What Is Cradle Cap In Babies?

Also known as seborrheic dermatitis or seborrhea, cradle cap is a skin condition that affects newborns and young babies. It's characterized by a scaly, flaky rash on the scalp. It's one of the most common skin issues in babies, and if you're a new parent we would like to tell you that it's nothing to get too stressed about!

Now, let's take a look at the causes, symptoms, duration, and treatment of cradle cap in babies. Even though this skin condition is harmless, it's important to be aware of what it is and what you can do to get rid of it sooner rather than later.

Cradle Cap In Babies — Causes and Symptoms

A parent combing baby's cradle cap scalp with a comb and removing flakes.

So, what is cradle cap caused by? Skin experts and scientists are still not sure exactly what causes cradle cap, but it is believed that overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands in the skin along with a type of yeast called Malassezia are the primary reasons.

It can be said that cradle cap is the infant form of dandruff. It is not contagious, it is not an allergic reaction, and it is not due to bad hygiene.

What are the symptoms of cradle cap? The most common symptom is the appearance of a scaly, flaky, oily, and thick rash on the scalp. In some cases, the rash can spread to other areas of the body such as the face, eyebrows, neck, or behind the ears. Cradle cap is also seen in skin folds (such as behind the thighs) and the diaper area.

Here's a list of the symptoms of cradle cap:

  • Scales or flakes on the scalp, usually thick, crusty, and oily
  • Yellow, white, or brown patches on the scalp (and other areas)
  • Red, inflamed skin on the scalp (and other areas)
  • Crusting or flaking around the hairline and face
  • Dry, brittle hair and rough patches of skin 

Cradle cap is not itchy or painful, and it usually will not cause any discomfort to your baby. However, make sure your baby doesn't scratch the affected areas, as broken skin can lead to infection. It's also a good idea to make sure that your baby's nails are cut.

Cradle Cap In Babies — Duration and Treatment

A parent shampooing a young baby's scalp with mild shampoo to treat cradle cap.

Cradle caps in babies can last for a few weeks or months. Usually, this skin condition starts to disappear by the time the baby is between the ages of 6 to 12 months.

There's no specific treatment for cradle cap; in fact, most of the time medical treatment is not necessary. However, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the process of healing and get rid of the flakes.

  • Apply coconut oil, olive oil, or organic baby oil to your little one's cradle cap — leave the oil on for some time so that it gets absorbed by the skin
  • Gently wash your baby's scalp with a mild organic shampoo
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to loosen the scales before and during shampooing (yes, it is OK to remove the scales as long as your baby's normal skin is intact)
  • After shampooing, apply a thin layer of coconut oil, olive oil, or organic baby oil to the affected area. You can even apply aloe vera to the affected area for a soothing and cooling effect.

Do this every day (or every alternate day, depending on how sensitive your baby's skin is) until the cradle cap goes away. You can even apply breastmilk to your baby's cradle cap, because anecdotal evidence has shown that it can help in treating the affected areas.

Cradle cap is a benign and temporary condition that usually goes away on its own as your baby grows older. If it persists for a long time, your baby's doctor or dermatologist can recommend steroid or antifungal creams, shampoos, and lotions. Do not use any of these on your baby without consulting a doctor first.

If you notice any of the following signs pertaining to your baby's cradle cap, it's best to consult a doctor quickly as these could be signs of a more serious skin condition such as sepsis, eczema, or psoriasis.

  • The cradle cap is getting worse
  • The cradle cap is spreading to other parts of the body such as the face, eyebrows, or behind the ears rapidly
  • Your baby is scratching the affected areas excessively and causing them to bleed
  • There are pus-filled bumps on the scalp
  • Your baby has a fever

Most of the time, though, there's usually nothing to worry about. Cradle cap looks far worse than it actually is! In the meantime, you can try the home remedies mentioned above to help soothe your baby's skin and get rid of the flakes.

It is not possible to prevent cradle cap because its exact cause is not known. However, in general, it's important to keep your baby's skin moisturised and nourished (using either natural oils or organic baby products). Their skin is delicate and thin, so it needs all the protection and hydration it can get! Make sure to always patch-test any new products before using them on your baby's skin.

Have you ever dealt with cradle cap in your baby? What did you do to treat it? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!

Combat Cradle Cap and Other Baby Skin Issues with Nature's Baby Organics

It's important to use mild and toxin-free products on your baby's delicate skin, especially when they have a skin condition like cradle cap. Nature's Baby Organics has a range of organic baby products — from shampoos to oils — that are USDA Certified organic, minimally processed, EU certified and approved to be free of more than 1500 chemicals, and dermatologist-approved. In fact, our products were specially formulated keeping in mind sensitive and problem-prone baby skin.

Our organic shampoos and body washes are gentle enough for everyday use and can help in loosening cradle cap flakes and improving the condition of your baby's skin. Our soothing Face & Body Lotion and Moisturizer (Fragrance Free) is perfect for irritated skin, hypoallergenic, and particularly popular among those with skin issues (such as rashes).

Interested in knowing more about why organic products are the best option for your little one? Check out this article on how organic baby products are better for your baby and the environment.

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