What Are The Symptoms & Causes Of Cradle Cap? Can Coconut Oil Treat Cradle Cap?

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr. Tez Pratap Singh, MD Written by - Dr. Diksha Sangle


Cradle Cap

Many parents may be concerned and frustrated by cradle cap, a skin condition that is prevalent in infants. Typically causing discomfort and irritation, it is characterized by scaly or crusty spots on a baby’s scalp. While it typically isn’t a severe medical condition, finding safe and effective ways to elevate it can bring relief to both parents and their little ones.

Many parents may be concerned and frustrated by cradle cap, a skin condition that is prevalent in infants. Typically causing discomfort and irritation, it is characterized by scaly or crusty spots on a baby's scalp.

Coconut oil is a contemporary natural medicine that has gained popularity. Its numerous health benefits and versatile uses make it a go-to solution for many skin and hair issues. But how is it fair to treat cradle caps in infants? In this post, we’ll look into coconut oil’s benefits and the realm of cradle caps. We will also discuss safety considerations and offer insights into other natural alternatives, equipping you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about managing it in your baby.

What is Cradle Cap?

  • Infantile seborrheic dermatitis, as it is medically named, is a common skin disorder that mostly affects young children.
  • It typically manifests as greasy, yellowish, or brownish scales or crusts on a baby, but it can also occur in other areas with oil glands, such as the eyebrows, ears, and sometimes even the diaper area.
  • This condition is harmless and does not usually cause discomfort for the baby, but it can be concerning for parents due to its appearance. 1 Introduction | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil for Cradle Cap

Why Consider Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil has gained recognition as a potential remedy for cradle cap for several reasons:


  • Lauric acid, a fatty acid with antibacterial qualities, is present in coconut oil. This can help combat any underlying yeast or fungal issues on the scalp of the contributing factors to the cradle cap.

Natural Properties

  • It is a natural, plant-based oil containing lauric acid with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties make it is a potential candidate for addressing the underlying factors contributing to cradle cap.

Moisturizing effects

  • The oil’s moisturizing properties can help soften and loosen the scales or crushed on the baby’s scalp, making them easier to remove without causing pain.

Gentle and safe

  • It is generally considered safe for infants as it is mild and unlikely to irritate. However, using it correctly and being mindful of potential allergies is essential.

Widely accessible

  • When compared to certain over-the-counter remedies, it is an economical treatment that is widely accessible in most homes. 4 Coconut Oil Properties | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Causes of Cradle Cap

Overactive sebaceous glands

  • It often arises from the over activity of the sebaceous (oil producing) glands in an infant’s skin.
  • These may produce excess sebum, which can accumulate on the scalp and other affected areas.

Yeast infection

  • A yeast called Malassezia on the skin is another contributing factor. Scales and crusts may form as a result of the yeast’s interaction with the extra sebum. 2 Causes | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Symptoms of Cradle Cap

Scaly or crusty patches

  • The hallmark symptom is the presence of greasy, yellowish, or brownish scales or crushed on the scalp.
  • These patches may also appear on other oil areas such as the eyebrows.

Mild redness

  • Might have mild redness or inflammation, though this is generally less prominent than the scaling.

No itching (usually)

  • Interestingly, cradle caps rarely cause an itching or discomfort in infants, which distinguishes it from other skin conditions. 2 Symptoms | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Common Misconceptions About Cradle Cap

  • One common misconception about cradle cap is that it is primarily caused by poor hygiene or a lack of cleanliness.
  • However, this is different. Cradle cap is not related to hygiene practices, and even impeccably carried for babies can develop it. It’s primarily a result of the factors mentioned above.
  • Understanding the true causes and symptoms of cradle caps can help parents approach its management more effectively. 2 Misconceptions | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


How does Coconut Oil Work for Cradle Caps?

Softening scales

  • Applying coconut oil to the affected areas helps soften and loosen the scales or crusts, making them easier to remove. Gently massaging the oil into the scalp can help with this process.

Antimicrobial action

  • This property can help address the root cause of the condition.


  • By hydrating the scalp, its moisturizing qualities assist avoid excessive dryness and flakiness.

Mild and safe

  • It is generally safe for infants when used correctly and in moderation. To make sure there are no negative responses, it is essential to perform a patch test on a small piece of the baby’s skin before using it more broadly. 3 Mechanism | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health , 4 Mechanism | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Coconut Oil Preparation for Cradle Cap

Choosing the right coconut oil:

Organic, unrefined coconut oil

  • Choose organic, unrefined, or extra virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil.
  • These varieties are minimally processed and retain more of the oils’ natural properties, making them ideal for skin care.

