Cradle cap, known medically as the much less forgiving term seborrheic dermatitis, is a condition that’s fairly similar to dandruff that usually strikes babies who are currently in their first year. That said, it can still affect babies who are older and even young children.
The condition isn’t painful, but it can be unsightly and uncomfortable for the baby. The skin will peel off in scaly yellow or brown flakes.
Since the condition isn’t harmful, it’s not actually necessary to get rid of it. However, many parents choose to try and overcome the problem simply because the appearance is unpleasant. Research hasn’t identified the exact cause of cradle cap, and thus treatments vary.
For those who are wary of using over-the-counter meds or products with dangerous chemicals in them, worry not – there are tons of natural home remedies that you can use to help your baby manage cradle cap. In this article we’re going to discuss the most popular home remedies for this purpose.
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1. Brush Daily
One of the best things that you can do for a baby with cradle cap is to make sure that you brush their head every day. You’ll find that this will reduce the amount of flakes that are produced as a result of the condition.
Prior to brushing their hair, you might want to give them a little head massage. This will prepare them for the sensation of brushing and will also help to loosen up the scales before you brush them out.
Make sure you use a soft brush because your baby’s head won’t be as strong as ours are! You can find soft baby brushes at baby stores or pharmacies.
2. Use a Humidifier
One of the common threads that runs among babies suffering from cradle cap is the fact that they generally have quite dry skin. This leads to flaking and skin falling off. One of the best ways to combat this is to ensure that the air in your home is moist.
The easiest way to go about doing this is to get a humidifier and stick it in your baby’s bedroom. Make sure not to make the room too moist, because this can cause other problems. However, for people who are using heat (especially during the winter months, when the moisture in the air is already dry) or air conditioning, humidifiers can be a god-send.
3. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is one of the best oils for helping to moisturize and replenish the skin. It can be found in many grocery stores and natural health food stores, and has been shown to be useful for managing all sorts of skin conditions.
Avocado oil contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant nutrients and one of the most important for the health of the skin. Feeding your baby foods with vitamin E (like avocados and nuts) can help improve the health of their skin, but using an oil like this allows you to directly affect the skin.
The easiest way to apply the oil is to simply rub it on to your baby’s head. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then you’ll be able to brush off any flakes that have absorbed the oil.
4. Baking Soda
Another novel way to help manage the flakes produced by cradle cap is to use baking soda. The best time to do this is when you are giving your baby a bath.
After your baby is in the bath, make sure that their head is wet. If they don’t feel like getting dunked, you can moisten their scalp by using a cloth. After wetting their scalp, sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the affected areas and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
Try to make sure that they don’t splash too much so the baking soda doesn’t get washed away. After it’s sat for a couple of minutes you can use a gentle brush to get the flakes off. This is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to manage cradle cap because baking soda can be found all over the place for cheap. Even dollar stores have baking soda!
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is known for being one of the best oils for using on the skin and the hair, so it makes sense that this is one of the best things to use on your baby’s head when you are helping them manage cradle cap.
Coconut oil has a number of interesting properties in addition to being a powerful moisturizer. It is an antifungal and an antibacterial, and can help protect your baby from any infections that might arise.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you have a couple of choices. You can heat it up before applying it to the scalp, so it is liquidy. Or, you can just take a chunk of the solid oil and rub it all over your baby’s scalp. The heat from their skin will melt the oil. Just make sure you put it back in a separate container so you don’t end up eating the half-used chunk of oil!
Coconut oil can be found in grocery stores and natural health food stores.
6. Shea Butter
Shea butter is another powerful remedy for cradle cap. Shea butter is a fatty substance that’s made from shea nuts, and its main uses are in cosmetics. Shea butter has a fantastic smell and can improve skin in a number of ways.
People have reported that using shea butter is one of the best ways to manage cradle cap without actually affecting the growth and development of the baby’s skin. Shea butter can be found anywhere that cosmetics are sold or in natural food stores.
