Cradle Cap

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How to Get Rid of Cradle Cap

Three Methods:

Cradle cap, medically known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is a common condition among babies that causes rough, scaly patches to develop on the baby's scalp. It usually resolves on its own after a few weeks, but in some cases the condition persists and needs treatment. Read on for information on getting rid of cradle cap using home remedies and knowing when to seek medical help.


Using Home Remedies

  1. Remove the scales with your fingers.The baby's scalp won't be harmed if you use your hands to take off the "cap." It's the simplest, and one of the most effective, ways to get rid of the scales and dry patches that occur when a baby has cradle cap.
    • Rub your fingers over the scaly patches, then gently peel and scrape away the scaly dead skin and discard it.
    • If you don't want to use your fingers to pick off the scales, put on a pair of thin latex gloves (as long as your baby isn't allergic to latex). You could also cover your hands with plastic wrap to prevent directly touching the scales. Keep in mind that cradle cap is not contagious, and picking off the scales will make your baby more comfortable.
    • Don't use tweezers or another sharp tool to remove the scales, since you may accidentally poke the baby's head and cause an injury.
  2. Wash the baby's head every day.Use warm water to bath the baby's head, and gently massage his or her scalp with your fingers. The water will help loosen the cradle cap scales, when you can then peel or scrape away.
    • Using a mild baby shampoo can help loosen the scales, so consider adding one to your washing routine. However, you may find that shampoo dries the baby's scalp out further.
    • Use a soft-bristled brush to help loosen the scales while the baby's head is still wet.
  3. Use oil and jelly.Sometimes cradle cap scales need a little outside help before you can peel them off. Spread baby oil or petroleum jelly on the dry patches, then wait 15 minutes to let the scales soften before removing them.
    • Olive oil and vegetable oil also work well for removing the scales.
    • Use shampoo and warm water to wash away the oil when you're finished. Leaving traces of oil can actually make the problem worse by causing more scales to form.

Implementing Verified Medical Solutions

  1. Use a medicated dandruff shampoo.When cradle cap keeps coming back a few days after you scrape it away, switching to a medicated shampoo a few times a week might be an effective treatment. Dandruff shampoos contain tar, which reduces flakiness and helps prevent skin from drying out.
    • Shampoos containing the antifungal medication ketoconazole or 1 percent selenium sulfide may also be used to treat cradle cap.
    • Dandruff shampoos that contain salicylic acid aren't recommended for babies, since this ingredient may be harmful to babies and it can be easily absorbed through their skin.
    • Talk to your doctor before using a medicated shampoo on your baby's scalp. He or she will recommend a shampoo brand or provide you with a prescription for the shampoo that is right for your baby's needs.
  2. Consider using hydrocortisone cream.If your baby's scalp is inflamed, red or itchy, hydrocortisone cream, which is also used to treat rashes and bug bites, might help relieve the symptoms. Check with your doctor before using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

Taking Preventative Measures

  1. Humidify your home.Infants with cradle cap often have other symptoms related to dry, easily-irritated skin. Use a humidifier in your baby's room to keep the air moist and humid so his or her skin doesn't get too dry.
  2. Moisturize the baby's scalp after bathing.Applying a moisturizer while the scalp is still slightly damp and warm after bathing can help trap moisture in the skin, preventing it from becoming dry and scaly. Use a lotion or ointment formulated for babies' sensitive skin.
  3. Consider the baby's diet.Cradle cap is in some cases caused by an allergy to baby formula. If your baby has red patches on his or her face and experiences diarrhea and other allergy symptoms in addition to cradle cap, talk to your doctor about switching to a formula that is healthier for your baby.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    A patient of mine has cradle cap. Is there any shampoo other than dandruff or baby shampoo?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    When my two kids were babies and had cradle cap, all I did was put Vaseline on their scalps overnight and the next morning, using a damp flannel, did small circular motions on the head to move the Vaseline around and gently remove the scaling skin. Then I washed it off with warm water. Use baby shampoo if it's really stubborn, and keep in mind it may take several tries, but you'll get it.
  • Question
    If a baby had cradle cap, could there be a smell in the head because of it?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, there can be.
  • Question
    I am 11 years old and have cradle cap. My mom has tried everything to get rid of it, but is still having trouble. Any suggestions?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Try baby oil if you haven't yet. It works really well for babies.
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Quick Summary

One of the most effective ways to get rid of cradle cap is to rub your fingers over the scaly patches of skin and gently peel away the dead skin. If the dry patches need loosening up first, try bathing your baby’s head in warm water so you can gently brush them away with a soft-bristled brush. For stubborn cradle cap, you can spread some baby oil or petroleum jelly on the dry patches, wait 15 minutes, and then try to remove them. Finally, infants with cradle cap often have dry, easily-irritated skin, so use a humidifier in your baby’s room to keep skin moist.

Did this summary help you?
  • An infant scalp brush is extremely effective. These brushes are very soft and can be purchased in the baby section of many stores.
  • Keeping the soap and water out of his eyes will make the experience much more pleasurable.


  • Make sure the water is warm, not hot. You can check it with your elbow: if it feels too hot for your elbow, it’s too hot for your baby.
  • Be careful not to push too hard where the baby's "soft spot" is on the scalp.
  • Be very gentle with your baby.

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