Cradle Cap

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Cradle Cap on 4 year old's Head

May 2006

My son was born with a full head of hair, thus I never paid much attention when he got ''cradle cap'' and just left it alone, assuming it would disappear on its own. Well, it hasn't and he's almost 4 years old. He's still got thick hair, and it seems that every time I run my fingers through his hair I get snagged on his scaley scalp. I've tried gently scraping and picking pieces off, but he doesn't like it and I end up pulling out lots of hair that's stuck to the skin. Has anyone successfully found a way to treat this situation?
Feeling like a nit-picker

Use the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner. You have to make sure it doesn't go in his eyes because it isn't a ''baby shampoo'' but it worked for my son. He uses it every so often to keep it from coming back. sara

Hi there - Olive oil was excellent for softening my son's cradle cap - just rubbed some oil in and then took a comb and gently scraped the scales away, then shampooed as normal - took about 2 or 3 times for the scales to be completely gone, but the olive oil really softens up the skin so its easy and painless. Cathy

only thing that worked for our baby with severe cradle cap was olive oil. Trick was putting a bit on and leaving it on for a few hours. Then we gently scraped it off with a soft brush in the bathtub and it came right off. We'd tried everything else but this did the trick and it didn't come back. anon

Here is what worked for my 6 month old: At bath time rub scalp with oil. Then use a soft brush to brush the scalp in circular motion (this seems to loosen the scales). Finally use a comb to comb out the little flakes. My friend suggested this and it worked beautifully for my baby (took about 3 treatments for the cradle cap to completely disapear). I used baby oil but I think olive oil would work well too. I did not shampoo afterward -- I think it is more effective to let the oil soak in and moisturize the scalp. good luck! eve

My son had cradle cap until he was six years old. I didn't worry about it. The barber took off the last of it while he was combing his hair. If it doesn't bother your son physically or emotionally, then I would just let it fall off with time Best of luck.

Hi, my son was born with a full head of hair also, and had pretty awful cradle cap. Believe it or not, after many months of trying to deal with it various ways, a friend who is a nurse told me to just try a little Head and Shoulders shampoo. It worked like a charm. Elaine

My hairdresser told me to rub baby oil, or better yet, jojoba oil, on his scalp to loosen it and then wash it away. Worked perfectly and it never came back. Washing out the oil was the hardest part, and my son wasn't crazy about the process, but it was a one-time-only deal. Fran

Cradle cap or baby acne on 3-month-old's face?

Dec 2004

My three month old son has a really bad case of what looks like baby acne. His cheeks and forehead have been bumpy and red since he was three weeks old. Two weeks ago, he went for his wellness checkup and the pediatrician said it was cradle cap - on his face! He said it happens sometimes when cradle cap will descend to the face and that there really wasn't any way to treat it. He also mentioned (to my horror!) that cradle cap could go away by itself or sometimes, it never does!

I was wondering if there was anyone out there with experience like this who have found something that helped? If there is no solution, maybe there's at least something that can be done to lessen the effect? Thanks! Jiji

My baby had pretty bad cradle cap and baby acne for several weeks. We tried traditional baby (mineral) oil, brushing her scalp often, shampooing often, etc. - all recommendations of our pediatrician - and nothing worked. Finally, I bought a natural baby oil at the vitamin store in Montclair. After only a couple of liberal applications, the cradle cap disappeared. I'm not claiming that it's a miracle product, but it's worth a shot. The product is called Country Comfort's Baby Oil and it is inexpensive. been there

I think you need to get another opinion and a different doctor maybe. What you are describing is baby acne. My kids had it for about a month about two weeks after they were born. It goes away. As for cradle cap, it is very different. There is no redness, it is almost like a crust. There are things that you can do for this as well. I put a bit of olive oil, or baby oil on it and rub it very softly with a washcloth and then combed it out of the hair. It is a mess, but got rid of it quickly. Don't do this on acne though, oil is not good for acne. I would again say go find another doctor. been there

We had a similar experience, though my son's baby acne was never diagnosed as cradle cap. It began at 4 weeks and continued through about 6 months. I posted here and got a variety of responses. We tried them all including not bathing him for 2 months.

What finally worked on his face was MIL's suggestion to to dust him with corn starch and then liberally apply Bag Balm every time we changed him. We got the Bag Balm online. It has an active ingredient of hydroxy quinoline in a petroleum jelly and lanolin base. Once things were under control we switched to vaseline (bag balm is a little stinky). He's two now and has had a beautiful complexion for the last 18 months. He still has cradle cap though (we never tried it on his head). Thankfully he has a full head of hair. Good luck. Susannah

