Cradle cap, medically known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, causes flaky, dry skin resembling dandruff but a more thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches on your baby’s scalp. It is very common in the first few months of a baby’s life. Cradle cap generally clears up without any treatment in about 6-12 months. However, some children may have cradle cap for longer. It usually doesn’t bother your baby but if it gets severe, it might itch. It may also occur on baby’s ears, eyebrows, eyelids, and even in armpits and other body folds and creases. Mild cases of cradle cap don’t need any treatment or even home remedy. Gently massaging your baby’s scalp with fingers or a soft brush can loosen these flaky scales that you can rinse with a mild baby shampoo then. If, however, your baby’s scalp doesn’t get cleared, you may like to apply certain home remedies for cradle cap before thinking about a treatment from your doctor which anyhow may become essential if cradle cap gets inflamed or infected. Here are the simple and easy ways to prevent and treat cradle cap.
Home Remedies for Cradle Cap
1. Coconut Oil for Cradle Cap
Coconut oil is one of the preferable choices of many mothers when it comes to natural remedies for cradle cap. The very nutritious coconut oil contains Vitamin E along with many other fatty acids that moisturize skin well. The medium chain fatty acids can activate antimicrobial and anti-fungal functions and thus protect skin and also cure such conditions as Athlete’s foot, rashes, itches, ringworm, and dermatitis. As cradle cap is one of the types of dermatitis, coconut oil can cure it very effectively. And the most important thing, it is safe for the delicate skin of your child.
- Coconut oil- few drops
- Pour few drops of coconut oil onto your fingers
- Rub this gently on the scalp of your baby, especially where there is dead flaky skin.
- Leave it for sometime, a couple of minutes.
- Comb the hair of your child. The oil has already softened the crusted skin and loosened it up. It will come off with the stroke of comb. Be gentle though.
- You may now wash your baby’s hair with a mild shampoo.
2. Olive Oil for Cradle Cap
Olive oil has many antioxidants that can cleanse, moisturize, and protect human skin wonderfully. Vitamin A and E are some of the antioxidants that also help restore skin elasticity. Apart from the antioxidants polyphenols and phytosterols, olive oil has one more antioxidant called hydroxytyrosol which penetrates deeply into our skin without clogging pores there. Olive oil can so effectively moisten skin that it has become one of the best home remedies for skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis that create patches of dry skin. The same property of olive oil works for your kid’s cradle cap where there are patches of dry skin.
- Olive oil- few drops
- fine toothed comb/ toothbrush/washcloth
- Gently rub the olive oil on to your baby’s scalp and hair.
- Let it sit there for 10-15 minutes.
- Now gently rub the scalp with comb, toothbrush or washcloth so that the loosened crusted skin falls off.
- Wash with mild baby shampoo.
3. Shea Butter for Cradle Cap
Shea butter is a fine moisturizer with excellent healing properties for skin. The moisturizing compounds present in Shea butter resemble those found in the sebaceous glands of our skin. Not only does Shea butter accelerate wound healing but due to the presence of vitamin A and E, it has come to be known as a wonderful natural remedy for such skin conditions as wrinkles, eczema and dermatitis. Shea butter is derived from the seeds of the Shea tree and no chemical is generally used for its extraction or manufacturing. The one which is extracted through cold pressed method doesn’t contain chemicals and preservatives and thus is safe to be used on kids’ skin.
- Apply some Shea butter on your baby’s scalp.
- Gently massage for few minutes.
- Comb the hair gently.
- Wash with mild shampoo.
4. Mineral Oil for Cradle Cap
Mineral oil has many properties that make it a good remedy for all dry skin conditions including cradle cap. It prevents loss of water and it is a great emollient that makes your skin feel soft. It doesn’t also clogs your skin pores. Mineral oil is used as a natural remedy for dandruff and psoriasis including scalp psoriasis as it can moisturize skin and also prevent evaporation of water from skin surface. You can use to treat cradle cap bothering your kid.
