The Best Cradle Cap Treatments: Doctors Explain What to Do (and What Not to Do) About This Skin Condition

by Laura Fisher

The Best Cradle Cap Treatments: Doctors Explain What to Do (and What Not to Do) About This Skin Condition

Image Credits: Pexels

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Plus, we found 10 treatments and gentle shampoos parents say have worked on their babies’ cradle cap.


When I brought my perfect little newborn home from the hospital, I suddenly found myself wondering why these bundles of joy don’t come with instruction manuals. Diaper rash, strange-colored poop, figuring out exactly how to swaddle a baby effectively—there’s no shortage of things to figure out with a new baby. So when our baby boy suddenly developed flaky, scaly skin all over his scalp and across his forehead, I was horrified and at a loss for how to treat this seemingly alarming issue. As it turns out, what our baby had is known as cradle cap, and there was no need to panic.


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Cradle cap is quite common, according to Debra M. Langlois, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan. “It typically appears in the first weeks of life, gradually improves over weeks to months, and often resolves by 1 year of age,” she tells Parenting.


That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s nothing you can do to treat this unpleasant infant condition.


Best Cradle Cap Solutions



What Is Cradle Cap?


“Cradle cap is yellow, scaly patches and redness on your baby’s scalp,” Langois explains. “Sometimes this scale can be so widespread and thick on the scalp that it resembles a cap.”


While this is most common in the first 6 months of life, according to Adena Rosenblatt, MD PhD, assistant professor of pediatric dermatology at the University of Chicago, it can also be seen in children and teens and adults.


“The medical term for ‘cradle cap’ is seborrheic dermatitis and is on the spectrum of dandruff,” she tells Parenting. “It is thought to be due in part to an overgrowth of a yeast that is commonly found on the skin.” The condition is luckily not harmful and usually goes away on its own, but parents often choose to treat cradle cap with at-home remedies.


“Sometimes you can get some hair loss associated with cradle cap but please be reassured that this is not a permanent hair loss and the hair will grow back over time,” Rosenblatt says.


How to Treat Cradle Cap


Both doctors expressed that there is usually no need to treat cradle cap. “While the sight of cradle cap may be bothersome to parents, it is not harmful, and thankfully doesn’t tend to be bothersome to the baby,” Langois says. But if your baby seems itchy or uncomfortable, or if the cradle cap becomes red or seems irritating, it’s time to go to the doctor, because those could be signs of a secondary skin infection, according to Langois.


Cradle cap itself is not infectious, so it won’t spread to others. (Phew!) That being said, I know that I was too impatient to wait the few months necessary for my son’s cradle cap to clear up on its own, and I eagerly researched all the different techniques and potions for treatment.


Most of the treatment methods involve either starting with a gentle soap or oil to soften scales, then removing flakes manually with a brush. Some people recommend following this up with an additional moisturizing treatment. “I would recommend applying mineral oil to the scalp and gently combing the hair with a comb,” advises Rosenblatt. Langois’ system of choice is washing your baby’s hair with a mild shampoo and using a soft brush or fine tooth comb to gently remove the flakes.


According to both doctors, one method I used was a clear no: “I would avoid picking the scale off the scalp. It often removes the hair as well,” says Rosenblatt. Langois adds that picking anything off your baby’s skin increases their risk of developing an infection. So as tempting as it can be to lift those flakes off with your fingertips (guilty!), try to avoid doing so and choose one of the gentler options below.


1 of 10 Image Credits: Target

Fridababy The FlakeFixer 3-Step Cradle Cap System


Fridababy makes a whole host of products that are lifesavers for parents, so it’s no surprise that its cradle cap products are some of the best out there. This multi-step system contains a sponge for lathering up your baby’s head, a bristle brush to loosen flakes, and a fine-tooth comb to lift the flakes out of the hair. It’s all the tools you need to get rid of cradle cap gently and effectively, and it even comes with a handy storage stand!

