Does Cradle Cap smell?

Does cradle cap smell

What Is Cradle Cap (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)?

Cradle cap” is a skin condition that causes waxy, thick scale to develop on babies’ scalps, eyebrows, face, diaper area, skin folds, and foreheads. While this condition is rather unsightly with its oily, yellowish crust and patchy scales, it’s not usually painful, itchy, or uncomfortable for the child. It’s also not contagious or a sign of poor care.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

The exact cause isn’t clear, but doctors think the condition is related to overactive sebaceous glands, which produce and secrete an oily substance called sebum that moisturizes and protects the skin. 

Excess of sebum can create cradle cap’s well-known oily, flaky build-up. Some experts theorize that it might also be connected to Malassezia, a naturally occurring yeast that lives on the skin and eats sebum creating an irritating substance which triggers the inflammation. 

Other experts also attribute the mother’s hormones transferred to the baby’s body before birth, which can trigger the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum and cause cradle cap on babies.

Does Cradle Cap Smell?

Most mild “cradle cap” cases do not smell. However, there are instances in which more severe cradle cap cases do develop a slight “oily” scent. The baby’s scalp may smell a little odd or musty. The odor of cradle cap usually depends on how severe it is.

Why Does Cradle Cap Smell?

Cradle cap is caused due to the excess of oil or sebum on the baby’s scalp. And this excess oil and the build-up of scales can cause the baby’s scalp to smell a little different or odd. However, if you notice that the baby’s scalp smells too unpleasant, check for signs of infection or consult a pediatrician

Other Reasons Why Baby’s Scalp Smells

Apart from cradle cap in babies, there are other reasons that might be causing your baby’s scalp to smell bad. Such as

  • Sweating
  • Infection in hair follicles
  • Fungal infection

Should You Be Worried About Cradle Cap?

It’s natural to be worried about your child developing an unsightly, crusty rash. But, in reality, cradle cap is mostly harmless. It’s not contagious or dangerous, and it generally clears up on its own. However, in some cases, it may persist into toddlerhood.

It is noteworthy, though, that as babies get older, around 6 months old, I have had office visits with parents concerned about them rubbing ears, and low and behold, there is evidence of cradle cap behind the ear folds.

While quite rare, it’s important to keep an eye on your child’s cradle cap to make sure it doesn’t get infected. Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, oozing, or weeping. Itching is another sign that the condition is getting worse. You should also keep an eye out for a yeasty odor that can indicate a yeast infection or an unpleasant smell that could be a sign of a bacterial infection.

If you do notice any of these signs, pay a visit to your pediatrician right away.

How Long Does Cradle Cap Last?

Most cradle cap cases go away all on their own within a few weeks or months. How long the condition lasts depends on factors like:

  • Severity – Most cases are harmlessly mild. But, rarely, cradle cap can be severe. These more intense cases often take longer to clear up.
  • Irritation – Additional irritation around the affected areas can extend the cradle cap. Irritation is most often caused by parents picking or scratching at the scales in an attempt to loosen or remove them. As tempting as this may be, do not pick at the scales.

How To Treat Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap, in some cases, may resolve on its own, but sometimes it may require proper care and attention. Here are a few things you can do to relieve the scaling and flaking associated with cradle cap.

Shampoo for “Cradle Cap” Relief

Many pediatricians recommend soothing symptoms with a shampoo for cradle cap, more often referred to as an anti-dandruff or anti-seborrheic dermatitis shampoo. Utilizing a safe body wash and shampoo is a great way to help soothe skin and prevent more flakes from forming.

Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash is made to the highest possible safety standards without fragrances, sulfates, dyes, or parabens, making it perfect for use on sensitive young skin. 

Happy Cappy contains an active ingredient, Pyrithione Zinc, that helps stop the recurrence of skin and scalp itching, irritation, redness, flaking, and scaling associated with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis is the technical term for cradle cap.

It also contains Licorice Root Extract to soothe redness, Provitamin B5, and Apple Fruit Extract to hydrate skin and hair. Happy Cappy uses the words “sulfate-free” to explain that we avoid harsh lathering ingredients that can excessively dry out sensitive skin.

Try Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo and Body Wash to help combat your little one’s flakes*.

*Flakes associated with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff

Cradle Cap Brush

cradle cap brush

Using a cradle cap brush to remove the excess scales from the scalp gently is a great way to get rid of cradle cap scales. Use a soft-bristled brush or a fine-toothed comb to brush the baby’s scalp gently.

The best time to do it is while shampooing the baby’s scalp. Shampoo softens the scales, which makes it easy to remove them. Brush the baby’s scalp with a cradle cap brush in circular motions to remove excess scales.

Remember never to forcefully remove the stubborn scales, which can cause infection and worsen the condition. 

Try Happy Cappy Bath Bundle, which contains a cradle cap shampoo and cradle cap brush to help your little one’s flake.


A mild case of cradle cap usually does not smell. However, some severe cases of cradle cap might smell a little odd. The smell is caused due to the excess oil on the scalp and the build-up of scales.

There are other reasons such as fungal infection and hair follicle infection that might cause the baby’s scalp to smell bad. This is why it is important to consult a pediatrician if the baby’s scalp is smelling too bad.

To relieve your baby’s cradle cap use a cradle cap shampoo to wash their scalp and a cradle cap brush to remove the scales gently.


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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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Can a cradle cap make a baby’s scalp smell?

Mild cases of cradle cap does not cause any smell. But a severe case of cradle cap can cause some amount of smell due to the oil buildup.

Why is my baby’s scalp smelly?

If your baby is experiencing cradle cap, the scalp smells foul. Then, there are chances they may have developed a fungal infection on the scalp as well. Because the cradle cap does not cause a pungent smell, it is best to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

How to identify if my baby’s cradle cap is infected?

If you notice an odd smell from your baby’s scalp, the skin has become more red, and small blisters have formed, there are chances they may have developed some infection with the cradle cap.

When should I be worried about the cradle cap?

Suppose the cradle cap becomes severe even after using a cradle cap shampoo. In that case, the crusty patches become thicker, and it starts to spread to other parts of the body then, you should be worried about your baby’s cradle cap and consult a dermatologist to find the solution.

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