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Natural Treatments for Cradle Cap

written by: Rose Kivi • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 2/21/2010

Cradle cap is a common scalp condition in young infants. Although it is often alarming to parents, it really is harmless and poses no health risks. Treatment of the condition is easy using simple natural methods.

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    What is Cradle Cap

    Cradle cap is a harmless form of infant dermatitis. It appears on the scalp of an infant as a yellow scaly crust. It usually does not cause any discomfort but in extreme cases, it can cause an itching sensation. Cradle cap usually appears within a few weeks after birth and normally disappears by the time the infant is a few months old.

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    The Cause of Cradle Cap

    Cradle cap is basically just infant dandruff. The exact cause of cradle cap is unknown. Exposure to the mother’s hormones in the womb may play a role in the condition. The theory is that the mother’s hormones cause the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil. The excess oil causes the flakes of skin, which normally shed, to instead stick to the scalp.

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    Natural Cradle Cap Treatment

    The most effective treatment for cradle cap is regular gentle brushing and shampooing of the scalp.

    Gently brushing the scalp once a day with a soft bristle brush to remove excess skin flakes. The scalp can be brushed before or after shampooing. The scales are softer after shampooing and easier to remove.

    Shampooing the scalp regularly with a gentle shampoo aids in the removal of excess flakes and oils. Choose a gentle detergent free shampoo. Detergents can have an irritating effect on an infant’s scalp and increase flaking. Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Shampoo is a soap based detergent free shampoo that also contains scalp-soothing chamomile. Some people find that washing daily works best, others find washing less often to be more effective. Experimentation may be needed to find which washing frequency works best.

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    Alternative Treatments

    Borage oil gently massaged into the scalp has shown to be an effective treatment for cradle cap in preliminary studies. [Tollesson A, Frithz A. Borage oil, an effective new treatment for infantile seborrheic dermatitis. Br J Dermatol 1993;129:95] The theory for borage oil treatment is that cradle cap is caused by a deficiency of essential fatty acids. Borage oil, which is high in essential fatty acids, nourishes and replenishes the scalp.

    Topical Aloe Vera gel is another treatment for cradle cap that has shown promising results in preliminary studies. [Vardy DA, Cohen AD, Tchetov T, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of an Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Dermatol Treat 1999;10:7-11] Aloe Vera gel soothes the scalp and reduces flaking. Note: Some people are allergic to aloe vera; if signs of increased irritation are noticed, discontinue use of the gel.