Cradle Cap: Causes, Prevention & Shampoo

As parents of little ones, we all want our babies to look cute.  And cradle cap, that flaky, dandruff-like condition, isn’t always cute. As parents, we worry about how this skin condition might affect our little one.  However, with cradle cap, there is no need to worry because its looks are about the scariest part of the condition. Read on for information about what causes cradle cap, how to prevent cradle cap, and how to treat cradle cap.

What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle 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 causes no irritation or itchiness to our babies.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

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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.

Cradle Cap Symptoms

  • Thick crusts on the baby’s scalp
  • Oily or dry skin covered with flaky scales
  • Mild redness

How to Prevent Cradle Cap?

Here are a few bathing tips and skincare tips from Baby Pibu™ and Moms on Call that can help with cradle cap prevention:

  • 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. Having a steady bathtime routine will help with cradle cap prevention.
  • For cradle cap prevention 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 exfoliate away the extra skin and oils of the areas and help with cradle cap prevention.
  • 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.
  • Please check out our instructional video on how to give a bath safely. https://www.babypibu.com/tub-time-tips-create-bath-time-routine-soothes/

How to Treat Cradle Cap?

If your baby still develops cradle cap despite these cradle cap prevention tips, here are a few treatment options including natural remedies for cradle cap:  

1. Natural Cradle Cap Shampoo

  • When cradle cap forms, consider using a medicated shampoo that targets the cradle cap causes. The best cradle cap shampoos contain salicylic acid. Both Neutrogena’s T Sal shampoo and  Baby Pibu™ Gentle Scalp Lather contain a low and safe dose of salicylic acid. The salicylic acid works as an antimicrobial for cradle cap treatment target the yeast-like Malassezia furfur, and it also helps to exfoliate away the waxiness and flakiness of cradle cap. Other cradle cap shampoo treatments include over-the-counter Selsun Blue shampoo with selenium sulfide and Nizoral Shampoo with ketoconazole. These two medicated shampoos also contain anti-yeast ingredients that target the Malassezia furfur. These cradle cap treatment shampoos can be used twice weekly to help get the condition under control.

2. Baby Oil

  • If the crustiness is severe, baby oil can be used directly on the scalp one hour before washing to soften the crust for cradle cap treatment.

3. Soft Washcloth

  • If you notice similar symptoms on areas of the face, gently use a soft washcloth to wipe the areas with Baby Pibu’s Bathtime Wash.  Do NOT use Gentle Scalp Lather or any other medicated cradle cap shampoo on the face for a natural remedy for cradle cap.

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 treatment 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

No need to fear – cradle cap looks scarier than it actually is. Following the bathing and skincare tips from Baby Pibu™ and Moms on Call will help with cradle cap prevention. If you don’t see improvement in your baby’s cradle cap within three days of the cradle cap treatment remedies such as cradle cap shampoo, 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 info@babypibu.dev or call 1-800-948-3631