What Is Cradle Cap – Definition, Pictures & What to Do


Cradle cap is mostly known to affect children. However, it is possible for one to experience cradle cap in adults. This being the case, what is cradle cap? Can one experience cradle cap smell or hair loss? This post explores these aspects and much more.

What Is Cradle Cap? Definition

Have you or a loved one suffered cradle cap and you are wondering “What is cradle cap?” According to –Mayoclinic.com,  the cradle cap definition is given as “A skin condition sometimes seen in babies caused by excessive production of sebum, characterized by areas of yellowish or brownish scales on the top of the head”

It is quite common in infants

The common name used for this is seborrheic dermatitis. When it occurs in a child, it is known as infantile sebhorric dermatitis. This condition is not a serious one although it causes some patches on the scalp of affected persons. In babies, the condition tends to resolve itself a few months after birth. There are self care measures that one could employ to get rid of this.

Cradle Cap Pictures

With pictures of cradle cap in adults and newborns, you can be able to identify the difference between dandruff, eczema and cradle cap. We have included a good number of pictures to help you with the identification process.

In some people as you can see in the pictures, you can easily confuse cradle cap on face, eyebrows and other parts with dandruff and other skin problems such as eczema. Look closely at the pictures to see the difference.

Cradle Cap in Adults

Cradle cap is most common in infants. It is however possible to experience cradle cap in adults. This is a condition that affects the scalp. Although this does not have any health risks, the condition can be unsightly. It could also be uncomfortable having the condition.

The affected skin becomes flaky and scaly.  It could also look greasy and red. As it develops, white or yellow scales start to come off the scalp. The skin may become sore and itchy as well. In extreme cases, some hair loss could also be experienced. The symptoms of cradle cap tend to improve during the summer especially if one spends time outdoors.

The exact cause of cradle cap in adults is not known. The condition though is linked to hormonal changes. An overgrowth of the fungus malassezia could also cause this.  In other cases, the condition may be hereditary and could have been passed on from the family lineage. People who have neurological disorders like the Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy are at a higher risk of suffering adult cradle cap.What is a cradle cap

Other factors that could cause a flare up of the condition include:

  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Weather extremities
  • Alcoholic lotions
  • Oily skin
  • Fatigue

Cradle cap is not caused by allergies or lack of cleanliness. It is also not contagious. In case the condition persists for too long, the best thing is to consult a physician. In case it is not severe, a professional hairdresser can help you in picking medicated shampoos. These may contain salicylic acid, tar or selenium sulfide. How regularly one uses these should be determined by the severity of the condition.

 Newborn Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is common in babies. In most cases, it appears like a bad case of dandruff on the newborn’s scalp. This will look like some greasy yellow patches. These may become flaky with time. With time and good care, newborn cradle cap becomes easy to rub off.

The condition is most common in babies less than eight months. It tends to appear within the first two months of the baby’s life. The duration for which it lingers on will differ. It could last a few weeks or a number of months. Though it may appear unsightly, the condition is neither itchy nor painful. It therefore causes no discomfort to the baby.

Cradle cap in adults around eyebrows, ears and forehead
Can also be found in adults

Newborn cradle cap is believed to form as a result of hormonal imbalance. When a baby is born, some of the hormones from the mother are left behind. These are what stimulate excessive secretions by the skin’s oil glands. This leads to the dead skin cells sticking on the baby’s head. Other than this, it is possible for cradle cap to happen in babies whose families have a history of allergic conditions.

Cradle Cap Hair Loss

Although cradle cap is most common on the scalp, cradle cap hair loss is not a common symptom. When it occurs in babies, gently washing the scalp and giving it a massage with oil easily loosens it up. With time the cradle cap will disappear. In the process, one may lose a few strands but not a significant amount.

Any hair that falls off s the cradle cap is being treated will grow back. In the process the child should not face any irritations or problems. When it occurs in adults, cradle cap could cause hair lose. It is therefore important to deal with it in the best way possible to avoid this.

Cradle Cap Smell

At times, one may experience cradle cap smell. This though is not common. When it occurs though, the smell can be quite strong. It adopts the smell of something sour or close to that of cheese. Mild cradle cap should give no significant odor.

One of the reasons why the cradle cap could be having an odor is due to the use of olive oil in its eradication. Since this is left to soak, it becomes difficult to wash off. This could lead to that stale smell. The other reason why there could be a smell is if there is a fungal infection on the scalp.

It is possible to get rid of the cradle cap smell. Where one is has been using some oil they suspect is the cause of the smell, it is important to clean the area thoroughly after use. Do not leave it on for too long. Coconut smell is great as it has a nice smell and does not go stale. Using medicated baby shampoos could also help. In case the smell persists, see a doctor so they can prescribe antifungal treatments.

What to Do for Cradle Cap

Once the cradle cap has been formed, how should it be treated? Although the cradle cap can go away on its own, it is also possible to remove the scales without causing any harm to the scalp.  Below is what to do for cradle cap to go away.

  • Clean up your head or that of the baby using shampoo. Use a soft brush to make the flakes loose. This makes it easy to cob them off.
  • Rub a mild type of oil on the baby’s scalp, use almond or olive oil. This could be left on the scalp overnight to loosen the flakes.
  • Make use of medicated shampoo in case the cradle cap is stubborn.

The above will play a great role in getting rid of the flakes. One should however avoid picking the scaly patches as this could lead to the scalp getting sore or becoming infected. In case there is some red swelling or itch on the scalp, this could be indicative of an infection. A doctor should be seen immediately.