Cradle cap usually doesn't require medical treatment. It clears up on its own within a few months. In the meantime, wash your baby's hair once a day with mild baby shampoo and brush the scalp lightly with a soft brush to loosen the scale.
If frequent shampooing doesn't help, consult your baby's doctor. He or she may recommend an adult dandruff shampoo, such as one containing 2 percent antifungal ketoconazole medication. Be sure the shampoo doesn't get in your baby's eyes, as it may cause irritation. Hydrocortisone cream is sometimes helpful to reduce redness and inflammation.
Don't use over-the-counter cortisone or antifungal creams without talking to your baby's doctor, because some of these products can be toxic when absorbed through a baby's skin. Dandruff shampoos that contain salicylic acid aren't recommended for use in babies either, because they can be absorbed through the skin.
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following over-the-counter treatments and home-care tips can help you control and manage cradle cap.
- Gently rub your baby's scalp with your fingers or a washcloth to loosen the scales. Don't scratch.
- Wash your baby's hair once a day with mild baby shampoo. Loosen the scales with a small, soft-bristled brush before rinsing off the shampoo.
- If the scales don't loosen easily, rub petroleum jelly or a few drops of mineral oil onto your baby's scalp. Let it soak into the scales for a few minutes, or hours if needed. Then brush and shampoo your baby's hair as usual. If you leave the oil in your baby's hair, the cradle cap may get worse.
- Once the scales are gone, wash your baby's hair every few days with a mild shampoo to prevent scale buildup.
Preparing for your appointment
If your baby's cradle cap doesn't improve with home-care measures or starts to spread, make an appointment with your baby's pediatrician. Here's some information to help you prepare for your visit.
What you can do
Your baby's doctor will want to know:
- How long your baby has had cradle cap
- What you've done to treat it
- How often you shampoo your baby's hair
- What products you've tried
Aug. 04, 2017
- AskMayoExpert. Seborrheic dermatitis. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Sasseville D. Cradle cap and seborrheic dermatitis in infants. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 15, 2015.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Caring for Your Newborn. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.