Cradle Cap Conquered: What Finally Worked After 3 Years

cradle cap #CetaphilBaby

I know what some of you must be thinking. How could my three year old still have cradle cap? Have I not been taking proper care of her? Isn’t it supposed to disappear on it’s own, anyways?
Copy of Travel Car Seats for Airplane Trips with Kids

Well, I would love if that last query were true. That’s what I was banking on for the last couple years, after coming to terms with the fact that the scaly yellow flakes covering my daughter’s scalp just weren’t going to go away despite the washing and scrubbing and picking. That first year I tried as best I could to clear up the cradle cap. But when it wasn’t working, I had to leave it alone for a while. The scrubbing and picking at my little darling’s head was not bringing us closer together, and I began to worry that I may be doing more harm than good, picking away at the crusties and leaving her head looking red and uncomfortable where I’d been grooming.

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Though cradle cap is hard to capture on camera, you can make out some yellowish scales in some of Z’s baby photos like this one.

So I stopped. And although I had read in multiple places that this condition would eventually clear up on it’s own as my daughter got older, it didn’t. While her hair grew, I would still catch glimpses of her cradle cap through her fine, blonde hair. Now that her hair has grown long enough to put up in different styles, the yellow scales were even more clearly seen, detracting from the adorable braids and dainty little pony tails. Maybe it wasn’t as obvious to others as it was to me, but in my view it was glaringly obvious.

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Also, my daughter would scratch at her head from time to time, which (after ensuring she hadn’t caught lice) I chalked it up to those yellow flakes. Was the cradle cap itchy? Was it bothering her?

Clearly, something needed to be done again.

What Is Cradle Cap?

Before you can take care of a problem, you should be familiar with it. So here’s what I’ve learned about cradle cap. Cradle Cap (also called seborrheic dermatitis) is a condition where crusty or oily, scaly yellowish patches appear on your baby’s scalp. This skin condition appears in the first weeks and months but is harmless. It will usually clear up on its own by the time a child has their first birthday (something that didn’t happen for us, unfortunately).

cradle cap on three year old
Trying to get cradle cap on camera, especially with a very wiggly and playful three-year-old, is tough! Here’s the best I could do, to give you a bit of an idea.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

The true cause of cradle cap isn’t entirely clear, but professionals are certain that is not caused by allergy, bacterial infection, or bad hygiene. One of the considered causes is that glands in your skin (sebaceous glands) may be over-actively producing sebum, an oil-like substance. When the glands produce too much sebum, this might prevent old skin cells from drying and falling off the scalp as they usually would, so they stick to the scalp.

How To Get Rid Of Cradle Cap

If you’re eager to get rid of your little one’s cradle cap, you can help it along by rubbing a small amount of baby oil or petroleum jelly into the scaly area an hour before bath time. Before the bath, wet baby’s scalp and scrub the scaly areas gently with a soft toothbrush for a few minutes. Wash with baby shampoo and rinse well. Gently dry with a towel.

bathing away cradle cap
Bath time! Here’s another tip: Goggles in the bathtub make for a fun way to keep suds out of those sensitive eyes.

I have to admit, I only tried using oil on her scalp a handful of times, at the suggestion of my mama group friends. Aside from my daughter looking like she stepped out of a scene in grease, not much else seemed different. What did I do wrong? Some things I could think of were that I had used coconut oil instead of baby oil, being the natural-living person that I am, and as much as I hate to say so, my “wonder oil” (honestly, I use it for everything) just didn’t seem to be doing the trick.

How To Get Rid Of Cradle Cap

A New Cradle-Cap Conquering & Bath Time Bonding Routine

Determined to be done with cradle cap once and for all, I decided to get back to work and to try something new. Instead of trying coconut oil again, I was curious to see what would happen if I gave Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil a try. Made with organic calendula, sweet almond, and sunflower oils, this baby oil is free of parabens, colourants and mineral oil (as are all the Cetaphil Baby products). The products are hypoallergenic and are recommended by dermatologists, pediatricians and other mamas, so I decided to give it a shot. Something had to work.

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So thus began our new bedtime routine. About an hour before bedtime (if I can remember that early – sometimes it’s less), I bring down the bottle of Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil, and start to give my three-year-old a “head massage”. This was not a hard sell, and she seems to enjoy having me gently rub the oil into her scalp. I focus on the areas where the cradle cap is, spreading any extra oil around the rest of her scalp. I have even been using this as an opportunity to moisturize her very fine hair, hoping that this helps to keep it from tangling if so much as a breeze touches it. Why not, right?

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All oiled up and ready to conquer that cradle cap!

Next comes bath time, which my little Z has enjoyed me being part of.  As her Dad has always been the one in charge of the bedtime routine, just having me be a big part of it was a change in it’s own, and a happy one at that. Sure, her father could be the one washing a scrubbing while I clean up from dinner (and he usually does get her started, still), but I have been enjoying spending this time with her for a change.

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There is something so bonding in the act of physically caring for your child. As I lather her hair with shampoo, and we rinse it off together, I am confirming for her that I love and care about her well-being. Yes, I show her this in many other ways throughout the day as well, but somehow this feels even more special.

So Did It Work?

The difference between how easy it was to remove the cradle cap when I was using coconut oil, compared to using Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil, was phenomenal. Instead of feeling like I was picking scabs, it felt more like wiping away butter. Seriously, I was blown away by how much more gently I could be as I scrubbed.

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The first night I tried this, I noticed a big difference in her scalp. I was able to get all the cradle cap I could find to come off! That has never happened before. No matter how hard I tried to get it gone, it had never completely come off in a scrubbing and picking session. Even better, it has stayed away for the most part. After a week of enjoying our new bath routine (only oiling shampooing every other day), my daughter’s scalp finally looks clean and healthy. 
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After 3.5 years of dealing with the scaly, oily, yellow patches on my little one’s scalp, I’ve finally found a method that works to remove cradle cap. If this is something you’ve been dealing with yourselves, I hope this post has been useful to you, and that you and your child (whether baby, toddler, or preschooler) can conquer cradle cap, too. Good luck!

Disclosure: This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and Cetaphil Baby’s #CetaphilBaby sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion and our experience of the Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

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