Common signs of cradle cap include:
- Patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp
- Greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales
- Skin flakes
- Possibly mild redness
Similar scales may also be present on the ears, eyelids, nose and groin.
Cradle cap is most common in newborns. It isn't contagious and probably won't bother your baby. Cradle cap generally isn't itchy for infants.
Cradle cap is sometimes confused with another skin condition, infantile eczema. One major difference between these conditions, however, is that eczema usually causes significant itching.
When to see a doctor
See your baby's doctor if:
- You've tried self-care steps without success
- The patches spread to your baby's face or body
Though the exact cause of cradle cap isn't known, one contributing factor may be hormones that pass from the mother to the baby before birth. These hormones can cause an abnormal production of oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles.
Another factor may be a yeast (fungus) called malassezia (mal-uh-SEE-zhuh) that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. Antifungal treatments, such as ketoconazole, are often effective, supporting the idea that yeast is a contributing factor.
Shampooing your baby's hair every few days can help prevent cradle cap. Stick with a mild baby shampoo unless your baby's doctor recommends something stronger.