The cradle cap in the newborn: causes, remedies and advice

Fonte: lolostock / Alamy / IPA

The cradle cap

La milk crust è a rash typical of newborns, which can occur in the first weeks of life. Typically, it shows up with scabs on the head, but the problem tends to resolve itself in a short time. To encourage the removal of scales you can use them oily products or emollient creams.

In this article

  • What is cradle cap
  • How the cradle cap manifests itself
  • When the cradle cap appears
  • Why does the cradle cap come
  • Is there a cure for cradle cap?
  • Helpful remedies and tips when your baby has cradle cap
Read also: Dermatitis in children: a guide to the most common in early childhood

1. What is the cradle cap

Cradle cap is a form of seborrheic dermatitis affecting the infant's skin. The name does not derive from an effect linked to the consumption of milk, but simply from the fact that this condition affects children who still feed on milk. Seborrheic dermatitis is one inflammatory condition of the skin caused by an increased production of sebum (i.e. fat) by the pilosebaceous glands, which are particularly abundant in some areas of the body.

Read also: Cradle cap, grandmother's remedies

2. How the cradle cap manifests itself

With small yellowish crusts or scales and greasy on the baby's head, but can also extend to the forehead, eyebrows, area behind the ears, nose. The scales adhere well to the skin. There is generally no itch, which can, however, occur in more severe forms. 

The appearance of the baby's head covered in scales is not beautiful, but the good news is that it is not a disease. It is simply a fairly common condition in newborns, which in many cases goes away on its own. Only if it persists for a long time can it be a sign of a predisposition to psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.


Cradle cap, as it manifests PHOTO

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The crusts (or scales) on the baby's head are due to the so-called "seborrheic dermatitis". It is a benign manifestation commonly known as cradle cap. Here are some ...

3. When the cradle cap appears

Cradle cap can occur in the first weeks of life (usually in the second-third month), up to the sixth month. After the fourth to sixth month it generally tends to regress.

4. Why does the cradle cap come

The cradle cap is due to an increase in secretion from the sebaceous glands. In most cases it is an idiopathic condition, that is, it is not linked to any specific cause, but sometimes it can be one of the first signs of psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

On the other hand, there is no correlation between cradle cap and breastfeeding or with any cow's milk protein allergies, as certain popular beliefs say. Cradle cap is not contagious.

Read also: Cradle cap: when does it go away?

5. Is there a cure for cradle cap?

No, the cradle cap is one benign condition which does not require any treatment, also because it is generally only an aesthetic problem, which does not cause any disturbance to the infant.

6. Remedies and useful tips for when the baby has cradle cap

Here is a list of helpful remedies and tips to follow when your newborn has cradle cap:

  •  Wash your hair every 2-3 days with a oil-based cleaner or enriched with emollient substances or with specific shampoos that prevent milk crust;

  • After washing, wipe the skin with a cotton ball dipped in almond oil, olive or calendula, to dissolve the sebum and soften the scales. Alternatively, you can use a specific emollient cream for the treatment of cradle cap;

  • Never 'scratch' the crusts with the comb or with your fingers, as the skin could become irritated. At the most, it is possible to facilitate the removal of already detached scales with a soft brush.

In the most serious forms, it is advisable to consult the specialist doctor, who could advise cortisone-based creams to be used locally.

Sources for this article: material from the medical information site WebMd, information material from the American Mayo Clinic.

Questions and answers

How long does the cradle cap last?

The cradle cap usually subsides on its own, usually around four to six months of age or a little more. Emollient oils and creams can help remove scales, while combing and mechanical removal of scales in general should be avoided. In the most serious forms and if it persists for a long time, it is advisable to consult a specialist doctor.

Does the cradle cap smell bad?

Generally not. If it has a bad smell, it could be a bacterial or fungal infection and it is advisable to refer the situation to the pediatrician. 

Cradle cap for babies: how to remove it

The infant's skin is very delicate, including the scalp. After a few weeks of life, the skin of the newborn may develop milk crust, which is not dangerous or bothersome to the baby, but tends to build up and thicken the skin. In fact, these are small greasy crusts and scales, of a yellowish color that are not aesthetically beautiful to look at. It tends to be localized on the scalp but can also affect other parts of the body, especially the face. 

Usually it disappears after a few months from the appearance without special treatments. In any case, to take care of skin with cradle cap, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Apply, with a cotton swab, some vegetable oils such as that of borage, calendula, chamomile, olive or rice which soften the flakes of the milk crust. 
  • Continue with hair washing. Use of mild shampoos and non-aggressive, avoiding frequent brushing of the hair.

If the problem persists then it would be advisable to consult the doctor, who generally prescribes products based on useful substances to accelerate the disappearance.

Cradle cap on babies face

In addition to the scalp, in some children, the milk crust it can also manifest itself in other parts of the body, for example the face. Especially on the eyebrows, ear and eyelids. Since it is not a symptom of any pathology but a physiological neaontal phenomenon, it will disappear, without special treatments, after a few months from its appearance.

To moisturize the baby's skin, you can apply emollient creams or vegetable oils to soften the scales. 

Cradle cap for babies: natural remedies

As already mentioned, if not indicated by the doctor, do not use particular drugs, but you can use them natural remedies to speed up the healing process:

  • Wash your hair with a detergent a oily base or enriched by emollient substances.
  • Apply a cotton ball soaked in on the skin almond oil, olive oil or calendula, to dissolve the sebum and soften the scales. Alternatively, an emollient cream can be used.
  • DO NOT "scratch" the crusts with the comb or with your fingers, as the skin could become irritated, but use a soft brush to remove the already detached scales.

- Updated on 19.10.2022

  • skin
  • dermatitis
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