Cradle cap causes crusty or oily scaly patches on a baby's scalp. The condition isn't painful or itchy. But it can cause thick white or yellow scales that aren't easy to remove.

Cradle cap usually clears up on its own in weeks or a few months. Home care measures include washing your baby's scalp daily with a mild shampoo. This can help you loosen and remove the scales. Don't scratch cradle cap.

If cradle cap doesn't stop or seems serious, your baby's doctor or other health care professional may suggest a medicated shampoo, lotion or other treatment.


Common symptoms of cradle cap include:

  • Patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp.
  • Oily or dry skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.
  • Skin flakes.
  • Mild inflammation.

Similar scales also may be present on the ears, eyelids, nose and groin.

Cradle cap is common in newborns. It usually isn't itchy.

Cradle cap is the common term for infantile seborrheic dermatitis. It's sometimes confused with another skin condition, atopic dermatitis. A major difference between these conditions is that atopic dermatitis can be very itchy.

When to see a doctor

See your baby's doctor or other health care professional if:

  • You've tried treating cradle cap at home without success.
  • The patches spread to your baby's face or body.


The cause of cradle cap isn't known. One factor may be hormones that pass from the mother to the baby before birth. These hormones can cause oil glands and hair follicles to make too much oil. This oil is called sebum.

Another factor may be a fungus called malassezia (mal-uh-SEE-zhuh) that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. Antifungal treatments often help control symptoms. This supports the idea that malassezia is a cause. An example of an antifungal treatment is ketoconazole.

Cradle cap isn't contagious, and it's not caused by poor hygiene.

Risk factors

Cradle cap is very common in babies. There are no known risk factors for it.


Shampooing your baby's hair every few days can help prevent cradle cap. Use a baby shampoo unless your baby's doctor or other health care professional suggests a stronger product.

Jan. 06, 2024
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