Ways to Use Mineral Oil
- Apply some mineral oil to the scalp at night. Cover with a shower cap and leave overnight. This will loosen up the dry scales on the scalp and will also reduce any inflammation if its there.
- Apply mineral oil to the scalp after giving a bath to your baby so that dry skin doesn’t form there.
5. Almond Oil for Cradle Cap
Derived from dried almonds through cold pressing, almond oil is rich in vitamins E, A and D as well as oleic and linoleic acids. The light weight almond oil has fine moisturizing properties. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, almond oil reduces swelling due to skin allergies, wounds, chapped skin, and other skin infections. Its emollient properties keep dry skin soft and it seeps into the skin to give relief from irritation due to itchy skin, psoriasis and mild eczema. It has been successfully used by many parents to treat their babies’ cradle cap too.
- Take some almond oil.
- Massage this gently on to the scalp.
- Leave for 20 minutes.
- Comb hair to discard loosened up flaky skin.
- Wash with mild shampoo.
6. Tea Tree Oil for Cradle Cap
Tea tree essential oil, derived from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia tree native to Australia, has many properties that are skin friendly. Terpenoids, the natural lipids, found in the tea tree leaves have antiseptic and antifungal properties. The most abundant terpenoid, terpinen-4-ol, is thought to be the major reason for its antimicrobial properties. This oil has long been used to heal cuts and burns, acne, insect bites, lice, dandruff and many fungal skin infections like Athlete’s foot, eczema, yeast infections etc. Sometimes, cradle cap is said to be caused by fungal infections too. As such, tea tree oil can be used to treat cradle cap but as it is very strong, you need to dilute it with some other carrier oil.
- Tea tree oil- 1 part (for example 1 tsp or ½ tsp)
- Carrier oil (almond/ olive/ avocado/ coconut oil)- 10 parts (for example 10 tsp or 5 tsp)
- Add 1 part tea tree oil to 10 parts of carrier oil. If you take ½ tsp tea tree oil, mix it with 5 tsp of carrier oil. If you take 1 tsp of tea tree oil, mix it with 10 tsp of carrier oil.
- Massage your baby’s scalp with this diluted oil.
- Leave for 10-15 minutes.
- Wash your baby’s hair with mild baby shampoo.
Precaution: Prevent tea tree oil from entering your baby’s eyes, mouth and nose. It is toxic oil if ingested.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar for Cradle Cap
Rich in acetic acid, malic, citric and ascorbic acids, apple cider vinegar has long been used as a traditional remedy for various health conditions. It has an antioxidant and antimicrobial property that fights of various fungal infections. Therefore, it can also be used to treat cradle cap which might have resulted from certain fungal infection. However, because it is acidic in nature, you need to dilute it with water.
- Apple cider vinegar- 1 part (for example 1 tablespoon)
- Water- 4 parts (for example 4 tablespoons)
- Mix apple cider vinegar with water to have a diluted solution.
- Massage the scalp with this.
- Leave for 10 minutes.
- Wash off with mild shampoo.
Precaution: Take caution not to let apple cider vinegar enter the eyes of your baby. It is acidic n nature and may create problems for your baby’s sensitive skin too.
8. Baking Soda for Cradle Cap
The natural, chemical free baking soda has antibacterial properties that can fight off dry skin in an effective manner. It is also an exfoliant which can help get rid of dry flaky skin giving soft skin in place of patchy rough skin on your little one’s scalp. Its alkaline properties also keep infections away.
Ways to Use Baking Soda for Cradle Cap
- Take one part soda and one part water. Mix both the ingredients and apply on the scalp. Leave for couple of minutes. Now using a soft comb, brush off the skin there. Wash off with mild shampoo.
- Sometimes, baking soda can have too dry an effect on baby’s skin. To avoid this, you may mix baking soda with some oil like olive, almond or coconut oil and then apply it your kid’s scalp.
