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What are Some Treatments for Cradle Cap?

By Pamela G.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cradle cap is a term used to describe the yellowish scales that form on a newborn baby's head. These scales develop along the forehead and into the hair. Typically, cradle cap happens sometime within the first three months of a baby's life. The primary cause of it is that some of the mother's hormones are passed to the baby during birth which cause the baby's oil glands to be overactive. Old skin cells, instead of flaking and falling off like they should, layer on top of one another forming what has come to be known as cradle cap.

There are varying methods to treat cradle cap. One of the most popular treatments is applying baby oil, baby lotions, petroleum jelly, or olive oil to the affected area. Letting the oil or lotion stay on overnight and brushing the flakes off in the morning, can help alleviate the problem.

In cases of extreme cradle cap, some doctors may recommend using a small amount of medicated shampoo. This method should not be used without a doctor's approval since it is still unclear how much of the chemicals can be absorbed by baby's skin. The shampoo also stings and irritates baby's fragile eyes.

There is one common homeopathic remedy for cradle cap. This involves mixing a small amount of water in baking soda to create a thin paste. Applying this mixture to the baby's head overnight and brushing it off in the morning is also said to help alleviate cradle cap symptoms.

There has been some debate over the effectiveness of oils and lotions in remedying overactive oil glands. Many medical professionals discourage the use of such products, claiming that it is counter productive and will actually cause cradle cap to remain for a longer period of time. These professionals recommend light brushing of the area, two to three times a day, and daily washing with a mild, baby shampoo.

Cradle cap does not itch or cause the baby any discomfort at all. The look of it though, can cause some parents to want to pick at the scales. This should be avoided as the bacteria from your fingernails can risk infection for your baby.

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Discussion Comments
By anon333352 — On May 04, 2013

Every one of my children wound up with cradle cap in some varying degree. As I raised a rather large family, I became quite adept at learning to deal with things like cradle cap. To be quite honest, most of what I learned about home remedies actually came from my granny's wisdom, which she earned by raising seven children!

If you have just discovered cradle cap on your baby's head and it's still in the earliest stage, usually a simple massage, three or four times a day, with a light application of oil should loosen things up. Using a mild baby shampoo at the end of the day, use your baby's super soft brush to "scrub" the hair in a circular motion, rinse well and towel dry.

Before the scalp dries, use your baby's flexible, fine comb to gently but firmly comb against hair growth direction, laying the comb as flat as you can, but at an angle enough for the teeth to "lift" the dead cells. Do not "dig deep".

Do this only every other day after cleaning the baby's scalp using the brush-scrub to avoid your baby developing a sore, sensitive scalp, but apply the oil consistently.

It should only take four or five days to get rid of even a bad case of cradle cap, although for the worst cases it may take six or more days.

I settled on extra virgin olive oil as my oil of choice. It is mild and very rarely does anyone have or develop an allergy or sensitivity to it.

Of course, don't take my word for it! If, like simrin case, your child has extremely sensitive skin, talk to a doctor before choosing a course of action.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 03, 2011

I have tried everything that was suggested by my doctor for my son's cradle cap but either it hasn't worked or there has been an allergic reaction. Could it be eczema and not cradle cap?

I've been told by a few friends to just leave it alone and wait for it to go away, which apparently could take quite a while. I want it to be treated quickly because it's also itching and my son is constantly trying to scratch it. I'm scared that he might make it worse that way.

Has anyone tried other cradle cap treatments or remedies aside from the ones already mentioned that have worked? I'm looking for a natural treatment as my son's skin is very sensitive.

By ddljohn — On Feb 28, 2011

I think that new moms are so worried and cautious about their babies that they take cradle cap very seriously and try different things to make it better. Using oils, baking soda and brushing solves it for most babies, although there can be exceptions. I have two kids and both of them had cradle cap once as babies. My recommendation would be to keep the babies head moist because dryness tends to make cradle cap worse from my experience. Apply a mild and natural moisturizer everyday and do not wash your baby's head with shampoos more than once a week. Shampoos can make the problem worse sometimes, again because it dries the skin out. Keeping the head moist, brushing their hair once in a while will generally solve the problem. Sometimes it can take up to a week for it to go away, so don't worry if it doesn't disappear right away.

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