2 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby 2-in-1 Shampoo and Wash


An important step in any cradle cap treatment is to shampoo your little one’s hair and scalp with a gentle shampoo, and Babo Botanicals makes one of the best baby shampoos on the market. I’ve used their 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash since my baby’s first bath, and have also used it to treat his cradle cap combined with a scrub brush. It’s super gentle (he doesn’t seem to mind when I accidentally get it in his eyes more often than I’d like to admit), and I feel good about slathering the hypoallergenic, fragrance-free formula—which includes organic calendula, oatmeal, and shea butter—all over his newborn skin.

3 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Fridababy DermaFrida The Skin Soother


My son had a little bit of cradle cap around his eyebrows, and I was looking for a scrubber that was even more gentle than the one in the Fridababy 3-Step Cradle Cap System to use on such a sensitive area. The Skin Soother is a great silicone brush that not only helps with cradle cap and eczema, but can also be used as a full-body scrub brush in the bath. Just pair with a gentle soap and lather up!

4 of 10 Image Credits: Nordstrom

Tubby Todd The Extra Tubby Regulars Bundle


Parents swear by Tubby Todd’s All Over Ointment to treat cradle cap as well as a variety of other skin conditions, including baby acne, diaper rash, and eczema. The fragrance-free, nongreasy cream is full of moisturizing, plant-based ingredients. This bundle combines the All Over Ointment with lavender and rosemary Hair and Body Wash and the lighter Everyday Lotion for all of your baby’s bathing and skin-care needs. The brand recommends washing the cradle cap area with the body and hair wash before brushing out the hair. Then apply the All Over Ointment and let it soak into their skin overnight.

5 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Mustela Baby Cradle Cap Bundle With Natural Avocado


Mustela has been trusted by parents for its sensitive-skin friendly products since 1950. The cradle cap bundle includes a foaming shampoo and cradle cap cream, both formulated with avocado perseose, a sugar found in avocados that can help strengthen the skin’s barrier. Several customers on Amazon recommend leaving the shampoo on your little one’s scalp for a few minutes, then rinsing it out to banish cradle cap for good.

6 of 10 Image Credits: Target

Fridababy Oh Cr*p Cradle Cap Flake Fixer Scalp Spray + Scalp Mask Duo


Another stellar product from Fridababy offers an overnight scalp mask and leave-in conditioner spray for hard-to-treat cradle cap situations. The brand recommends starting with the three-step system (see above) and hydrating overnight with this moisturizing duo, which has aloe and calendula to really infuse flaky skin with the hydration it needs.

7 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Babyganics Infant Cradle Cap Cleansing Oil


As my pediatrician described it, cradle cap is really an oil slick, so it might seem weird to add even more oil to the situation. But, as it turns out, oil can help soften the scales of cradle cap so that you can remove them. It also hydrates the skin so that it’s not encouraged to produce even more oil. The combo of sweet almond oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and olive fruit oil in this Babyganics cleansing oil is the ideal non-allergenic, fragrance-free formula to treat your baby’s scalp. It also comes with a handy scrub brush to gently get rid of the flakes as you bathe.

8 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Scalp Scrubbie Cradle Cap and Baby Bath Time Sponge Brush


No matter which cleansing solution you choose to treat your child’s cradle cap, you need the right brush to loosen and lift the flakes off of your baby’s scalp and hair. The Scalp Scrubbie has 800 gentle bristles and a foam sponge base for a non-irritating yet effective way to scrub. The pack comes with three sponge brushes, so you can replace them often to avoid any bacteria buildup.

9 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo and Wash (Pack of Three)


Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo is another excellent choice for a gentle shampoo and wash that can be used for cradle cap and beyond. Its plant-based formula has soy proteins for natural moisture and a light fresh scent that will make you want to eat your baby up after bathtime.

10 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

Bella B Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo


This baby shampoo has more than 4,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, with reviewers saying that it’s “gentle, smells good and is tear-free,” and that it treated moderate to severe cradle cap situations where other products failed. With ingredients like oatmeal, shea butter, and tea tree oil, the foaming shampoo leaves scalps clean and moisturized.