Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that's common in babies. It usually goes away on its own in 6 to 12 months, but there are things you can try to make it better.

Check if your baby has cradle cap

The main symptom of cradle cap is patches of greasy, scaly skin.

It's usually found on the scalp and face, but sometimes affects the nappy area. It can look like:

  • patches of white or yellow greasy scales on the scalp and face that form a crust which might flake off
  • small, dry flakes of skin on the nappy area

The scales look similar on all skin tones. But the skin under the scales may look pink or red if your baby has white skin, or lighter or darker than the surrounding skin if your baby has brown or black skin.

It is not itchy or painful and does not bother your baby.

The cause of cradle cap is not clear, but it cannot be caught from other babies.

Things you can do to help with cradle cap


  • lightly massage an emollient (moisturiser) on to your baby's scalp to help loosen the scales

  • gently brush your baby's scalp with a soft brush and then wash it with baby shampoo

Things you can do to help with cradle cap


  • do not use olive oil, it may not be suitable for use on skin

  • do not use peanut oil (because of the allergy risk)

  • do not use soap or adult shampoos

  • do not pick crusts because this can increase the chance of infection

Things you can do to help with cradle cap

Your baby's hair may come away with the scales. Do not worry if this happens as it will soon grow back.

A pharmacist can help with cradle cap

Things you can do to help with cradle cap

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • an emollient you can use on your baby's scalp
  • unperfumed baby shampoos
  • barrier creams to use on your baby's nappy area, if it's also affected

Things you can do to help with cradle cap

See a GP if:

  • your baby's cradle cap does not get better after a few weeks of treatment
  • your baby has cradle cap all over their body
  • the crusts bleed or leak fluid
  • the affected areas look swollen

Bleeding, leaking fluid and swelling could be signs of an infection or another condition like atopic eczema or scabies.