Pediatric Seborrheic Dermatitis (Cradle Cap)

What is seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap)?

Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap, is characterized by fine white scales on the head and scalp. However, seborrheic dermatitis can also occur in the diaper area or on the face, neck, and trunk. Seborrheic dermatitis is most common in infants, but 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?

Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the main symptoms include dry or greasy scales on the scalp.

How is cradle cap diagnosed?

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

What is the treatment for cradle cap?

The specific treatment for cradle cap will be determined based on:

  • The child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • The child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Parent’s 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 a physician
  • Corticosteroid cream or lotion
Children's Team

Children's Team





The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.