7. Almond Oil
Almond oil is another oil that’s very popular for enhancing the health of the skin. Many of its benefits come from the fact that, like avocado oil, almond oil is rich in vitamin E This means that it can be directly applied to the skin and the benefits of this powerful vitamin will directly improve the health of the area that it’s used.
You don’t need a lot of. Put about a quarter’s worth of oil in the palm of your hand and rub this onto your baby’s head. Make sure not to let any of the oil drip into their eyes – unlike coconut oil, avocado oil is liquid at room temperature and can be a bit more difficult to work with.
After you have let the oil sit for at least 15 minutes, comb out the flakes which should be loose and moist. You should wash their head after this – leftover oil can clog pores and result in things like acne.
Like the other oils on this list, almond oil can be found in grocery stores or in natural health stores.
8. Pick the Right Shampoo
There is a lot of emerging evidence that shampoo is not always as great as we’re led to believe it is. Many anti-dandruff shampoos (for both babies and adults) have been shown to actually cause dandruff, so when we stop using the shampoo or dandruff worsens. This leads us to think that the shampoo is keeping us safe from dandruff so we continue using it in the long-term.
Getting a shampoo that doesn’t contain any long-winded toxic ingredients is important for anyone, but especially babies because their skin is still developing. This is why it’s important to get a pure, natural, organic shampoo for your baby, or even to make your own.
Sometimes the simple act of switching to a non-toxic shampoo is enough to reverse cradle cap. Unfortunately, it’s hard to identify which products are toxic and which are not. Here’s a tip – if you recognize all the ingredients in a product as being natural and safe, then it usually is. Look for products made with vegetable oils, natural scents, and organic foods or flora.
9. Don’t Overwash
Most people wash their hair far more than is necessary.
Unfortunately, these habits tend to fall onto the children that we are raising as well. Since so many of us overwash our hair, we end up sapping the natural oils that keep our hair looking sleek and shiny.
The body responds by over-producing oil, which leads to a vicious cycle of washing to get the ‘grease’ out of your hair that’s only there because it’s being overwashed. Babies respond the same way, and producing too much oil can actually make their cradle cap worse.
A good idea is to only wash your baby’s hair every couple of days. If they are very messy, it’s acceptable to bathe them once every day or two.
After you’re done using your natural, healthy shampoo, then it’s important to use a good moisturizer. Again, follow the same formula for choosing your shampoo: look for natural ingredients that are healthy and wholesome, and avoid long complicated chemicals.
Moisturizing your baby’s head after a bath will help to make sure that the scalp doesn’t dry out. By trapping moisture in the scalp, the skin will absorb it and become healthier.
11. Check Their Diet
There is some evidence that suggests that the cause of cradle cap could be related to diet. It can be caused by allergies, as well. Some babies have developed cradle cap as a result of consuming baby formula instead of breast milk. Switching back to breast milk can help to improve symptoms.
12. Use Tea Tree Oil
Using tea tree oil is a great way to help enhance the health of a baby’s scalp. It’s important not to use the pure oil, however. Tea tree oil is incredibly powerful and can actually be irritating if it’s used without first diluting it.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get some sort of soap or shampoo made with tea tree oil. If you get a soap, you can wet the soap and then massage the baby’s scalp with it. Leave it for an hour or so.
Some people have reported incredible results, saying that the cradle cap disappeared within a couple of days. Considering the other impressive health benefits of tea tree oil, this is no surprise.
13. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most versatile home remedies. It can be used for treating anything from digestive issues to infections to skin problems like cradle cap. The one downside is that it doesn’t smell quite as nice as some of the other remedies on this list.
The first thing to do is dilute the apple cider vinegar. Not only will this make it smell a little bit less intense, but it will reduce the risk of hurting your baby’s eyes if it drips down. Mix a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in about a cup of water and massage this into the scalp.
