Cradle cap 

Introduction 

Cradle cap is a common harmless skin condition that often affects young babies 

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Cradle cap is the yellowish, greasy scaly patches that sometimes appear on the scalp of young babies.

It's a common, harmless condition that does not usually itch or cause discomfort to the baby.

The medical name for cradle cap is seborrhoeic dermatitis. It usually occurs on the scalp, but can also appear on the face, ears and neck, or in skin folds, such as at the back of the knees and armpits.

Cradle cap usually appears in babies in the first two months and tends to clear up by itself after a few weeks or months, although in rare cases it can last much longer.

What does cradle cap look like?

Cradle cap is easy to recognise by the large, greasy, yellow or brown scales on your baby’s scalp. The scales will eventually start to flake and may make the affected skin appear red. Sometimes, the hair may come away with the flakes.

Read more about the signs of cradle cap.

What causes cradle cap?

Exactly what causes cradle cap is not clear, although it may be linked to overactive sebaceous glands. These are glands in the skin that produce an oily substance called sebum.

Cradle cap is not contagious and it is not due to poor hygiene or an allergy.

Read more about the causes of cradle cap.

Does cradle cap need treatment?

Most cases of cradle cap will clear up on their own in time. Gently washing your baby's hair and scalp can help prevent a build-up of scales, and massaging baby oil or natural oil – such as almond or olive oil – into their scalp at night can help loosen the crust.

There is usually no need to see your GP if your baby has cradle cap. However, you may want to ask them for advice if your baby’s scalp becomes inflamed or if the cradle cap spreads to other parts of their body.

It's important not to pick at the scales as this may cause an infection.

Read more about treating cradle cap.

Page last reviewed: 24/04/2013

Next review due: 24/04/2015

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Skin rashes in babies

Most rashes in babies are harmless and clear on their own. Find out about the common causes