Cradle cap in the baby


Cradle cap in babies usually occurs between the ages of three and six months. These are flaky, yellow-brownish crusts that are mainly noticeable on the scalp, forehead and cheeks. But other parts of the body can also be affected. The name cradle cap is based solely on its appearance, which is similar to burnt milk.

Clinically, the appearance of cradle cap is the first manifestation of neurodermatitis in babies. This is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder. Cradle cap and neurodermatitis are known as atopic eczema.


The exact causes that lead to the formation of cradle cap in babies are not yet fully understood.
You know there is one genetic component should give, which is why children can have a predisposition for the formation of cradle cap and neurodermatitis. But environmental factors are also involved in the disease.
Cradle cap is formed due to various changes in the body. Babies with cradle cap often have one Predisposition to dry skin (see also: dry skin in the baby), which is why it amplifies itching comes.

External factors, such as stress or grief, can make dry skin symptoms worse. That too immune system the baby lets changes in the form of certain Antibodies detect. These are responsible for creating various Allergieswhich are often related to cradle cap or neurodermatitis. How these antibodies develop, however, has not yet been clarified.


The symptoms of cradle cap are often very clear and typical. It usually occurs in babies between the ages of three and six months.
Cradle cap formation starts with one reddish rash on the head of the baby. In some cases this can be done with Blistering accompanied.

In addition to the head, other hairy parts of the body are often affected, such as forehead and cheeks.
Arms and legs can also be affected, whereas the diaper area is normally left out.

It forms on the affected parts of the body dry dandruff, which flake off and leave yellowish to brownish crusts. This is the cradle cap in the true sense of the word.
The crusts lead to severe itching in the baby, which is why they cry a lot and scratch their bodies.
However, this makes the situation worse, and under certain circumstances it can Inflammation caused by invading bacteria.
After the first year of life, these babies often show symptoms of atopic dermatitis, which are more noticeable on arm and knee bends.

General information can be found at: Rash on baby

Cradle cap on the eyebrow

In addition to the scalp, the eyebrows can also be affected by cradle cap. If solid scales form in these areas that leave yellowish-brown crusts behind, this is the case.

As a rule, this does not require any special therapy and the cradle cap disappears on its own. If the itching is very severe, it can help with the affected areas Rub in oil and thus loosen the scales. These should then be removable with a soft cloth.

Cradle cap on forehead

Because babies are hairy in the forehead area, cradle cap can also form here. Often the scalp, cheeks and eyebrows are also affected.

Cradle cap disappears on its own and usually does not require any special therapy. If the itching is very severe, an oil can be applied which softens and loosens the scales, which can then be removed with a soft cloth.
In no case should parents scrape off the cradle cap. The baby should also be prevented from scratching the area by putting on mittens.

Itching as a symptom of cradle cap

The itching symptom is the criterion to distinguish cradle cap from head gneiss, as the skin changes are often very similar. The itching only occurs with cradle cap. Cool and moist compresses are recommended to relieve itching. With the gentle removal of the crusts and scales, the itching often stagnates too.
Scratching, on the other hand, exacerbates the itching and provokes open areas that bacteria can penetrate.
If the general measures do not help, antipruritic or anti-inflammatory therapy can be initiated in consultation with the pediatrician. Creams containing cortisone are particularly suitable for short-term use. Antihistamines, which are used for allergies, can also provide relief from itching in the form of drops. If the scratched areas have become infected, sometimes only antibiotic therapy will help.

The cradle cap stinks - is that normal?

The first skin irritations of the cradle cap are still odorless. Over time, however, more and more microorganisms join in, which find excellent living conditions under the crusts. These then cause an unpleasant odor through various degradation processes. However, after extensive head washing with soaking and gentle removal of the crusts, the stench also disappears. However, fragrances for the scalp should be avoided, as these further promote the inflammatory irritation.


The diagnosis of cradle cap can be based on the clinical appearance be asked. The name cradle cap already indicates that the skin changes are similar to “milk that is burnt and crusty in the pot”.
Are relevant for the diagnosis very itchy reddening of the skin with blistering and later ones yellow cruststhat are difficult to solve.
The typical itching of cradle cap allows a diagnostic differentiation from head gneiss, which causes similar skin symptoms, but does not cause itching. These are typical predilection sites that are affected by cradle cap Face and the hairy head. Reaching over to the extensor sides of the arms is also possible. The diaper region, which is affected, for example, in diaper rash, remains free in the cradle cap.

The difference to head gneiss

The cradle cap is to be distinguished from the so-called head gneiss. This distinction is often very difficult and can be made by a pediatrician. With both clinical pictures, scaly patches of skin form mainly on the baby's head.
Colloquially, the term cradle cap, i.e. atopic eczema, is often spoken of, although that much more harmless appearance of the head gneiss is meant.

If one speaks of head gneiss, it is the so-called seborrheic eczema (Inflammation of the skin due to increased sebum production).
Similar to cradle cap, gneiss manifests itself in the form of scaly patches on the scalp. However, these occur usually in the baby's first month of life up and not just from the third.
In contrast to the hard scales of cradle cap, the scales of the head gneiss are soft and prepare the baby no complaints. They don't itch or hurt. Head gneiss typically disappears on its own within the first year of life and does not affect the baby.

So it is no indication of a chronic skin diseaselike eczema. Another difference is that head gneiss is usually limited to the head and neck region, whereas cradle cap can also appear on other parts of the body. The scales of gneiss can often be removed by applying baby oil or by washing your hair, whereas the scales of the cradle cap sit firmly on the head.