If this doesn’t work, you can make stronger mixes. Some people report success using a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water.
You can find apple cider vinegar in grocery stores, but be wary – many companies sell apple cider vinegar without the ‘mother.’ This is the part that’s responsible for the fermentation and the nutritional benefits. If you need to, go find a natural health food store to find a bottle with the mother.
14. Breast Milk
We have already mentioned that switching your baby’s diet to breast milk might help to manage the symptoms of cradle cap. But what if you’re already feeding them breast milk and they still got the problem?
There’s another way that breast milk can be useful for helping to manage cradle cap. This milk, which is loaded with all of the nutrients needed to support life (thanks Nature!) can also work as a topical remedy for cradle cap and other problems.
Try to collect a bit of breast milk in a little container. This, you can rub into your baby’s head at least once a day. This works well in the evening, so you can leave it overnight. In the morning, you can rinse it off – bonus points if you do so using a tea tree oil soap.
15. Oatmeal Bath
Some people simply throw oats in their bath and jump in, but this can be a bit tricky to deal with afterwards. An easier way to go about this is to put a bunch of oats in a thin cloth and tie it up. Hang this under the spout of your bath and crank up the hot water.
As the water pours through the oats, it will take many of the nutritional compounds switch it into the tub. Soak your baby in the tub, making sure to massage their scalp with the bath water and some other products found on this list.
Afterwards, moisturize their scalp and dry them off. This will surely help to fight cradle cap.
Chamomile tea might seem like something that you’d want to give your baby if they’re keeping you up at night. But there are more uses for chamomile than simply helping us fall asleep.
Make a cup of chamomile tea by steeping some of the flower in hot water. You can find chamomile tea bags in most grocery stores and can get the loose flower from some health food stores.
Once it cools a little bit, massage the tea into the baby’s scalp. Doing this once a day in conjunction with some of these other methods is a great way to help fight cradle cap.
17. Geranium Essential Oil
Geranium essential oil is a highly concentrated herbal remedy that’s made from the geranium plant. Essential oils are intense because they contain the essence, or the main active ingredients of certain plants.
Geranium is a useful essential oil because it may help to soothe and relax the skin on the scalp and enhance its health. The best way to go about this is to dilute 2 drops of the oil in a tablespoon of the carrier oil. Good carrier oils include jojoba oil or coconut oil.
Apply this mixture to the baby’s scalp and leave it there for at least 10 minutes. Brush any flakes off, then wash the oils off with a natural shampoo. Geranium oil can often be found at natural health food stores.
18. Red Clover
Red clover is known for being a very drying plant. The red in many plants indicates the presence of tannins, compounds that are drying. Remember the last time you took a sip of red wine and your mouth dried out a bit?
Using an oil or a poultice made from red clover can help to dry out the over-productive oil glands on your baby’s scalp. The best place to get red clover is probably your back yard, given that you don’t over-prune and weed the plants that grow there. If you do, you might have to look online.
Plantain – the herb, not the banana-like fruit – is another home remedy that grows all over the place in North America. It was so popular as a medicine in the Native cultures that some people referred to it as the Indian band-aid.
The easiest and most traditional way to do this is to simply chew up some plantain leaves into a poultice and then apply that to your baby’s scalp. There is nothing unsanitary about this and it is an effective method of making medicine for your family members. The enzymes in your saliva can help to extract the active ingredients in the plantain.
People who are weirded out about this can try to mash some up in a mortar and pestle and make a poultice out of that. If you can’t find any in your backyard or your local area, check the health food store.
Cradle cap isn’t necessarily a very serious condition, but it’s certainly an unsightly one that can leave people wondering. Fortunately, it’s also pretty easy to manage.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into how to treat cradle cap. Good luck, and enjoy these natural remedies.
Nigel enjoys sharing wisdom regarding nutrition and health when he’s not playing music, loving nature, and being at one with the world.