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The scaly, greasy patches on your baby’s scalp are called cradle cap. Follow these dermatologist tips to loosen and remove the scale to help treat cradle cap at home.

Unlike other skin conditions, cradle cap isn’t contagious. It also doesn’t mean that your baby is dirty. Your baby can be healthy and well taken care of and still develop cradle cap. Babies related to those with allergy-like conditions like asthma or eczema may be more likely to get cradle cap. People who get cradle cap in their first few months of life might be more likely to get other kinds of seborrheic dermatitis, like dandruff, as they get older.

Cradle cap and eczema may look slightly similar. But cradle cap is usually thicker, greasier, and more yellow or brown. It’s usually just on your baby’s scalp, but it may cause redness and inflammation behind their ears, in their armpits, or around the folds of their diaper. It can cause mild discomfort.

A newborn baby suffering from baby acne, cradle cap, and eczema on the ...

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And then one day you pick up your newborn to find… baby acne? Yes, baby acne is surprisingly common! Our Nashville pediatricians at St. Thomas Medical Group have put together this brief Q&A to address your questions and help you care for your infant.

Cradle cap is a common skin condition in newborns and babies that causes rough patches on their scalp. It’s also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, crusta lacteal, honeycomb disease, milk crust, pityriasis capitis, and crib cap.

How to treat cradle cap

Cradle Cap (Seborrheic Dermatitis) in Babies: Causes & Treatments

Cradle cap almost always begins on the scalp and can spread to the areas behind your baby’s ears. You could find patches of this flaky skin on your baby’s groin, nose, armpits, or behind their knees. When cradle cap is found on other parts of the body, it’s referred to as seborrheic dermatitis.

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What causes cradle cap?

The most common symptom of cradle cap is caked, flaky material that develops on the scalp. The skin forms big, greasy yellow and brown scaly patches. These will start to flake off, sometimes leaving the underlying new skin red. Your baby’s hair might even come off with patches cradle cap.

Cradle cap is a common skin condition on newborn babies’ scalps. Do not scratch and pick cradle cap off because an infection could develop and you could have a more severe issue on your hands.

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Cradle cap can cause rough patches, greasiness, hair loss, or color changes on your baby’s scalp. (Photo Credit: Medicimage RM/Medical Images)

Hormones can also pass from you to your baby before you give birth to them. This might lead to cradle cap. These hormones can cause your baby’s oil glands and hair follicles to create too much oil, called sebum.

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Cradle cap is harmless and goes away on its own after a few months. Although treatment is not necessary, there are steps you can take at home to help loosen and remove the scale. To treat cradle cap at home, board-certified dermatologists recommend following these tips.

There are several over-the-counter shampoos you can buy to loosen your baby’s cradle cap. Before choosing a shampoo, check the ingredients and ask your health care provider to ensure it won’t bother your baby’s scalp. Try to avoid ingredients like groundnut oil, peanut oil, or other possible irritants and allergens.

These symptoms might mean that your baby:

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Treating Cradle Cap

Cradle cap tends to improve by six to 12 months of age. If you notice your baby’s symptoms worsening, or if you have questions about treating your baby’s skin, hair, or nails, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.

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Be patient

Follow instructions from the bottle and your health care provider. Don’t let any shampoo get into your baby’s eyes — shampoos for loosening cradle cap are stronger than typical infant shampoo! If you notice that your baby’s condition gets worse, stop using the shampoo and consult with your health care provider to see if your baby has eczema.

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