- You may also mix baking soda with apple cider vinegar. Both of them are good remedies for cradle cap and when applied together, may have better results in combating the condition.
9. Calendula (Marigold) for Cradle Cap
Calendula or marigold has anti-viral, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties possibly because of its flavonoid content. It has been used medicinally for reducing inflammation and soothing irritated tissue. This herb contains chemicals that may speed up wound healing by increasing blood flow to the affected area. It also promotes production of collagen proteins for this purpose. Its anti-fungal properties make it a good herbal remedy for such skin diseases as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and Candida. You can use marigold to treat cradle cap too. For this, make an infusion using calendula herb.
Make Calendula-Marigold Infusion for Cradle Cap
- Marigold flowers (fresh or dried)
- Virgin olive oil
- If you have whole flowers, pick off the petals.
- Place the marigold flowers petals in the jar.
- Cover the herb with virgin olive oil.
- Leave it for about 2 weeks.
- After two weeks, strain and store the oil.
- Apply this calendula infused oil over the areas with cradle cap.
- Leave for about 20-30 minutes.
- Using a fine comb or with the help of your hands, rub gently to remove the loosened up dead skin.
- Wash off with lukewarm water.
10. Viola Herb for Cradle Cap
Viola is a flowering plant belonging to the violet family. Herbalists consider it a tonic herb. It contains antioxidants known as anthocyanins having antimicrobial and insecticidal properties. All the parts of the herb – leaf, flowers, root and whole-plant tincture- are used medicinally. Salicylic acid, present in all the parts of fresh violets, is a disinfectant and tissue solvent that can excellently soften hard skin, corns and warts. It is an emollient and also an anti-fungal. The leaves of viola have vitamins C and A whereas the roots are rich in minerals. For cradle cap, whole plant tincture of Viola tricolor (pansy) is taken internally.
- Give 2-5 drops of whole plant tincture of Viola tricolor (pansy) to your child.
- Continue for 1-2 weeks.
- For proper dosage, it is recommended to consult a medical herbalist.
Precaution: Some people are prone to skin allergies when viola leaves are applied externally and large doses of the roots or seeds can lead to stomach upset, nervousness, high blood pressure and breathing irregularities. Therefore, this remedy should be undertaken under expert supervision only.
11. Borage Oil for Cradle Cap
Borage oil is natural seed oil derived from the plant Borago officinalis. It is a rich source of essential fatty acid called Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA can restore moisture and make dry and damaged skin smooth. It is also effective in such chronic skin disorders as eczema and atopic dermatitis. This oil is used topically as well as internally. Not only the oil but herbal tea made with borage is also used to treat boils and rashes. A Swedish study, conducted on 48 infants with severe cradle cap, found that application of borage oil twice a day cleared cradle cap within two weeks. However, it returned within a week once this treatment was stopped. When the treatment was continued for 7 months, there was no recurrence of cradle cap. It is said that borage oil works by supplying GLA till the baby is able to cope up with its requirement through own enzyme. Simply apply borage oil to your baby’s cradle cup, following the instructions given by the manufacture or make this lotion with borage herb.
Equal parts of:
- Borage leaf juice
- Take both, borage leaf juice and water and mix them well.
- Apply this diluted lotion on the affected skin area.
12. Chamomile for Cradle Cap
Chamomile is a gentle and safe herb for kids. Its astringent properties help cure cradle cap by constricting the overactive glands. Sometimes, due to insufficient blood flow, your baby’s glands secrete excessively into hair follicles and the body starts producing excessive skin cells in defense. Therefore it always helps to brush or comb, as you have seen has been suggested in most of the previous remedies. Brushing increases blood flow and balances the secretion of sebum. Chamomile, on the other hand, constricts the gland so that they secret less of their products.
Ways to Use Chamomile for Cradle Cap
- Make chamomile tea by steeping a tsp of the herb or a chamomile tea bag in a glass of hot water. Let it cool down. Now apply this solution on the cradle cap affected areas for soothing effect against itching.
