Cradle Cap on Babies


Congratulations on your beautiful baby! Now, what in the world are these flakes on her eyebrows, the yellow or brown crust scale on his scalp, and the weepy red rash under the neck and armpits?

What is Cradle Cap (Seborrheic Dermatitis)?

Cradle cap on babies starts as early as 3-4 weeks after birth. Some other ways this condition may be referred to are: seborrheic dermatitis (the official medical term), crusta lacteal, milk crust, pityriasis capitis, or in Spanish, “costra lactea.”  All of these are synonyms for the same thing.

It causes yellow, greasy, crusty scales to develop on the scalp. Even though it is more common on the scalp, it can also appear on the eyebrows, behind the ears, in the armpits and groin area. 

The crust color of cradle cap depends on the pigmentation of your baby’s skin. The crust can be white, yellow or brown. In lighter skin tones, the scales may appear yellow or white, while in darker skin tones, they may appear brown.

Some other common symptoms of cradle cap that the baby may experience are:

  • Inflammation
  • Redness beneath the scales
  • Thick scales 
  • Crust attached to the scalp or hair
  • Red, moist skin (behind the ears and in folds)

Despite the cradle cap on babies looking unpleasant, it usually does not bother the baby nor is it contagious. 

Sometimes, people will say there is dandruff on the baby’s head or think that this may be related to poor hygiene. But the truth is it is not related to hygiene. It is caused by something that is a bit out of your control.

What Causes Cradle Cap On Babies?

The medical community believes that this cradle cap on babies comes from naturally occurring yeasts/fungus known as Malassezia yeast on the skin that eats an oily substance called “sebum.” 

Sebum is produced by “sebaceous glands” on a baby’s body, and its role is to protect the skin from irritants and keep it moist. 

When there is an overproduction of sebum, it encourages the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast. When both of them combine, they make an irritating byproduct that irritates the skin and causes excess flaking. 

The natural skin barrier is thus disrupted, and then the skin becomes more permeable, allowing for more irritation. Almost everyone (from newborns to adults) has this yeast on the scalp and body, but not every baby has cradle cap. 

It is thought that maternal hormones and the immune system can trigger the overproduction of sebum and contribute to the development of cradle cap.

Cradle Cap VS Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis causes itchy scales and flakes on the scalp that can affect anyone. It is more common in adults. It is considered a severe form of dandruff and usually appears as white or yellow greasy scales and flakes on the scalp.

However, cradle cap is limited to babies. It appears on the baby’s scalp, face, ears, and armpits during the first year of their life. It usually appears as thick, greasy, yellow or brown crusty scales.

Cradle cap can also persist in toddlerhood but does not continue into adulthood. It is also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis.

How to Get Rid of Cradle Cap in Babies

Cradle cap may not require any medical treatment, but as a parent, you may want those weird scales to disappear from your baby’s scalp as soon as possible. 

We can help you with that. Here are a few things you can do at home to eliminate the scales and prevent future build-up.

Cradle Cap Shampoo

What Shampoo is Good for Cradle Cap?

Washing the baby’s scalp is essential to get rid of cradle cap fast. You can use a gentle non-medicated baby shampoo to clean the baby’s hair and scalp.

But to get better results and faster, it is best to use a cradle cap shampoo specially formulated for babies. A cradle cap shampoo like Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc is a great choice.

Pyrithione zinc is known to be effective in managing cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff. It controls Malassezia yeast’s growth, which reduces scales building-up.

  • Wash the baby’s scalp daily with cradle cap shampoo.
  • While shampooing, use your fingers, washcloth or scrub to massage the scalp gently.
  • Massaging the scalp will help remove excess scales from the scalp.
  • Once the scaling and flaking are reduced, use the cradle cap shampoo two or three times a week.
  • If you are unsure about which shampoo to use, consult a pediatrician.

Cradle Cap Brush

Another routine to help improve your baby’s cradle cap is to gently brush their scalp. Use a cradle cap brush, these are specially developed to help reduce the scaling and flaking associated with cradle cap.

