Childhood Diseases

Updated 07 March 2016

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition occurring in babies younger than three months.


Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that appears as oily, yellow or reddish scales or patches of skin flakes on a baby's scalp. In more severe cases, the condition can spread to other areas of the body including the eyelids and eyebrows, behind the ears and skin creases, the forehead and around the nappy area. This condition is then called ‘seborrhoeic dermatitis’ of infancy.

The condition commonly occurs in babies younger than three months and is not part of any illness. Cradle cap is not contagious and it is not caused by poor hygiene or inadequate washing.

Cradle cap is very common in babies. It usually appears during the first couple of weeks of the infant's life and usually clears up spontaneously before the age of 6 months.

In adults, seborrhoeic dermatitis appears to run in families.

Read more:

The causes of cradle cap

The symptoms of cradle cap

How to prevent cradle cap

Reviewed by Dr Rowan Dunkley, Paediatrician, Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Cape Town February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Prof Eugene Weinberg, Paediatrician, February 2011



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Prof Eugene Weinberg worked in the Paediatrics Department of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital for many years. He is presently a paediatric allergist at the Allergy Diagnostic Unit of the UCT Lung Institute in Mowbray.

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