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Croûtes de lait de bébé.

All you need to know about baby's cradle cap.

Babies too can encounter specific skin problems. During the first few months following their birth, it is not uncommon to see thick patches, commonly referred to as "cradle cap", appear on their scalp or body. Learn more about this common and benign condition affecting approximately two-thirds of infants.

Published February 8, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap, or infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis, is characterised by crusty patches, slightly greasy, ranging in colour from white to yellow, and may be surrounded by redness. The name comes from their appearance, somewhat resembling drops of milk. They most often appear on the scalp of infants, but can also affect the back of the ears, the base of the eyelashes and the eyebrows. More rarely, infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis can extend to other parts of the body, such as the folds of the elbow crease or the nappy area.

This benign skin condition primarily affects very young babies, starting from their second week of life (before the age of 6 months), and usually disappears before the age of two or three years. Cradle cap is not contagious, and can be dry or oily. It often dries out within a few days and forms scales that naturally fall off. Cradle cap is thus superficial and can in this respect be compared to the dandruff in adults.

How can we explain the occurrence of baby cradle cap?

These oily and whitish patches are the result of a build-up of dead cells on the skin's surface. They accumulate on the scalp due to an overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands. It appears that there is a certain genetic predisposition to the development of cradle cap, and that babies who subsequently have oily skin are more affected.

This overproduction of sebum is actually triggered by pregnancy hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone , which have not yet been fully eliminated from the baby's body. The sebum-rich environment then promotes the growth of the yeast Malassezia furfur , a microorganism that feeds on certain fatty acids present in the sebum and converts them into irritating fatty acids. These in turn cause inflammation, resulting in abnormal shedding of dead cells.

How to prevent baby's cradle cap?

There are few ways to prevent the onset of baby cradle cap. However, dermatologists agree that paying close attention to infant hygiene is paramount. Indeed, to limit the formation of patches, it is recommended to clean their scalp every day with gentle care products, suitable for their delicate skin. You can also use a preventative shampoo against cradle cap, specifically formulated to combat excess sebum.

How to remove baby's cradle cap?

Baby milk crusts are harmless and often disappear on their own within a few days. To promote their removal, it is still recommended to apply vaseline on the patches two hours before bathing and to gently massage. This will soften the milk crusts and help them to fall off during the bath.

Milk crusts can sometimes cause feelings of discomfort and itching. However, they should not be scratched, as this risks injuring the scalp and causing it to bleed. This could lead to skin irritation and infection. Finally, if the milk crusts do not disappear after two weeks of daily care, if they ooze or bleed, if the skin around appears swollen or if your child seems too bothered by the itching, it is advisable to consult a paediatrician or your general practitioner.


  • PRIGENT F. Seborrheic dermatitis of infancy. Archives de Pédiatrie (2002).


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