  • Gently brush the baby’s scalp in circular motions with a cradle cap brush.
  • It is best to brush while shampooing, as the scales become softer at this time and can be easily removed.
  • Remove only those scales that are easily coming off the scalp.
  • Choosing the right cradle cap brush is important as some brushes might be too harsh for the baby’s scalp. Happy Cappy Cradle Cap Beanie Brush was developed while keeping in mind the delicate, sensitive skin of babies.

It is BPA-free, making it safe for babies, toddlers and infants. It is made from food-grade silicone which is why it can be easily sanitized after use. 

Don’t Pick the Scales

The scales might look irritating to you, and you might feel the urge to remove them by picking or scratching them. But this is something you should never do with cradle cap scales.

Picking and scratching the scales will only further irritate the baby’s scalp and worsen the condition. Picking the scales can also lead to infection creating new complications for you and your baby. 

Can you prevent cradle cap in babies?

As mentioned earlier, the Cradle Cap on your baby is not caused by environmental factors out of your control. It is not easily prevented.  But you can use certain products to gently care for your baby’s skin, soften the scales of cradle cap on the scalp, and possibly prevent future flaking and scaling from developing.


A gentle shampoo for baby cradle cap containing Pyrithione Zinc is an excellent way to quickly remedy cradle cap.

When To Consult Doctor For Cradle Cap On Babies?

If you notice any of the following conditions, it is a great idea to consult a pediatrician. They will be able to guide you in the best way possible.

  • The baby is having a fever.
  • The skin is oozing or bleeding.
  • Any signs of infection in the affected area.
  • At-home care is not making the condition better.
  • The scalp emits a bad odor.
  • Baby is fussy and irritated.

There are chances your baby might be experiencing some other skin condition that may look similar to cradle cap, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or even scabies. The doctor will diagnose the condition and provide the appropriate treatment.


Cradle cap on babies can cause greasy, yellow, white, or brown scales on the scalp. It can also cause scaling and flaking on the eyebrows, red, moist skin behind the ears, and in the folds like the groin area. 

Cradle cap is believed to be caused by the overproduction of sebum and overgrowth of Malassezia yeast. When these combine together they produce a byproduct that causes inflammation, scaling, and flaking on the scalp.

Cradle cap on babies can easily be managed by taking proper care of the baby’s scalp and skin. Wash the affected area and scalp with a cradle cap shampoo daily. While shampooing, use a cradle cap brush to remove the scales gently.

You can get both of these products in Happy Cappy Bath Bundle, which includes a Medicated Cradle Cap Shampoo and Beanie Cradle Cap Brush.

If you suspect that the baby’s condition is not getting better after a few weeks, even after taking proper care, then consult a pediatrician.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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How to get rid of the cradle cap on my baby?

You can easily follow a few simple steps to manage your baby’s cradle cap.
1. Wash scalp and hair daily with the help of a medicated shampoo.
2. Gently brush their hair with a cradle cap brush during the bath to loosen the scales.
3. Keep the scalp moisturized with a non-greasy, fast-absorbing moisturizing cream.
4. If the condition gets worse, contact a dermatologist.

Can I remove the cradle cap scales from my baby’s scalp?

No, scales might be bothersome to look at. But remember never to pick or forcefully remove the scales as this can worsen the condition and cause infection.

Can I prevent my baby from getting a cradle cap?

Cradle cap is caused by Malassezia yeast that is already present on the skin. The overgrowth of this yeast causes cradle caps in babies. This happens naturally and can not be controlled. So, it is challenging to prevent cradle caps from happening.

Is cradle cap in babies caused by poor hygiene?

No, poor hygiene does not cause a cradle cap. It is caused by Malassezia yeast. However, poor hygiene can worsen the condition if your baby is experiencing cradle cap. It is advised to wash your baby’s hair daily with a cradle cap shampoo.

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