#Routines and Baby care

Cradle Cap On Your Baby's Face: Causes And Treatment

Babies come with all sorts of surprises — some more pleasant than others. One of those unwelcome surprises might be cradle cap that is not on your baby’s scalp but on your baby’s face.

Right from the start, let's assure you that cradle cap is harmless, relatively common, and not something that can be passed from person to person. Nevertheless, it's understandable that you'd want to know how to properly care for your baby's delicate skin.

In this article, you'll delve into the causes behind the occurrence of cradle cap on your baby's face, along with effective ways to address it.
You’ll also learn about mistakes to avoid and how to know when you need help. But first, let's begin by discussing what exactly cradle cap entails.

What Is Cradle Cap?

Baby with cradle cap

Cradle cap, scientifically known as seborrheic dermatitis, is basically infant dandruff. But it’s a little more complex than just that. 

This prevalent skin condition among infants arises from overactive sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing skin oil. This excessive gland activity leads to the development of crusts, scales, or an oily film on your baby's skin. It can manifest as reddened or yellowish irritated patches on the skin's surface, which will have a raised appearance and feel both greasy and coarse to the touch. 

Cradle cap predominantly emerges on a baby's head or face, although it can also make an appearance on their bottom and various other body parts.  

Is Cradle Cap Contagious Or Harmful?

Is cradle cap on your baby’s face contagious or harmful? No and no. In reality, cradle cap is likely causing you more concern than it is for your little one. It's not usually accompanied by itchiness or pain, and there's no indication that it can be transferred from your baby to others. It's important to understand that cradle cap is also not an indicator of poor hygiene.

Cradle cap also typically goes away by the time your baby is one year old. While the condition itself isn’t harmful to your infant, it's advisable to remain vigilant to prevent potential skin infections. 

Is It Cradle Cap Or Something Else?

Because cradle cap can manifest as scaly, red, and irritated skin, it can sometimes be mistaken for other skin conditions like dry scalp or eczema. To assist in distinguishing between these, here are several points: 

The scaly skin associated with cradle cap adheres firmly and doesn't easily come off. It's a buildup that adheres to your baby's skin. In contrast, the flaky skin linked to eczema or basic dryness usually rubs off without much effort

Furthermore, cradle cap typically feels both oily and rough, whereas dry skin or eczema tends to be dry to the touch

Another potential indicator might be smell. Although mild cases of cradle cap usually lack an odor, more severe instances can have a slightly greasy scent due to the accumulation of oil on the scalp. 

Lastly, cradle cap primarily occurs on the head, neck, and face, although not exclusively, while dry skin and eczema can develop anywhere on the body. With these distinctions in mind, let's now delve into the possible factors contributing to cradle cap.

Causes Of Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face

baby with cradle cap on face 

Limited information is available regarding the precise cause of this condition. However, it is established that cradle cap does not stem from an allergic reaction, bacterial infection, or inadequate hygiene.  

Now, let's explore some of the hypothesis regarding the potential triggers for cradle cap on your baby's face.

Excess sebum

As we mentioned, cradle cap could be a problem with the sebaceous glands, leaving the buildup that you see on your baby’s skin. Why might there be an issue with the sebaceous glands? Mum’s hormones.

Mum's hormones

A hypothesis regarding cradle cap suggests that your baby's sebaceous glands might not be functioning optimally at this early stage due to the influence of hormones transferred during gestation. However, you can find reassurance in the fact that over time, your baby's hormonal balance will gradually stabilise.


Regarding the origins of cradle cap, experts suggest that it could arise from an imbalance in yeast, particularly the Malassezia yeast. Even though this yeast is naturally present on the skin, the theory proposes that cradle cap might manifest when it proliferates excessively, leading to potential redness and inflammation

Genetic Factors

Genetics could potentially be a factor in the occurrence of cradle cap among babies. Certain studies indicate that infants who experience cradle cap frequently have one or more family members with conditions like eczema or asthma. However, while this is interesting, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Your baby having cradle cap doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is more likely to develop those other conditions later in life.


Finally, cradle cap might be linked to immunodeficiency, wherein the immune system doesn't effectively guard the body against infections. This is a rare cause, and, if your baby is immune deficient, there will be other signs. If concerns about this arise, it's advisable to consult your baby's pediatrician for guidance.

Myths about Cradle Cap


When researching cradle cap, don’t be misled by these common myths. 

“You Can Prevent It” 

It’s all too common for parents, especially among first-time parents, to place blame on themselves when their baby experiences any health issue.  