My daughter's cradle cap began as a strip of yellowish scales across her eyebrows when she was about 6 weeks old. I gently picked it off and it did not return to her eyebrows. After that, she got it along her hairline and it would creep down her forehead, appear occasionally around her nostrils, in and behind her ears, and sometimes in the corner of her eyes. Sometimes it was clearly cradle cap (scaly), but sometimes it seems like just really dry skin, and other times it was dry skin or cradle cap that had been irritated by her scratching and turned into something else. I followed the advice found in the archives (oil it, scrape off with comb, wash frequently) and also began taking a tablespoon of flax seed oil a day. Two weeks after beginning the flax seed regimen, her cradle cap is pretty much gone and her skin is glowing. I have no idea if it's the flax seed or just coincidence. She's now just over four months old. sierra

My daughter also had ''baby acne'' and terrible cradle cap for seemingly ages. I didn't take a lot of photos of her then... pity. In any case, it did go away by the time she was 4 or 5 months old, though she does have sensitive skin and even at age 2 is prone to cradle cap and rashes. No biggie though - Aquaphor does wonders! 'nother mom

Your child is still nursing, so try taking a couple of tablets daily of Brewers Yeast, for the extra vitamin B. This is an old remedy for cradle cap. I found that it also stimulates milk production, which is helpful if you go back to work and have to express milk all week. peg

My daughter had pretty bad baby acne on her face. I put breast milk on it a few times a day and it went away in a couple days. Breast milk has antibodies in so it will help. Plus it's natural and from your own body. If your feeling a little hesitant, know that breast milk can't hurt your baby anyway. Good luck. zenasia

9-month-old still has cradle cap

July 2000

I have a 9 month old daughter who still has quite a bit of cradle cap on her scalp. It is all around the frontal lobe of her scalp. I've tried all kinds of oils, I've tried just leaving it (definitely doesn't work) and recently I started using an oil and shampoo made by Little Forest. The last thing has proven the best though her cradle cap is still there in full force unless I wash her hair everyday which I won't do. Has anyone had ecperience with this? Do you know where it comes from? Help! Mallorie

A friend of mine recommended using a very soft toothbrush while washing your child's hair. I used mineral oil and a comb, but my son still has a bit left and I'm going to try the toothbrush trick next. Susie

You didn't mention this and perhaps you don't know, but it isn't enough to just put oil on the baby's head, you also have to comb the head the next day. You put the oil on the head before bed time and then the next day you do the combing. This always removed cradle cap for us. Toby

Have you tried extra virgin olive oil? My son had a really bad case of it, it spread to his forehead and eyebrows. I stopped getting compliments on his cuteness. The doctor prescribed just got it looking worse. I heated some olive oil in a vial in boiling water. When the oil was just warm, I put it on his head, let it soak in and loosen the stuff, then I picked it off. He smelled like a salad for awhile, but the compliments came back. Cornelia

I had cradle cap as a child and my two children have all had cradle cap. I tried putting oils on their scalp, but found that it didn't really help. Selsun Blue or any other dandruff shampoo works the best in loosening cradle cap. After washing, take a fine-toothed comb (I used a newborn's comb) to remove the gunk from the scalp. It may take a couple of washings. This is the exact same remedy my mother used on me, as well. Daphne

Have you tried a soft tooth brush in combination with oil? I used to spread oil (calendula) on my baby's head about one hour before his bath and then brush it gently with a very soft tooth brush. It really helped. Good luck! Eliana

My daughter's pediatrician told me that cradle cap is actually caused by not washing a baby's hair enough, and that frequent washings is the only way to rid of it. I too was concerned about drying out her hair and scalp, especially since I was using Little Forest when she was first born which seemed to give her the frizzies. On the advice of a friend, I started using Johnson's Baby Shampoo With Moisturizing Lotion every other day, and that keeps her hair shiny and soft. Good luck. Angela

Putting oil is not enough ... What I did with both my children (and was told to do by my pediatrician) is to leave on the oil for a little while (1 or 2 hours before bathtime), then brush gently the scalp with a soft brush (like a tooth brush) and /or comb the hair with a very fine comb (then of course wash the hair). You will probably have to do it 2 or 3 times within a week or 10 days and it should be enough to get rid of the craddle cap.

Where does it come from ? I've heard in France (where I'm from) that only the breastfed babies have what they call there milk crust...I'm not sure though that it comes from the maternal milk! Good luck ! Paolo

I'm wondering why you won't wash your daughter's hair every day, since that's the one thing that seems to help her cradle cap (i.e., does she have other skin sensitivities that worsen with frequent bathing, etc.). Frequent shampooing is what ultimately ended our bout with cradle cap. Also, after each washing we applied (and swear by) Country Comfort baby cream, in the pink and white jar. It's an herbal baby cream that seemed to work miracles on her head, and diaper irritation too. Eab

My daughter also had cradle cap pretty badly. Our day care provider suggested the following method, which worked very well rub olive oil or vegetable oil into the baby's scalp (great opportunity to call the baby your little Greek salad). Let it sit on the scalp for a while, even as long as 30 or 45 minutes (I know you tried oil, but did you let it soak in?). Then wash the baby's hair normally. After, comb the hair AND the scalp. The cradle cap should be softened and start to come off. Repeat daily until it's gone. We had to do it for several days. And it worked. Good luck. Jody

