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Babies come with all sorts of surprises — some are more welcome than others. One of those unwelcome surprises might be cradle cap on your baby’s face.

We’ll assure you from the get-go that cradle cap is harmless, fairly common, and not contagious. That said, you’ll still want to know how to care for your baby’s skin.

In this article, you’ll read about the causes of cradle cap on your baby’s face as well as how to treat it. But first, let’s discuss what cradle cap is.

Table Of Contents

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 common infant skin condition consists of overactive sebaceous glands (the glands on your skin that produce oil) which leave your baby’s skin with crusts, scales, or an oily coating. It can appear as irritated red or yellow patches of skin. And these patches will be raised and feel greasy and rough to the touch.

Cradle cap typically appears on a baby’s head or face but can also show up on their bottom and other parts of the body.

More than likely, your big question is whether or not cradle cap is contagious or harmful to your baby. While we touched on this briefly above, let’s look at why this isn’t so.

Is Cradle Cap Contagious Or Harmful?

Is cradle cap on your baby’s face contagious or harmful? No and no. Nor is it a sign 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 little one, you’ll need to watch to make sure the skin doesn’t get infected.

Is It Cradle Cap Or Something Else?

Since cradle cap can show up as scaly, red, irritated skin, it may be easily confused with other types of skin conditions such as dry scalp or eczema.

Here are a few clues to help you differentiate.

The scaly skin of cradle cap doesn’t rub off easily. It’s a buildup that is stuck on your baby’s skin. Meanwhile, the flaky skin of eczema or basic dry skin typically rubs off.

Similarly, cradle cap will feel oily and rough. But dry skin or eczema feels dry.

Lastly, cradle cap is most often limited to the head, neck, and face while dry skin and eczema can strike anywhere. That said, let’s move on to the potential causes of cradle cap.

Causes Of Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face

baby with cradle cap on face

Not much is known about what causes this condition. What we do know is that it’s not an allergic reaction, a bacterial infection, or a result of poor hygiene.

Let’s look at a few of the ideas as to what causes 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? Mom’s hormones.

Mom’s Hormones

One theory about cradle cap is that your baby’s sebaceous glands aren’t working properly yet due to the hormones your little one receives from gestation.

Rest assured that, with time, your baby’s hormones will settle out.


When it comes to the causes of cradle cap, another idea is that it is due to a yeast imbalance — specifically Malassezia yeast. While this yeast is found naturally on your skin, the theory is that it may cause cradle cap when it colonizes, causing redness and inflammation.


Lastly, cradle cap could be due to immunodeficiency — an immune system that doesn’t adequately protect that body from infection.

This is a rare cause, and, if your baby is immune deficient, there will be other signs. If you are worried about this, it’s best to speak with your baby’s pediatrician.

How To Treat Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face

So, your baby has cradle cap on their face. As we said, there’s no need to fret, especially when you know how to treat it and care for 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.

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

Don’t Pick At The Scales

baby with cradle cap

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

Picking or scraping away the scales 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.

As far as getting rid of the scales, the only thing you should do is gently brush the patch with a soft baby brush while your little one is taking a bath.

Apply Cradle Cap Cream

When it comes to baby skincare products, you should always be careful with what goes on your little one’s delicate skin.

In general, you want to look for products that are designed specifically for babies, contain naturally derived ingredients, and are free of questionable ingredients like parabens, phenoxyethanol, and phthalates (or chemical sunscreen ingredients).

The same goes for cradle cap treatment. We recommend our Cradle Cap Cream to keep your baby’s skin moisturized, effectively eliminate cradle cap flakes, and help reduce the likelihood of future recurrence.

This fragrance-free cream is made of 95% naturally derived ingredients to keep your baby’s skin smooth, supple, and comfortable.

It’s enriched with avocado polyphenols® to soften the flakes, sunflower oil distillate® to soothe the skin, and galactoarabinan (an extract from the Larch tree) to keep skin clean and moisturized. 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.

Tend To Bath Time

Mom bathing newborn in sink

We already mentioned that bathtime is a good moment to carefully brush your baby’s cradle cap patches. But another way to make bathtime part of cradle cap treatment is to bathe them less frequently. That’s right.

It may seem like bathing could help to wash away the scales; however, frequent baths only serve to dry your baby’s skin. And dry skin is a lose-lose.

Another way to avoid dry skin during bath time is to ensure that the water is warm, not hot. Around 97 degrees Fahrenheit or the average body temperature, which is 98.6, will do the trick.

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 squeaky clean in-between times, bathing three times a week may be enough.

Read our article here for more information about how often to bathe your baby.

As for staying clean between baths, we’re talking about cleaning your baby’s diaper area at every diaper change and spot-cleaning their skin as needed (think: spit-up and drool).

Keep their bottom clean with Cleansing Wipes for normal baby skin or Certified Organic Water Wipes with Cotton and Aloe for an organic, biodegradable wipe option. And turn to Certified Organic Micellar Water with Olive Oil and Aloe for easy cleanup on any part of the body.

This fragrance-free micellar water gently cleans the face, hands, body, or diaper area and, since there’s no need to rinse it off, cleanup is a breeze.

Use The Right Shampoo

baby getting a bath in the sink

While we’re on the topic of bathtime, it’s important to use a shampoo that will work for, not against, your baby’s skin.

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.

Gentle Skin Care For Cradle Cap On Your Baby’s Face

Hopefully, you’re resting a bit easier knowing that cradle cap isn’t harmful, contagious, or uncommon. Watch for infection, but know that typically all you need to treat cradle cap on your baby’s face is the right skin care and a little bit of patience.

Resist picking at the scales, make bathtime healthy for your baby’s skin, and use gentle skincare products made specifically for cradle cap such as Cradle Cap Cream and Foam Shampoo for Newborns.

With the tips mentioned in this article, your baby’s cradle cap will soon be a thing of the past!