- You may also let your baby have chamomile tea. But dilute it properly with more water and give a little amount of it to your baby.
- Apply chamomile oil directly on the affected area.
- You may also mix chamomile oil with other oils like almond, jojoba or olive oil before applying it to cradle cap of your baby.
- Take some chamomile and oats and tie them in a muslin cloth or stocking. Now tie this bag over your bath tap and let warm water run through it. Use this water to bathe your baby. Chamomile soothes the skin and oats having anti-pruritic mucopolysaccharides will soothe as well as heal the skin and also reduce itching.
- You may also use a chamomile tea bag in your baby’s bath. Wet it properly and squeeze it over cradle cap many a times. Then apply some oil like olive, almond or coconut oil and brush with a fine toothed comb.
13. Burdock for Cradle Cap
Burdock root, like chamomile, is naturally astringent and helps slowing down glandular secretion by constricting the glands. This herb is extensively used for treating various skin conditions like acne and dryness and it can be equally helpful in curing cradle cap.
- Burdock root (fresh-chopped) – 2 tbsp Or (dried)- 1 tbsp
- Water- 3 cups
- If using fresh burdock root, clean it by scraping using the rough edge of the knife. This is needed only when the root is older. Younger burdock roots can be just wiped with a clean cloth.
- If using dried burdock root, take 1 tablespoon of it.
- Chop the fresh root to get 2 tablespoons of it.
- Place the chopped root in a pot.
- Add three cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Then lower heat and simmer for half an hour.
- Put off the flame and let it steep till the time it cools down.
- If using dried root, just pour hot water over the herb and let it steep till it cools down.
- Use this tea as a wash for your baby’s scalp.
- After giving bath, wash the affected areas with burdock tea and do not rinse it off.
14. Herbal Scalp Rinse for Cradle Cap
We have seen so many herbs that are useful for skin and may be used to cure cradle cap too. You can make a very effective herbal rinse for cradle cap at home using some of these herbs. In this herbal scalp rinse, there are three herbs that are used- viola, burdock and red clover. Viola and burdock are the two herbs that we have discussed above in detail. Red clover, a wild plant from the legume family, has been traditionally used to treat various conditions like whooping cough, respiratory problems, and also skin inflammations including psoriasis and eczema. Red clover flowers have anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of eugenol, myricetin and salicylic acid. This herb is rich in various nutrients like calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is also a rich source of isoflavones or the chemicals resembling estrogens that are found in many plants.
- Red clover infusion- 2 parts
- Viola tricolor leaves- 2 parts
- Burdock seeds- 1 part
- To make red clover infusion, take about 1 cup of dried red clover herb and place it in a quart jar. Fill the jar to the top with boiling water. Cover it with its lid and allow it to steep for 5-10 hours. Strain and use the infusion.
- Mix all the ingredients- red clover infusion, viola leaves and burdock seeds.
- Let it steep for about 15-20 minutes.
- Strain and use it as a rinse for your baby’s scalp and hair or other affected areas.
- Leave it on the scalp and do not rinse it off.
- Repeat several times a week.
15. Homemade Scalp Oil for Cradle Cap
This recipe for scalp oil uses olive oil as the base and certain essential oils. Olive oil has been very useful for cradle cap as discussed in one of the above remedies. Other essential oils used in this oil mix also have skin friendly properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, soothing, itch relief properties etc.
- Olive oil- 2 ounces (about 2 cups)
- One of the essential oils (Lavender/Rosemary/Basil oil)- 5 drops
- Mild shampoo, preferably with calendula in it
- Mix olive oil and your choice of essential oil.
- Store it in a bottle.
- Apply this oil on your baby’s scalp at night before going to sleep.
- In the morning, wash off with a shampoo.
- Use a washcloth to gently rub the scalp and remove the crust due to cradle cap.