Baby and Toddler

What is cradle cap & how to treat it?

Baby in bath

Cradle cap often occurs in babies within the first year of life. It looks like crusty yellow/white scales on the scalp which you may notice when washing your little one’s hair. While this looks unpleasant, don’t worry. Cradle cap is a harmless condition and can be easily treated. Read on to learn more about how to treat it. 

What is cradle cap? 

Otherwise known as Seborrheic Dermatitis, cradle cap manifests as scaly patches on the scalp and usually appears in the first 3 months of life, clearing up between 6-12 months. The cause isn’t fully known but is thought to be caused by the presence of adult hormones from the mother, which were passed to your baby before birth. This can result in the manufacture of excess oil, or sebum, which interferes with the natural shedding of dead skin and causes a build up of scaly patches on your little one’s scalp.  

Is it harmful? 

While cradle cap sounds unpleasant, rest assured it is completely harmless and won’t cause any discomfort to your little one. Cradle cap usually clears up of its own accord in a few months, but if you find it unsightly, there are a range of treatments that can help remove it in a few weeks. Here are some tips on how to treat it. 

Don’t pick it! 

The most important thing is to not try removing cradle cap by picking at the scales as this can cause inflammation and infection. 

Brush it 

Gently massage the scalp with a soft baby hairbrush to break up the scales and then brush them out.  

Wash it 

Regular washing can help to minimize the appearance of cradle cap. Use a gentle baby shampoo poured into a washcloth to create a lather, then massage into baby’s scalp. For a ‘no more tears’ experience, try our silky soft Bamboo Baby Washcloth and ClevaRinse Shampoo Rinse Cup.  

Apply oil 

Olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil or a similar plant-based oil can be applied to your little one’s scalp to hydrate the skin and make the scales easier to remove. Gently massage into your baby’s scalp (be careful of their soft spots!), leave for 15 minutes, then wash out with a baby shampoo. Try this once a day and always check your child doesn’t have an allergy to the oil before using this method.  

Try an ‘over the counter’ cream 

There are many cream-based treatments available from pharmacies for cradle cap. Talk to your pharmacist and ask what they can recommend.  

Prescription creams 

In extreme cases, your GP may recommend a prescription cream, but this is only in very bad cases.  


This one may sound unusual, but some parents have reportedly used breastmilk to treat cradle cap. You can massage a few drops into your baby’s scalp or add some to your baby’s shampoo. If you do try this, we’d love to know if it works! 

Remember, if cradle cap persists, don’t worry too much. It’s perfectly harmless and, while it might not look very nice, it does clear up by itself. By the time your little one is celebrating their first birthday, it’s very likely to be gone.  

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