I have a 3 year old who's only recently outgrown cradle cap/ really dry peeling skin on her scalp. To get rid of it temporarily I would oil her head and scrub it with a scratchy brush before she took a bath. I don't think there is any way to cure it, and after a while I really started to just ignore it because her hair grew over it and it got progressively better. Elizabeth

Each of my children had cradle cap. My doctor recommended shampooing with Selsun Blue which I did two times a week. Within a few months, it had cleared up, but I continued using it for several weeks afterward (just to be sure it wasn't coming back.) With your 9 month old, you'll have to be careful with the shampooing because I doubt it is friendly to kid eyes. Good luck. Janna

Several parents wrote in with various advice re removing cradle cap. I would like to suggest that it just be left alone! It is harmless, and as long as it doesn't seem to make the child uncomfortable, why mess with it? My son has had cradle cap since he was a couple of months old, and still has it at age 2 1/4. He never notices it himself. Every time I tried the various methods of getting if off, I ended up with hair coming out, a bleedling scalp and a very annoyed little boy who couldn't understand why I cared so much about what was under his hair! So I decided I don't care, and we're both much happier. I wash his hair every few days and massage his scalp carefully when I do so, that does seem to keep down a large buildup. (I don't wash his hair every day because he has eczema and frequent bathing aggravates that.) Kathy

Whether or not to aggressively attack cradle cap is probably more of an issue of what the parent is comfortable with than anything else. If it is left alone it will gradually go away by the age of 5 or 6. If you want to get rid of it, the following suggestions may help: 1) a short (buzz) haircut. It is really hard to remove cradle cap on a child with long hair without creating a very annoyed little boy who couldn't understand why I cared so much about what was under his hair. 2) baby oil massaged into the scalp at the beginning of the bath or shower, given time to work in before the shampoo. 3) a very soft bristle scrub brush this will gently remove the (hopefully) softened cradle cap. 4) probably most important of all, start early. Cradle cap won't get very far if it is caught and controlled at the outset, in infancy.

That being said, I will confess to being one of the parents like Kathy who don't think it is worth a big fight. Both of my kids had it and outgrew it pretty much on their own. We could never completely get rid of it until they were 5 or 6, mostly because of their reluctance to have their hair washed daily, and their howling resistance to torture when we worked on scraping it off. Much depends on the child's level of patience with such things (see the discussion about combing out tangled hair). Tim

I see that there has been a lot of discussion about cradle cap lately. My daughter had it when she was an infant, and probably had it until she was about six or seven. When she was a toddler, she hated having her hair washed, so I only washed her hair every three days or so. I never tried to comb out the cradle cap, treat her scalp with oil, etc. because I felt that would be akin to torture for her. (She seemed to have an extra sensitive scalp, so that even combing or brushing her hair was painful.)

My pediatrician said that she would eventually grow out of it, which she did. Now she washes, combs and brushes her own hair, and as far as I can tell it is completely gone. Though this is purely speculation, my daughter never got head lice, though there have been outbreaks of it in her class and among her friends, over the last several years. I have wondered whether having a predisposition to a waxy scalp might have been a deterrent to the head lice, but it is probably just wishful thinking on my part. (I also dab a little tea tree oil on the hair behind her ears during lice season.)

i missed the original post but thought our experience might be helpful. our daughter had a horrendous case of cradle cap for about three months as an infant. i tried all the tricks -- various oils, gently massaging the scales out, special cradle cap shampoos, etc. -- all to no avail. then we went away to the holidays, and b/c of both family craziness and cold weather her hair didn't get washed for a whole week (i had been washing it daily or every other day). voila -- no cradle cap. Dm

3-year-old still has cradle cap

May 2001

My son just turned three years old but he still has cradle cap. Is this something I should be concerned about? How can we get rid of it? Darcy

I had good luck getting rid of my daughter's cradle cap by shampooing her hair well and then combing it backwards--against the hair growth, with the comb flat against the scalp, using one of the very fine-toothed combs I got at the hospital when she was born. It took about a week, since I didn't want to irritate her scalp by combing too much on any one occasion, and I had to be gentle to avoid pulling out her hair as I combed, but now the cradle cap is completely gone. Margaret

When my son was three and I took him in for his 3-year-old check-up, the doctor told me that he had cradle cap. I'd always wondered what that brown stuff was! She told me to put baby oil on his head for a few minutes, then wash it and all the brown stuff out, using a comb if necessary to get it all. It was messy and took about 10 minutes, but it worked and he's never had it since. Katie

I just dealt with that. I rubbed olive oil on my baby's head, waited 15 minutes and scraped off the scaly skin with a fine-toothed baby comb (one I got at the hospital). My baby's head looks much better. Elizabeth