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Cradle cap is a very common skin condition in babies. Gentle oils, massage, and shampooing will usually help the appearance of this benign condition.

Cradle cap is a form of the skin condition seborrheic dermatitis that affects babies. It is not usually anything to worry about and will typically clear up on its own.

Cradle cap tends to start on the scalp, but it may appear in areas that include:

  • the forehead
  • the face
  • the eyebrows
  • skin folds, including in the armpits or behind the ears

While cradle cap looks like it might be uncomfortable or irritating, it is not usually itchy or harmful. It does not tend to bother the baby and will often go away without treatment within a few weeks or months.

Before then, there are a few methods that caregivers can try to get rid of cradle cap if they wish to:

Loosen and remove the scales

Caregivers can loosen and remove the cradle cap scales if they wish. To do this, wash the baby's hair with a mild baby shampoo, then gently remove the scales with a soft brush or soft toothbrush.

Apply a gentle oil

a baby about to get some baby oil applied for cradle cap.
Applying a moisturizing agent can help the scales on cradle cap to loosen.

Sometimes, the scales will not loosen easily. If so, apply a moisturizing agent, such as petroleum jelly or baby oil.

Leave this treatment to soak into the scales for anything between a few minutes and several hours. This should loosen the scales, making it easier to remove them with a soft brush or toothbrush.

People can also try rubbing a small amount of a gentle, natural oil, such as coconut oil, to moisturize the baby's scalp. A suggests that it is safe to apply coconut oil to the skin of preterm infants. However, researchers say they need to do more studies.

People caring for infants can talk to the pediatrician before using natural remedies, including coconut oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil.

People can find these products in drug stores or choose between brands online:

Scalp massage

If the scales are difficult to loosen, a caregiver can massage a baby friendly dandruff shampoo into the scalp for a few minutes. Then, they rinse the baby's head before gently patting it dry.

People need to be careful when doing this because dandruff shampoo can sting if it gets in the eyes.

Shampoo the head gently

Caregivers can wash the baby's hair using a shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, coal tar, or zinc pyrithione. These products are available over the counter at most drug stores, or people can shop for baby dandruff shampoo .

These shampoos may be irritating or drying, so consider using them every few days or even once a week.

Consider a mild medical cream

If regular shampooing does not help, a healthcare professional may recommend a mild corticosteroid cream or specialist shampoo.

Speak to a doctor before using these products because they can sometimes cause irritation or allergic reactions. Since cradle cap is a benign condition, the risks of these creams may outweigh any possible benefit.