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How To Treat Cradle Cap (Aka. Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis) 

in Growth & Development, Skin

Cradle Cap is a very normal and usually harmless skin condition that affects babies’ scalps. It usually goes away on its own without treatment. Cradle cap isn’t contagious and isn’t caused by poor hygiene. In my experience, home remedies like the ones in this article can help cradle cap resolve more quickly. 

What Is Cradle Cap?

The following are signs and symptoms of cradle cap: 

  • Thick scales or crusts on the scalpHow to treat cradle cap - Dr. Green Mom
  • Flaky white, yellow, red, or brown scales on top of oily or dry skin
  • Mild redness may be present
  • Scales may spread to the face and groin. 
  • Scales generally aren’t itchy and don’t bother the baby

Note: cradle cap may resemble eczema in infants. The biggest difference is that eczema usually causes significant itchiness

The cause of cradle cap is unknown, but it is believed that it may be related to maternal hormones that increase sebum production on the scalp. Cradle cap may also be related to a yeast called malassezia, and sometimes anti-fungal treatments are prescribed to help resolve especially stubborn cases. 

How To Treat Cradle Cap At Home

Though cradle cap doesn’t require treatment and will usually resolve on its own within a couple weeks or months, many parents want to know how to prevent and treat it. These are the instructions that I used at home and that I give to my patients:

  1. Before washing baby’s scalp, rub a small amount of oil into the flaky patches. I recommend coconut oil or olive oil. For stubborn cradle cap, Black Cumin Seed Oil  works really well. Black cumin seed oil is anti-inflammatory and is effective at treating malassezia, the yeast that may be associated with cradle cap.
  2. Wash baby’s scalp with a gentle baby shampoo approximately 15 minutes after applying oil to the scalp. Do not apply oil without washing it off as this can make cradle cap worse. 
  3. After washing, gently rub the baby’s scalp with a washcloth or soft brush to help loosen flakes. Do not pick off flakes or use forceful rubbing or brushing to remove them. 
  4. Repeat the above steps every 1-3 days until cradle cap has resolved. Daily baths may dry out baby’s skin, so moisturizing the whole body after a bath is recommended. 

When To Contact A Doctor

Though cradle cap usually resolves on it’s own, it is a good idea to contact a doctor if it spreads from the scalp to the face and/or body or if the home treatment described above doesn’t start to improve symptoms within 1-2 weeks. 

Summary

Cradle cap is also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis. It is a common and usually harmless condition that many infants experience. Home treatment involves application of oil to loosen flakes followed by washing with a mild shampoo then using a baby brush to further loosen flakes. If cradle cap doesn’t respond to home treatment or spreads to the face or body then it is time to contact a doctor for further advice. 

References:

Victoire, A., Magin, P., Coughlan, J., & van Driel, M. L. (2019). Interventions for infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis (including cradle cap). The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3(3), CD011380. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011380.pub2

Mirzaii, M., Yaeghoobi, M., Afzali, M., Amirkhalili, N., Mahmoodi, M., & Sajirani, E. B. (2021). Antifungal activities of quince seed mucilage hydrogel decorated with essential oils of Nigella sativa, Citrus sinensis and Cinnamon verum. Iranian journal of microbiology, 13(3), 352–359. https://doi.org/10.18502/ijm.v13i3.6398

Hwang, J. R., Cartron, A. M., & Khachemoune, A. (2021). A review of Nigella sativa plant-based therapy in dermatology. International journal of dermatology, 60(12), e493–e499. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijd.15615

Saunte, D., Gaitanis, G., & Hay, R. J. (2020). Malassezia-Associated Skin Diseases, the Use of Diagnostics and Treatment. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology, 10, 112. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00112

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