Cradle Cap

What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap (crusta lactea) is a type of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp that occurs mostly among infants but can also show up in older children.  Cradle cap is a result of the overproduction of oils or sebum by the sebaceous glands.

The condition is temporary and harmless.  The skin on the top of the infant’s scalp looks red or yellow, oily, flaky, and scaly. The cause of cradle cap is unknown.  Some medical experts believe that towards the end of the pregnancy cycle the baby receives hormones from the mother that causes the infant’s oil producing glands to become overstimulated.

What are the Symptoms of Cradle Cap?

The skin on the top of the infant’s scalp looks red, yellow, oily, flaky, and scaly. It can also appear on the face and behind ears. If scratched profusely or irritated cradle cap can become infected.

Cradle Cap Causes

Scientists are yet to determine the exact cause of cradle cap. However, they have listed some contributing factors.

  • Before birth, hormones may pass from the mother to the child. These hormones may be responsible for the production of excess skin oil or sebum in the oil glands.
  • A fungus called Malassezia can also grow along with bacteria in the sebum thus causing cradle cap.
  • Extreme weather conditions can also cause cradle cap.
  • A weak/anomalous immune system. Having a reduced immune system capability causes several illnesses. Cradle cap is one of them.
  • Stress. Being in a stressful state potentially harms the body’s immune system and by extension the condition of the skin.
  • Other skin disorders can also increase the chances for an individual to acquire cradle cap.
  • Having oily skin also predisposes an individual to contract cradle cap.

How is Cradle Cap Treated?

Home remedies usually are all that is needed for treatment.

Use mineral and baby oil or petroleum jelly to soothe the crustiness on scalp, bathing. Hormone cream treatment usually takes care of cradle cap which also tends to disappear by the infant’s first birthday.

Cradle Cap Prevention

Since cradle cap mostly affects babies, the listed recommendations can help a parent or caregiver prevent the occurrence of the condition.

Using shampoo specially designed for cradle cap prevention can efficiently address the concern. However, one shouldn’t wash the baby’s hair every day with this shampoo since it can irritate. Parents are advised to wash the baby at least once in every two to three days. Conversely, use gentle soap designed for sensitive skin and wash the baby’s hair daily. While washing the baby’s hair, ensure that all soap traces are completely rinsed. A parent or carer should use his or her fingers/soft brush to stroke the baby’s scalp. This activity should be done daily. Doing so helps with circulation and aids in gently eliminating scaly patches. Before shampooing the baby, apply mineral oil on the scalp and then cover it with a moist warm cloth. The material should remain warm for the entire period and remove it after an hour. This will encourage the flaking skin to come off.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
December 11, 2017