Cradle Cap: Causes, Prevention & Shampoo


What Causes Cradle Cap?

cradlecap3-bigCradle cap is a common baby skin condition that most often appears within the first three months of a baby’s life. It appears as a scaly, waxy and sometimes red rash on the baby’s head. But don’t worry. Although it may appear uncomfortable, cradle cap rarely causes any irritation or itchiness to our babies.

The formal medical term for cradle cap is seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic means oily so, as the term suggests, this dermatitis affects the skin in the more oily areas: the scalp, eyebrows, around the nose, and behind the ears. Cradle cap forms when the skin’s environment is the right blend of sebaceous oils with the yeast that normally lives on our skin called Malassezia furfur.  The combination of the two produces the flaky, oily skin you notice.  Cradle cap is not contagious.  Some babies are just more prone to it, just like some adults are more prone to dandruff.

How to Prevent Cradle Cap?

Here are a few bathing tips and skincare tips from Baby Pibu™ and Moms on Call that can help prevent your baby from developing cradle cap:

  • Once the baby’s umbilical cord remnant falls off of your baby’s belly button (usually when your baby is about two weeks old) you can begin to give your baby a bath.  Baby Pibu™ and Moms on Call recommend that a bath be part of your nightly routine to calm your baby, clean your baby, and get your baby ready for nighttime. Your baby will soon associate the nightly bath with nighttime (the time to have lights out and go to sleep)!
  • To help prevent cradle cap during bath time use your index finger with a soft baby washcloth without any cleanser or soap to clean the oily areas: eyebrows, around the nose, and behind the ears. This will help to exfoliate away the extra skin and oils of the areas and help to prevent cradle cap.
  • At the end of the bath, use a soft bristle brush to clean your baby’s scalp. Baby Pibu™ recommends the soft bristle brushes by Safety 1st.  Place a pea-sized amount of liquid tear-free hair and body wash like Baby Pibu™ Bathtime Wash on the wet brush and use circular motions to clean your baby’s head.  The soft bristles will help to exfoliate away the extra skin and oils of the scalp and help to prevent cradle cap.
  • At the end of the bath, apply a moisturizing cream to your baby’s skin. This will keep your baby’s skin moisturized and will minimize your baby’s skin’s tendency to produce extra oil, which can happen if the skin gets too dry.


SOOTHE – How to Treat Cradle Cap?

If your baby still develops cradle cap despite these preventative tips, here are a few natural cradle cap treatments you can safely use for your baby.

  1. Natural Cradle Cap Shampoo
    • Medicated shampoos with safe, low-dose anti-yeast ingredients can be used to decrease the yeast on the baby’s skin. These include over-the-counter Selsun Blue shampoo (with selenium sulfide), Nizoral shampoo (with ketoconazole), Neutrogena TSal shampoo (with salicylic acid), and Baby Pibu™ Gentle Scalp Lather (with salicylic acid). These shampoos can be used daily during cradle cap flares until the condition improves. Put the shampoo directly on the soft-bristle brush and gently massage as normal.  Use this shampoo instead of the baby’s regular shampoo.  The shampoos can also be used 1 to 2 times a week to prevent cradle cap if your baby is prone to the condition.  Do not use the medicated shampoo on any other parts of the body.
  2. Baby Oil
    • If the crustiness is severe, put some baby oil on the scalp one hour before washing to soften the crust.
  3. Soft Washcloth
    • If you notice similar symptoms on areas of the face, gently use a soft washcloth to wipe the areas with Pibu’s Bathtime Wash.  Do NOT use Gentle Scalp Lather or any other medicated cradle cap shampoo on the face for a natural cradle cap treatment.
  4. Hydrocortisone
    • If you need your baby to look picture-ready with no red, flaky cradle cap rash, you can use over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone (Cortizone-10 or Baby Pibu™ Rash Relief) on the cradle cap areas twice daily for 2 to 3 days to calm the cradle cap rash down.  Do not use cortisone for extended periods of time.

When to Call the Doctor

If you don’t see improvement in your baby’s cradle cap within three days of using the baby shampoo for cradle cap or above natural cradle cap treatment measures, see your pediatrician or dermatologist.

Gentle Scalp Lather

OverviewDoctor InstructionsIngredients

Pibu™ Category Treat
Uses For treatment of flakes and oily patches and infant cradle cap symptoms
Smells Like A hint of lavender
Feels Like Creamy, gentle, non-foaming, easy to rinse off wash
Derm-momRX Naturally-derived, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, safe and gentle for newborns, to be used as directed by Dr. Amy

Gentle Scalp Lather- Cradle Cap Wash for Dry, Flaky and Oily Patches

Doctor’s Instructions: Place pea-sized amount on soft bristle brush and massage scalp in circular motion focusing on dry, flaky and oily patches. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.

Warnings: For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes. Stop use and ask a doctor if condition worsens or symptoms persist for more than seven days. Keep out of reach of children

Questions:Send questions to or call 1-800-948-3631