cap is a patchy, greasy, scaly and crusty skin rash that occurs on the
scalp of recently born babies. Cradle cap is infantile seborrhoeic
dermatitis that is confined to the scalp. Infantile seborrhoeic
dermatitis may also affect other areas of the body such as behind the
ears, in the creases of the neck, armpits and nappy area.
causes cradle cap?
cause of cradle cap is not clearly defined but it is not caused by
infection, allergy or poor hygiene. Possibly it has to do with
overactive sebaceous glands in the skin of newborn babies, due to the
mother's hormones still in the baby's circulation. The glands release a
greasy substance that makes old skin cells attach to the scalp as they
try to dry and fall off. There may be a relationship with skin yeasts
Who is at increased risk of cradle cap?
particular baby is more at risk than any other. Cradle cap is a very
common condition that usually appears within the first 6 weeks of life.
In some cases the condition will slowly resolve itself over a few weeks
while in others it may continue for 6 to 9 months, and sometimes much
What are the signs and symptoms of cradle
cap is characterised by greasy, yellow, scaly patches over the scalp.
In some cases a thick scaly layer may cover the whole scalp. Over time
the scales may become flaky and rub off easily. The condition is
usually not itchy and in most cases babies are unaware of the problem.
What is the treatment for cradle cap?
of cradle cap is with mild baby shampoos. The scalp should be washed
regularly and this, along with soft brushing, should help to remove the
scales. We recommend Pot of Gold skin balm rubbed on the affected area
will help to soften the scales, and may also heal the effected area.
the cradle cap doesn't improve with frequent washing or if the rash
spreads to other areas, your doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo
containing ketoconazole, and hydrocortisone cream for any inflamed or
What is the prognosis?
cap is not a serious condition and is only temporary. It usually clears
up by the time the child is 6 to 12 months old but may occasionally
persist for longer. Seborrhoeic dermatitis may then occur again after
the child reaches puberty.
different form of dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (infantile eczema),
often develops as the cradle cap is improving. Atopic dermatitis
generally continues for several years and is very itchy.
material provided by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc. (DermNet NZ), and reviewed by everybody, August 2005.