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Cradle Cap

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

Cradle cap, a type of seborrhoeic dermatitis, is a skin condition common in babies. It usually occurs in their first six weeks. It causes yellow scaly patches on the scalp or face that can appear oily. A red rash can emerge under the scales or in folds of skin such as the groin area.

In most cases this gets better on its own over two to eight weeks. It is not harmful to your baby and should not cause them discomfort or to be unwell.

Adults do not get cradle cap, but they may suffer other forms of seborrhoeic dermatitis, such as dandruff or a red flaky rash over their nose and cheeks.

Doctor’s advice

Is it contagious?

This condition is not contagious.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Cradle cap will usually clear by itself, but you can try some products to help things along. These aim to gently cleanse the skin and moisturise the scalp. Use a gentle shampoo to clean the scalp at bathtime – non-fragranced or hypoallergenic is preferable.

Don’t try to pick off the scales as this risks infection, let them come off naturally or use a very soft brush while the shampoo is on to gently loosen and remove the dead skin flakes.

Soon after bathing, and whilst the scalp is damp, gently pat it down with a towel and use a baby oil or coconut oil to moisturise the scalp. This will help to lock in moisture and prevent build-up of dry scale on the scalp. Coconut oil can also be applied daily to moisturise the scalp between washes – it has the added benefit of natural antifungal properties. Dentinox cradle cap shampoo is one example of a gentle shampoo that contains coconut oil derivatives and other additives to get to work on cradle cap.

Other vegetable-based oils can be used, but avoid peanut oil as this can introduce the risk of allergy. Avoid soap on cradle cap as it can irritate.

When should I see my doctor?

Seek advice initially from your pharmacist if it has persisted for more than three to four weeks, you think it may be infected or irritating, or if there is any bleeding.

The doctor will ask for any relevant medical history, ask what you've tried already and examine the area to confirm it is cradle cap. They may prescribe an antifungal plus a steroid cream, depending on severity and the baby’s age. Only use these on a doctor’s suggestion, don’t buy it over-the-counter.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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