it?

If you notice your baby’s scalp has patches of a sticky and yellow substance on it, don’t worry, it’s nothing serious to worry about; it’s almost certainly what is known as cradle cap.

Essentially the baby equivalent of dandruff, cradle cap, can cause greasy, sticky, and flaky patches to appear on the scalp of babies, on their eyebrows, on their eyelashes, and anywhere else on the body, too, for that matter.

On the scalp, it may present itself as dry and flaky areas of skin. Incidentally, when it is located on parts of the body other than the scalp, that’s when it is referred to as seborrheic dermatitis.

When these patches feel away and flake off, they may even take the hair with them.

Though it can affect older children, usually, you’ll find that cradle cap is most common in children aged eight months and younger, with symptoms becoming visible around three months after birth.

While not serious in terms of health and wellness, baby’s cradle cap is still a condition that needs addressing, and the more you know about it, the easier it will be.

Cradle cap is a common skin condition in infants where the baby’s scalp develops scales. These are typically harmless and will go away on their own, but they can be removed with medicated mild baby shampoo.


Does Cradle Cap Bother My Baby’s Hair?

Naturally, you want your baby’s scalp to be as healthy and comfortable as possible, and if you notice they have patches of dry skin on them and areas of yellow, sticky oil, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would bother them.

In reality, most babies are unfazed by cradle cap and don’t even realize they have it, though it can become itchy and bothersome for a select few.

Wash the baby’s hair with mild, unperformed baby shampoo regularly to loosen the flakes which can be gently rubbed off using a soft brush.

Gently rubbing oil on your baby’s scalp before bedtime may help soften crusts overnight – for example, baby oil, olive oils, or petroleum jelly, should do the trick!

In the morning wash your baby’s hair with mild baby shampoo, and finish with a soft brush to wash away or clear up excess seborrheic dermatitis.


Seborrheic Dermatitis

Cradle cap is also known as Seborrheic dermatitis, and it’s a common skin condition that mainly affects the baby’s scalp.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that usually appears as scaly patches with red bumps on the surface of your skin. It can affect areas like the face or neck where oily substances are produced in abundance, but it might also cause patchy scales to form around eyebrows, ears or eyelids.

Luckily there are many natural remedies available which work just as well – such as petroleum jelly and lotions from over-the-counter products found at most pharmacies

Usually, the Doctor will diagnose cradle cap with a mild steroid cream.


What is cradle cap caused from?

Experts generally agree that fluctuations in hormones cause cradle cap after a baby is born. In addition, these hormone fluctuations can lead to secretions from the oil glands, which causes that tell-tale yellow sticky stuff.

The good news is that as the baby ages, these hormone levels tend to balance out, which is why cradle cap often clears up on its own.

However, a theory that cradle cap may be caused by a unique fungal infection, though more evidence is needed to support this theory.


Can I pick my baby’s cradle cap?

As is often human nature when we see patches of flaky skin, our first instinct is often to pick it. However, if your baby has cradle cap, it will almost certainly not bother them at all, so the best advice here is to leave it alone.

If you pick the flaky skin, this could irritate your child’s skin, cause a rash or a blister, lead to infection, and hurt your baby, which is the last thing you will want.


What gets rid of cradle cap fast?

Even though your baby probably has no idea it has cradle cap, you’ll still want them to recover and get their skin healthy as soon as possible.

One remedy for cradle cap on the scalp is to gently massage a neutral mineral oil or petroleum jelly onto the scalp, leave it to soak in and soften the flaky skin, and then use warm water to rinse it away and gently wash your baby’s hair.

Be sure not to leave the oil on your baby’s scalp for too long, as this could make the cradle cap worse.


Treating cradle cap on the face

If your baby has cradle cap on their face, go ahead and use a neutral oil such as olive oil and a clean, damp face cloth and gently massage the oil onto the affected area.

Leave the oil to soak in for 30 minutes and then gently rub and massage the flaky skin patches with the face cloth, and the scales of skin should come right off.


Can you just leave the cradle cap alone?

Cradle cap is nearly always not dangerous or painful, so it is perfectly fine to leave it alone to clear up by itself. In fact, messing with it could make it worse.

So, yes, you can just leave the cradle cap alone.


When should I see a doctor or pediatrician?

If you notice that the cradle cap is causing red and inflamed skin, discharge, if it looks swollen or infected, has broken the skin, or is noticeably bothering your baby, seek medical advice just to be on the safe side.


Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health 


Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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