Nevertheless, research indicates that as many as 70% of babies may encounter cradle cap at some point within their initial year of life. Thus, the occurrence of cradle cap is far from unusual and doesn't indicate any wrongdoing on your part as a parent. 

As we've discussed while exploring potential causes of cradle cap, there's often little or nothing that you, as a parent, could have done to prevent its onset. It's not indicative of neglecting your baby's cleanliness, and excessive bathing can even be counterproductive. 

“You Can Treat It With Home Remedies” 

Many parents are familiar with being told about a “home remedies” that can treat their child. The internet has made it much easier to stumble upon these dubious recommendations.

While the notion of a natural remedy for cradle cap might seem appealing, it's essential to recognize that not all these recommendations are safe, and many are unlikely to have a positive impact on your child's skin condition. 

For example, you might come across advice saying to use peanut oil on your baby’s scalp to address cradle cap. If your baby turns out to be allergic to peanuts, this will only cause more irritation. 

When dealing with cradle cap, stick to methods approved by paediatricians

“Only Babies Get Cradle Cap” 

Despite what the popularly used name “cradle cap” might imply, it isn’t exclusively babies who can develop seborrheic dermatitis. Adults can get it as well. Cradle cap in adults can be caused by stress, hormones or illness, and other skin conditions.  

The scientific name for adult cradle cap is seborrheic dermatitis. But, like we mentioned earlier, you probably know it better as dandruff. Yep, that’s all it is.  
The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not completely clear but may involve an inflammatory reaction to a yeast naturally present on the skin surface. But you can rest easy — what is clear is that adult cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene. And, just like cradle cap in babies, adult cradle cap is not contagious.

“Cradle Cap Can Spread Between Children” 

The appearance of cradle cap might trigger comparisons to other childhood skin conditions, such as chicken pox, and make you worry about it spreading. However, as is the case with so many things related to cradle cap, there’s no actual cause for concern. 

As we've seen, this skin condition is probably not caused by an infectious disease but rather by glandular or hormonal causes. This implies there is no chance of your infant infecting other kids or adults with cradle cap.  

Be compassionate and try not to take it personally if other parents express concern about their baby "catching" cradle cap from yours. Despite the fact that they could be uninformed, keep in mind that their fears are motivated by a desire to protect their infant. 

How To Treat Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face


So, your baby has cradle cap on their face. As we previously mentioned, you shouldn't worry, especially if you know how to handle it and take good care of your baby's skin.

See Your Pediatrician 

First things first, see your pediatrician if you have any concerns about cradle cap, or your parental instinct tells you that something is amiss. And, of course, if your baby’s skin doesn’t clear up or begins to appear infected, it’s time to pay a visit to the doctor. 

Consulting a pediatrician can also help you confirm that what you’re seeing on your child truly is just harmless cradle cap and not another skin condition. 

Otherwise, you can treat it at home with the following tips. 

Apply Cradle Cap Cream


You should always be cautious about what you put on your child's sensitive skin when it comes to infant skincare products.  

In general, you want to look for baby-specific products that are made from natural ingredients and free of potentially harmful substances like parabens, phenoxyethanol, and phthalates (or artificial sunscreen ingredients).  

We suggest using our Cradle Cap Cream to keep your baby's skin hydrated, effectively remove cradle cap flakes, and help reduce the likelihood of recurrence.   

This fragrance-free cream contains 95% of natural origin ingredients. It’s enriched with avocado polyphenols® to soften the flakes, sunflower oil distillate® to soothe the skin. And, of course, it’s free of parabens, phthalates, and phenoxyethanol. 

Proven safe for use from birth on, this formula has been tested under pediatric and dermatological control.

Consider Using A Vitamin B Supplement If You’re Nursing 

Sometimes, pregnant and nursing mums can develop a deficiency of the B vitamin biotin, which plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. It's thought by some that this deficiency could potentially heighten the likelihood of a nursing infant developing cradle cap. 

Taking a biotin supplement while nursing may be helpful in treating this skin condition. However, there isn't concrete proof that this strategy is effective, so speak with a doctor before getting a biotin supplement. 

Use A Humidifier

You should take every precaution to keep your baby's delicate skin from getting too dry to either prevent or treat cradle cap. Signs of dry, itchy skin are frequently seen in infants with cradle cap.  

Keeping your baby's skin moisturised at all times with the help of a humidifier is a great method to address skin issues. 

Bathe Your Baby Less Frequently 


We already explained that brushing your baby's cradle cap patches gently during bathtime is a wonderful idea. But bathing them less frequently is another option to manage cradle cap. Although it may appear that showering could help remove the scales, regular washes actually tend to dry out your baby's skin.   

