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How to treat cradle cap

4 cradle cap tips from dermatologists

The scaly, greasy patches on your baby's scalp are called cradle cap. Follow these dermatologist tips to loosen and remove the scale to help treat cradle cap at home.

Your new baby has the softest skin — however, maybe you’ve noticed scaly, greasy patches develop on their scalp. These patches are a type of seborrheic dermatitis called cradle cap.

Cradle cap is harmless and goes away on its own after a few months. Although treatment is not necessary, there are steps you can take at home to help loosen and remove the scale. To treat cradle cap at home, board-certified dermatologists recommend following these tips.

  • Wash your baby’s hair more frequently. For most babies, shampooing as frequently as every other day can help soften the scale and reduce cradle cap. However, if your baby has eczema or another skin condition, follow your dermatologist’s directions about how often to bathe your baby.

  • Use the right shampoo. Use fragrance-free baby shampoo. However, if washing your baby’s hair with this shampoo isn’t enough to keep the cradle cap in check, switch to one formulated to treat this condition. Look for the term "cradle cap" on the label, or ask your dermatologist for a recommendation.

  • Gently massage away the scale when shampooing. For more stuck-on scale, use a non-food-based oil (like baby oil) to help soften the scale and make it easier to remove. Apply the baby oil to the scalp before bathing, then shampoo while gently massaging the scale with your finger. You can also carefully use a baby brush during your baby’s bath to help remove the scale in their hair. You can also use a baby comb. Never scratch or pick at cradle cap, as this could cause an infection.

  • Know when to see a dermatologist. If your baby has a severe rash spreading beyond their hair; pain or a disruptive itch; hair loss; or an odor coming from the rash, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist, who can offer prescription treatments.

Cradle cap tends to improve by six to 12 months of age. If you notice your baby’s symptoms worsening, or if you have questions about treating your baby’s skin, hair, or nails, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.

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Written by:
Brooke Schleehauf

Reviewed by:
Erin Ducharme, MD, FAAD
Matthew Elias, MD, FAAD
Laurel Geraghty, MD, FAAD
William Warren Kwan, MD, FAAD
Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, FAAD
Bassel Mahmoud, MD, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 8/17/22