Cradle cap is a rash characterized by reddish patches with a well-defined border. Neonatal acne consists of the appearance of red pimples on the baby’s face.Cradle cap and neonatal acne are skin conditions that appear early, practically from birth.

Cradle cap mainly affects the scalp of the newborn. However, it can spread to the face, mainly to the area of ​​the center of the face and to the folds around the nose, behind the ears, neck, navel, armpits or groin.

Cradle cap is a rash characterized by reddish patches with a well-defined border. They may be covered in a greasy-looking yellowish peeling. The scales are painless or itchy and, although they can be difficult to remove, they are benign and usually disappear on their own.

Causes of cradle cap

The exact cause of the appearance of cradle cap is not known. One of the possible causes is that the sebaceous glands of the baby’s scalp produce excess sebum.

Another possible cause, although not completely confirmed in children, could be an increase in the population of some microorganisms that normally live on the skin. Such is the case with a type of  yeast(fungus) called Malassezia.

Another factor that may intervene is genetic predisposition, but it has not been sufficiently studied. In any case, cradle cap is not contagious or dangerous, and it is not allergic in origin, nor is it caused by poor hygiene.

Cradle cap treatment

The prognosis of cradle cap is good and it can heal on its own, so treatment should not be aggressive. The Spanish Association of Pediatrics(AEPED) recommends the following options for its treatment:

  • Topical corticosteroids: the topical corticosteroids moderate power is the treatment of choice. In a few days, they are very effective.
  • Keratolytics: 3% or 5% salicylic petroleum jelly can be applied to thin the scales. Oily substances such as olive oil can also be applied; they are left to act for one or two hours and then they are removed. Afterwards, a medium strength corticosteroid cream can be applied.
  • Shampoos: shampoos with sulfur, zinc pyrithione or tar can also be useful, although it is advisable to individualize the treatment because they can potentially be irritating to the skin of the infant.
  • Antifungals: given the role of some fungi in this condition, they can be used, either in cream or shampoo, depending on the location of the lesions. Its action is usually slower than that of topical corticosteroids.
  • Oral corticosteroids: in very generalized and severe cases, oral corticosteroids can be used.

Hygienic measures

Specific lotions, gels, non-greasing creams or emulsions can be applied to the baby. These products can help reduce excess sebum and inflammation. In this way, the redness decreases, the skin calms and the scales are encouraged to peel off.

To apply it correctly, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Apply a small amount to the baby’s scalp. In case of facial seborrheic dermatitis, it can also be used on the affected areas of the face. Then gently massage the area with your fingers.
  • Wash with a mild baby shampoo and rinse well so that no product remains.

It is important to avoid scratching to reduce the risk of infection, since, in this case, antibiotics may be necessary.

Neonatal acne and its treatment

Neonatal acne is a condition that can develop during the first two weeks after birth. It consists of the appearance of red pimples on the face, especially on the cheeks, forehead, chin and, occasionally, also on the back.

Both the skin of the pimples and the area around it become red. This phenomenon can be worsened by heat or when the baby is nervous. Neonatal acne usually disappears without any dermatological treatment a few months after it appears. Hygienic recommendations for treating neonatal acne

The following tips may be helpful in caring for your baby’s skin while acne lasts:

  • Keep your baby’s face clean: wash your baby’s face daily with warm water and mild baby soap.
  • Gently pat dry: pat baby’s skin dry.
  • Do not squeeze or rub the area affected by acne, it can cause more irritation or an infection.
  • Avoid using lotions or oils on the baby’s face.


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