Cold pressed

  • Look for oil that is cold pressed, as this extraction method helps preserve the oil’s nutrients and beneficial compounds.

Avoid hydrogenated oils

  • Steer clear of coconut oil labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated as these may contain trans fats which are not suitable for skin care.

Check for allergen warnings.

  • If your baby has no allergies, check for any allergies and warnings on the product label, as some coconut oils may be processed in facilities. 3 Preparation | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


How to Use Coconut Oil for Cradle Cap?

Follow these steps for a safe and effective application:

Gather your supplies

  • Organic coconut oil, a soft baby brush, or a clean, soft toothbrush and a soft baby towel.

Patch test

  • Apply a small amount of coconut oil beforehand to a discreet region of your baby’s skin, and then wait 24 hours to see if there is any reaction.

Warming the oil

  • Coconut oil solidifies at lower temperatures, so warm the oil. to make it easier to apply, scoop out a small amount of oil and rabbit between your hands to vomit up until it becomes a liquid.

Gently apply the oil.

  • Apply a small layer of oil with your fingers to the parts of your baby’s scalp that are impacted. Be gentle to avoid any discomfort.

Massage the scalp

  • Using a soft baby brush or a clean, soft toothbrush with gentle brush softly and massage the scalp in a circular motion. This can help loosen the scales or crusts.

Leave for a short time.

  • Allow the oil to sit on the scalp for 15 to 30 minutes. This gives it time to soften the scales.

Pat dry

  • Use a baby towel to pat your baby’s scalp dry gently Rub lightly; rubbing can irritate the skin.

Repeat as necessary

  • Until the condition of the cradle cap improves or clears up. Be patient, as it may take some time to see significant results. 3 Application | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Treatment for Cradle Cap

How do you get rid of cradle cap?

If coconut oil isn’t practical or if you are looking for alternative treatments for it, there are a few options to consider:

Baby shampoo and brush

  • Sometimes, gentle daily washing with a mild baby shampoo and using a soft baby brush to remove scales gently can be sufficient to manage it. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

Petroleum jelly or Mineral oil

  • Mineral oil or petroleum jelly applied thinly to the afflicted regions can be helpful. After a little period of time, gently comb or brush the softened scales away.

Specialized cradle cap shampoos

  • Some over-the-counter shampoos are formulated specifically to treat it.
  • Look for those that are labeled as gentle and suitable for infants. Follow the instructions on the product carefully.

Prescription medications

  • In severe cases where other remedies are ineffective, pediatricians may prescribe medicated shampoos or creams containing ingredients like ketoconazole or hydrocortisone. These should not be used without medical supervision.

Aloe vera gel

  • It is known for its soothing properties, and it can be applied to the affected area to help with inflammation and itchiness.
  • Ensure it is pure and free of added fragrances or chemicals.

Olive oil

  • Like coconut oil, olive oil can soften and loosen cradle cap scales. Apply, leave it briefly, and gently remove it with a soft brush or a comb.

Adjust breathing frequency

  • Reducing the frequency of baths or using lukewarm water instead of hot water can help prevent excessive drying of the baby’s scalp, which can contribute to cradle cap. 5 Treatment | Researched based study from National Institutes of Health


Frequently Asked Questions About Cradle Cap

How long to leave coconut oil on the baby’s head?

  • Before washing it off, it is typically advised to let it sit on for 15 to 30 minutes.

What gets rid of cradle cap fast?

  • It typically takes time to resolve, and being gentle with your baby’s sensitive skin is essential.
  • While there is no instant solution, there are steps mentioned above you can take to manage it more effectively.

What is the main cause of cradle cap?

  • The leading cause is believed to be a combination of factors primarily involved in the sebaceous glands and the presence of yeast.

Do all babies get cradle caps?

  • No, not all babies get cradle caps. Condition in infants: it does not affect every baby.
  • Its occurrence can vary from one baby to another; some infants may develop it while others may not.
  • It tends to be more common in the first few months of life and often occurs in the first few weeks after birth.
  • Additionally, it may fluctuate over time. Some babies may have a mild case that resolves quickly, while others may have a more persistent or severe chance.
Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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