Health Encyclopedia

Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Also called cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis in the infant is characterized by fine, white scales. However, seborrheic dermatitis can also occur in the diaper area, face, neck, and trunk. Seborrheic dermatitis in this age group usually clears within the first year.

What causes cradle cap?

The exact cause of this skin condition is not known.

What does cradle cap look like?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of cradle cap. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms include dry or greasy scales on the scalp. Scalp may also appear red. It usually does not itch.

How is cradle cap diagnosed?

Cradle cap is usually diagnosed based on physical examination of your child. The rash involved with cradle cap is unique, and can usually be diagnosed simply on physical examination.

Treatment for cradle cap

Specific treatment for cradle cap will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Although the condition responds to treatment, it may recur. Treatment is usually effective in helping symptoms and may include:

  • Rubbing the scalp with baby oil or petroleum jelly (to soften crusts before washing)

  • Special shampoo, as prescribed by your child's physician

  • Corticosteroid cream or lotion



Medical Reviewers:

  • Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
  • Haines, Cynthia, MD