What is Cradle Cap and How to Get Rid of It | Step-by-Step Guide


Cradle cap (crusty flakes) is a common condition that affects infants typically within the first few months of life and adults; it is called (seborrheic dermatitis). It may look alarming to parents but is usually harmless and temporary. In this article, we will delve into the details of the crusty flakes, including its symptoms, triggers, remedies, and treatment options.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Cradle cap, medically known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is a skin condition that manifests as greasy, yellowish, scaly patches on a baby’s scalp. It can also occur on the eyebrows, ears, or behind the ears and sometimes even on other body parts. The seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious and doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

Who Gets Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is most commonly seen in infants, typically in the first two months of life. It can persist for several weeks or even months but usually clears up on its own by the time the baby reaches one year of age.

Symptoms of Cradle Cap

The primary symptom of seborrheic dermatitis is the presence of greasy or oily patches on the baby’s scalp. These patches may appear yellow, brown, or even white. The patches can vary in size and may be isolated or cover a larger scalp area. Here are some common symptoms and characteristics of crusty flake:

Oily or Greasy Patches: The most prominent feature of cradle cap is the appearance of greasy or oily patches on the scalp. These patches can be scaly, flaky, and slightly raised. They may look like thick, yellowish or brownish scales.

Scalp Redness: The affected areas of the scalp may appear slightly red or inflamed, especially around the edges of the patches. This redness is often more noticeable if the scales are scratched or removed.

Crusty Scales: Cradle cap scales can vary from small flakes to more extensive, thicker patches. These scales may be somewhat crusty and can adhere to the baby’s scalp, making them difficult to remove.

Mild Itching: In some cases, the crusty flakes may cause mild itching or discomfort for the baby. You may notice your baby touching or rubbing their head more than usual.

Flaky Skin on Other Areas: While seborrheic dermatitis primarily affects the scalp, it can occasionally extend to other areas of the body, such as the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, or diaper area. The appearance and symptoms in these areas are similar to those on the scalp.

Minimal Hair Loss: The cradle cap does not typically cause significant hair loss. However, in severe cases where the scales become very thick and dense, hair loss may occur in the affected areas.

Cradle cap can be a persistent condition but tends to improve with time. Many infants experience periods of worsening and improvement, and it usually resolves entirely by the baby’s first birthday.

It’s important to note that crusty flake is a benign condition, not a sign of poor hygiene or neglect. It can happen to babies of any background, and it is not indicative of any underlying health issues.

What Triggers Cradle Cap Factors that Contribute?

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known, but several factors may contribute to its development:

1. Excessive Oil Production: Overactive sebaceous glands in the baby’s skin can accumulate oils on the scalp, resulting in a cradle cap.

2. Yeast Overgrowth: Malassezia, a yeast that naturally lives on the skin, might grow excessively and contribute to crusty flakes.

3. Hormonal Changes: Hormones passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy can stimulate oil gland production, leading to seborrheic dermatitis.

4. Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors, like extreme weather conditions or high humidity levels, can exacerbate the condition.

Remedies and Gentle Care for Your Baby

If your baby has a cradle cap, there are several remedies you can try at home:

  1. Gentle Care: When dealing with crusty flakes, being gentle is essential. Avoid picking or scratching the scales, as this can lead to irritation and potentially introduce infection. Instead, focus on gentle care and regular cleaning.
  2. Mild Shampoo: You can use a mild baby cradle cap shampoo to wash your baby’s hair regularly. Gently massage the shampoo into the scalp and rinse thoroughly to help remove some of the scales.
  3. Soft Brushing: Using a soft-bristle brush or a fine-toothed comb, gently brush your baby’s scalp to help loosen the scales. Be sure to do this very gently to avoid any discomfort or injury.
  4. Oil Massage: Applying a small amount of baby oil to the affected area can help soften and remove the scales.
  5. Coconut Oil or Baby Oil: Applying a small amount of coconut or baby oil to the affected areas before bedtime can help soften the scales, making them easier to remove the following day. Be sure to wash off any excess oil in the morning.
  6. Avoid Scratching: Make sure your baby doesn’t scratch the affected area to prevent infection.
  7. Avoid Harsh Products: Do not use harsh soaps, adult shampoos, or medicated products on your baby’s scalp unless recommended by a healthcare professional.

When to Consult a Doctor

In most cases, seborrheic dermatitis can be managed at home. However, if the condition persists, worsens, or spreads to other body parts, it’s essential to consult a paediatrician. They may recommend:

1. Prescription Shampoo: A medicated shampoo containing ketoconazole or hydrocortisone might be prescribed in severe cases.

2. Topical Steroids: Your doctor may recommend a mild topical steroid cream for inflammation.

3. Antifungal Creams: If a yeast infection is suspected, antifungal creams can be beneficial.


Though unsightly, seborrheic dermatitis is a common and generally harmless condition affecting many infants. With proper care and hygiene, it usually resolves on its own. If you have concerns about your baby’s cradle cap, consult your paediatrician for guidance and suitable treatment options.


1. Is a cradle cap the same as dandruff?

No, seborrheic dermatitis is a condition in infants, while dandruff can affect people of all ages. Although they may appear similar, they have different causes and treatments.

2. Can I use adult dandruff shampoo on my baby’s cradle cap?

Adult dandruff shampoo is not recommended for infants. Opt for a gentle, baby-specific shampoo instead.

3. Are there any long-term effects of seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is typically temporary and does not lead to long-term effects. It usually clears up as the baby grows.

4. Can cradle cap be prevented?

While it cannot always be prevented, regular and gentle scalp care can reduce the likelihood of seborrheic dermatitis.

5. When should I seek medical advice for my baby’s cradle cap?

If the cradle cap persists, worsens, or spreads, consult a paediatrician for proper evaluation and guidance.