Making sure the water is warm rather than hot is another strategy to prevent dry skin while taking a bath. Also, keep baths short. Five or 10 minutes is long enough to get your baby clean. 

That said, how often should you bathe your baby? Once a day at most. But, as long as you’re keeping their skin clean in-between, bathing three times a week may be enough. For further details on how often to bathe your child, see this article. 

Cleaning your baby's nappy area at each nappy change and spot-cleaning their skin when required (think: spit-up and drool) are two ways to keep them clean in between bathing. 

Keep their bottom clean with Cleansing Wipes with avocado or Certified Organic Water Wipes with Cotton and Aloe for an organic, biodegradable wipe option. And turn to our No-rinse baby cleansing water with avocado for easy cleanup on any part of the body. 

Use The Right Shampoo

Our Foam Shampoo For Newborns cleanses your baby’s hair and scalp, gently exfoliating and rinsing away cradle cap flakes while also helping reduce the chance of recurrence. It rinses off easily and is safe to use on your baby’s forehead and eyebrow area.

What Not To Do When Dealing With Cradle Cap?

Now that you know some of the best strategies for treating cradle cap, here are some things you should try to avoid:

Don’t pick at the flakes

baby with cradle cap  

Here’s the big no-no with cradle cap: Don’t pick at it! 

Picking or scraping away the flakes won’t help the skin condition to clear up and only serves to make things worse. It may even make your baby’s skin sore or leave it compromised and open to infection. 

The only thing you need to do to remove the scales is gently brush the area with a gentle baby brush while your child is taking a bath. 

Don’t use treatments with harsh ingredients 

Because of how delicate your baby's skin is, if you try to treat cradle cap with creams that include certain harsh or even harmful substances, the "cure" can actually make the problem worse.  

Here are five components to stay away from in any product that comes in contact with your baby's sensitive skin: 

  • Phenoxyethanol: This chemical is a synthetic preservative. It can fight bacteria growth, but it can also irritate the skin and possibly even damage your baby’s nervous system. 
  • Parabens: Parabens are commonly used as preservatives for food and cosmetic products. They can impair hormone function, which is harmful to your baby’s developing endocrine system. 
  • Sulfates: Sulfates give shampoo that foamy lather quality and help lift dirt and oil off skin. But they’re too harsh for babies’ skin and can also cause eye irritation, skin rash, hair loss, and allergic reactions. 
  • Certain types of alcohol: You might see variants of the word “alcohol” on the ingredient list, and they aren’t all bad. The ones you want to avoid are ethanol and ethyl alcohol, since they can be drying and irritating to your baby’s skin. 
  • Salicylic acid: This is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. Since cradle cap can be thought of as newborn dandruff, it might be tempting to use anti-dandruff shampoo. But salicylic can be harmful to babies. 

Don’t worry  

Cradle cap won’t cause your baby any harm or serious discomfort on its own. So keep things in perspective! 

Watch your baby’s skin and treat it using proper methods. But keep in mind that even very stubborn cases of cradle cap usually resolve on their own, with most babies growing out of cradle cap by the time they’re one year old. 

Don’t be embarrassed 

Although cradle cap can be unsightly, there’s no reason to be embarrassed if you need to take your baby out in public. Your little one isn’t self-conscious, and you shouldn’t be either! 

Remember, cradle cap isn’t your fault, and it’s not harming your baby. So do your best to simply relax and enjoy these precious few months together with your little one. 

Cradle Cap Complications: Knowing When To Get Help

Although cradle cap is harmless and easily treatable in the vast majority of cases, you should be vigilant and monitor your child. 

Consult a paediatrician if you notice any of the following: 

  • Areas affected by cradle cap start to turn red 
  • Cradle cap patches start to appear irritated 
  • The affected area begins to spread to larger parts of your child’s body 
  • Your child develops nappy rash 
  • Signs of thrush appear 

Bacteria can grow where there may be cracks or bleeding in cradle cap cases that are more severe. Consult your paediatrician if you notice any of these symptoms.

Gentle Skincare For Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face

Hopefully, knowing that cradle cap is not dangerous, contagious, or unusual helps you sleep a little better. Keep an eye out for infection, but understand that with the appropriate skin care and a little bit of patience, you can usually treat cradle cap on your baby's face.

Use gentle skincare products designed specifically for cradle cap, such as our Cradle Cap Cream and Foam Shampoo For Newborns, and refrain from picking at the scales. You should also make bathtime healthy for your baby's skin.