Read more about this at: Head gneiss

The classic age peak for the appearance of cradle cap is rarely before the third month of life. The skin changes can, however, in contrast to the head gneiss Last for months to years. Usually during this time the extension to the extremities takes place.
To Most forms of cradle cap heal around two years, however, a transition to a chronic form that lasts a lifetime is also possible.

Cradle cap and neurodermatitis - what is the connection?

Cradle cap can be the first manifestation of neurodermatitis (atopic eczema) in babies.
Head gneiss, which is often mistakenly mistaken for cradle cap, is caused by excessive sebum production in the sense of seborrheic eczema and has nothing to do with neurodermatitis.
It is therefore important to differentiate between the two skin changes in infancy. Children who had cradle cap as infants are at an increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis. The risk of other atopic diseases such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or bronchial asthma is also increased.
However, it must also be noted that not all infants with cradle cap inevitably develop neurodermatitis later in life. Neurodermatitis is an inflammatory and itchy skin disease like cradle cap and typically affects the flexor sides of the extremities. Atopic dermatitis often disappears during puberty. The cause is a reaction of the immune system to its own body.

You can find a lot more information under our topic: Atopic dermatitis in babies


It is important to remove the skin flakes and Under no circumstances should you remove crusts that form the cradle cap.
This can cause small sores that can become inflamed. If the baby has a tendency to scratch himself constantly and to remove the crusts himself, mittens should be put on him especially overnight to prevent this.

For washing the head and skin should be unscented products which do not irritate the skin additionally.
Excessive washing and bathing should be avoided, as this only additionally leads to dehydration of the skin.
So that the scales and crusts come off gently by themselves, the Rubbed skin with oil become.

Either baby oil or vegetable oils such as olive oil or marigold oil can be used for this. It is advisable to leave the oil on overnight and wipe it off with a soft cloth the next morning. The crusts also loosen and can be removed with.

Then the oil residue can be washed off with a baby shampoo. If the baby already has very long and thick hair, the detached crusts may get stuck in the hair. Here can a fine-toothed comb help remove the remains from the hair. A nit comb can be used for this purpose, for example.

Oil for treating cradle cap

The stubborn cuticle can often be greased and softened with oils. The oil should be massaged in gently and left in for a few hours or overnight. Olive oil or coconut oil, for example, are suitable for this.
In any case, oils should be used that do not contain any fragrances or preservatives. After rubbing in the oil, a soft baby comb can be used to try a gentle removal.

Homeopathic treatment for cradle cap

In the case of mild skin changes, homeopathy can be used when it comes to cradle cap. In pronounced cases, however, you should switch to conventional therapeutic measures in consultation with your pediatrician.
Preparations with pansies have proven themselves in homeopathy. Viola tricolor helps, for example, with heavily oozing areas. The homeopathic remedy Graphites can be used against crusts and unpleasant odors. You can get rid of the annoying itchiness with sulfur, borax, antimonium crudum or cardiospermum.

Home remedies for treating cradle cap

Various oils, such as olive oil, marigold oil or burdock root oil, can be used as home remedies for cradle cap.
The application of cooled pansy tea, which at the same time soothes the itching, is also tried and tested. Cooling compresses and lotions with menthol are just as effective against itching. Common saline solution can be applied to clean areas that are wet.

What is the best way to remove the cradle cap?

The Crusts of the cradle cap must not simply be scraped off or peeled off. The scalp is already irritated by inflammation and would be further irritated. There is also the risk of injuring the scalp, creating small wounds in which infections can spread.
For the removal of cradle cap there is therefore gentle processthat do not damage the scalp unnecessarily.
Besides special Cradle cap gelsthat are offered in the pharmacy can also click Home remedies or homeopathic remedies can be used. It can also be used to brush out the hair Cradle cap comb should be used, which should have soft bristles or rounded teeth.

Cradle cap comb

The itching caused by the cradle cap is very annoying for the baby. Removing the crusts can often alleviate this. However, the crusts must not simply be scraped off, otherwise small wounds will arise that represent entry portals for bacteria.
The scalp should be sufficiently soaked beforehand to gently brush out the loosened flakes with a comb. The cradle cap comb should not have any sharp points that could damage the scalp, which is irritated anyway, but rather rounded ends.

Cradle cap gel

There are numerous manufacturers of cradle cap gels. However, they all contain gentle and nourishing oils. After massaging in or lightly spreading over the fontanel and allowing it to act for at least 30 minutes or overnight, the crusts and scales of the cradle cap can best be gently removed with a soft baby brush.
Many of the Michschorfgels are slightly acidic in terms of pH in order to achieve a dissolving (keratolytic) effect. Fragrances, preservatives, alcohol or dyes should be avoided in these gels.

How can you prevent cradle cap?

Cradle cap usually appears very quickly without a harbinger. Risk factors include dust, high humidity or hats that are too warm, under which the hot air accumulates. In addition, common infections such as colds or existing skin irritations can be a trigger.
As a preventive measure, attempts can be made to circumvent the risk factors. However, this cannot always prevent the occurrence of cradle cap.
An important positive influencing factor is breastfeeding within the first six months of life. Breastfeeding has a protective effect against cradle cap.
Equally protective is the mother's abstinence from nicotine during pregnancy.
If the baby has an allergic predisposition, for example if neurodermatitis, bronchial asthma or allergies are known to occur in the family, a so-called hypoallergenic food can be tried. Since a genetic component usually plays a role, the occurrence of cradle cap cannot be prevented in all cases.