Cradle cap will eventually clear up on its own. However, there are a few things you can do to help with the baby's appearance and to keep the area free of infection. If the condition is confined to the scalp and has not spread to other parts of the skin, home treatment is appropriate.
- Shampoo daily with a mild baby shampoo.
- Gently massage the baby's scalp with your fingers or brush the scalp daily with a baby brush to loosen plaques.
- For more severe cases, rub the scalp with olive oil, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly a few hours before washing your baby’s scalp to help to lift off the crusts and loosen scales. Make sure you do not just use the oil and do nothing else, as this allows scales to build up on the scalp.
- Rinse the oil off before shampooing and then gently scrub the scalp with a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush for a few minutes to remove the scales.
- Wash the scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and gently towel dry.
Stronger anti-dandruff shampoos may loosen the scales more quickly, but since they may be too harsh for babies, they should only be used only after consulting a doctor.
Your doctor will probably suggest a stronger shampoo (often containing selenium sulphide or ketoconazole) and might also prescribe a cortisone cream or lotion. A mild hydrocortisone cream is commonly used to clear the rash. Severe cases are usually referred to a skin specialist.
How cradle cap is diagnosed
The causes of cradle cap
The symptoms of 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