Health advice

Cradle cap

Mother washing small baby's hair in bath

Cradle cap is a skin condition that causes scaly patches on a baby's head. It doesn't usually cause your baby discomfort, but there are ways to treat it. Read more to find out about symptoms and treatments of cradle cap.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is a skin condition that can happen to babies after they’re born. It can last between 6 to 12 months.1

Cradle cap is a patch of greasy skin that can occur on a baby’s scalp, face and occasionally on the nappy area.1

It looks like yellow or white scales on the skin. The scales may flake but it does not bother your baby and they won’t be in pain.1

What causes cradle cap?

There is no clear cause for cradle cap. It is not contagious and usually goes away by itself after a few months.1

How is cradle cap treated?

Cradle cap can be treated at home by gently massaging moisturiser on to your baby’s scalp to soothe the skin and loosen the scales. Once the scales are loose, you can brush the scalp with a soft brush and wash their hair with baby shampoo.1

Your baby’s hair may come away with the scales, but it will grow back.1

It is important that you don’t pick the scales off your child’s skin as it can increase their chance of getting an infection.2

If the scales appear on other parts of the body, wash the area with a moisturising soap (emollient), or add the emollient to the bathwater. This may make your baby’s skin slippery so make sure you take extra care when lifting them out of the bath.2

Never pick at the scabs as this can make it worse and increase the risk of infection.1

If cradle cap doesn’t clear after a few months, contact your GP or pharmacist for more advice. They may test for other skin conditions such as eczema. They may also give you additional advice on ways to treat cradle cap if it has become infected.2

It is important not to use olive oil or peanut oil as it may not be suitable for your baby’s skin and may cause an allergic reaction. You should also avoid using adult soaps and shampoos.1

Visit your nearest pharmacy

Get support and advice from your local Well pharmacist

Where can I get further support and information?

NHS website

Information and advice on cradle cap, including the symptoms and how to manage it at home.

  1. Cradle cap. Published October 24, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2023.
  2. Seborrhoeic dermatitis & cradle cap in infants. National Eczema Society. Published February 3, 2020. Accessed August 9, 2023.

Published: September 2023

Next review: September 2026

Reviewer: Mital Thakrar

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