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Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that's common in babies. It usually clears up on its own within 6 to 12 months, but there are things you can try to make it better.

Check if your baby has cradle cap

Cradle cap in a baby with white skin. There's a large area of white or yellow scaly skin on their scalp, covering most of their head.
On the scalp, cradle cap can look like large patches of white or yellow scaly skin.
Cradle cap in a baby with brown skin. There's a large area of pink skin on the top of their head that's covered with white or grey scales.
On black or brown skin, the affected area can look pink with white or grey scales.
Cradle cap in a baby with white skin. The top of the baby’s head is covered with greasy yellow or brown scales and the surrounding area is red.
The crusts may be greasy and can flake off, making the skin look red.
Cradle cap affecting the eyebrows of a baby with white skin. They have yellow crusts of skin above their eyes and around their eyebrows.
Cradle cap mainly affects the head and face, but sometimes it can appear in other places like the nappy area.

Cradle cap 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.

Things you can do to help with cradle cap

Do

  • 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

Don’t

  • 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 – this can increase the risk of infection

Information:

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 needed

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your baby's cradle cap does not get better after a few weeks of treatment
  • your baby has cradle cap all over their body
  • the crusts bleed or leak fluid
  • the affected areas look swollen

Bleeding, leaking fluid and swelling could be signs of an infection or another condition like eczema or scabies.

Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Page last reviewed: 21 April 2022
Next review due: 21 April 2025