Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that's common in babies. It usually goes away on its own in 6 to 12 months, but there are things you can try to make it better.
Check if your baby has cradle cap
The main symptom of cradle cap is patches of greasy, scaly skin.
It's usually found on the scalp and face, but sometimes affects the nappy area. It can look like:
- patches of white or yellow greasy scales on the scalp and face that form a crust which might flake off
- small, dry flakes of skin on the nappy area
The scales look similar on all skin tones. But the skin under the scales may look pink or red if your baby has white skin, or lighter or darker than the surrounding skin if your baby has brown or black skin.
It is not itchy or painful and does not bother your baby.
The cause of cradle cap is not clear, but it cannot be caught from other babies.
- 1: Cradle cap on the scalp of a baby with white skin.
- 2: Cradle cap on the scalp of a baby with medium brown skin.
- 3: Cradle cap on the scalp of a baby with white skin.
- 4: Cradle cap on the eyebrows of a baby with white skin.
Things you can do to help with cradle cap
lightly massage an emollient (moisturiser) on to your baby's scalp to help loosen the scales
gently brush your baby's scalp with a soft brush and then wash it with baby shampoo
do not use olive oil, it may not be suitable for use on skin
do not use peanut oil (because of the allergy risk)
do not use soap or adult shampoos
do not pick crusts because this can increase the chance of infection
Your baby's hair may come away with the scales. Do not worry if this happens as it will soon grow back.
A pharmacist can help with cradle cap
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- an emollient you can use on your baby's scalp
- unperfumed baby shampoos
- barrier creams to use on your baby's nappy area, if it's also affected
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
Page last reviewed: 21 April 2022
Next review due: 21 April 2025