Cradle cap is common in babies. Read our guide to recognising cradle cap & what to do if your baby has it

Cradle cap appears as a red area on your baby's scalp that's covered in greasy, scaly patches which may be yellow or white. Over time, the scales become flaky and rub off easily, just like dandruff, but often with bits of your baby's hair attached. Don't worry, the hair should soon grow back!

Can my baby get cradle cap anywhere else?

As well as forming on your baby's scalp, the scaly patches can also sometimes develop on the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, crease of the nose, back of the neck and around the nappy area and armpits. When it appears in those places, it's usually referred to as seborrhoeic dermatitis.

When does it appear?

Cradle cap is most likely to appear in your baby's first two months, and it usually clears within a few months. It may look unsightly but it is actually quite harmless, and while it may look uncomfortable or irritating to the skin, most babies aren't bothered by it.

What causes it?

Although the exact cause of cradle cap isn't known, it has been linked to the overproduction of skin oil (sebum) and a reaction to a type of yeast called malassezia which can grow on the skin.

What we do know for certain is that it's not contagious, the result of an allergy or caused through bad hygiene. The good news is that cradle cap usually clears up on its own, with most babies growing out of it by the time they reach six months old.

What can you do to help?

• Avoid picking the scaly patches off your baby's head. This can not only leave sore patches but can also lead to infection

• Regularly wash your baby's hair with a mild baby shampoo, then massage your baby's scalp with a soft brush to help loosen the scales

• Rub a little mild baby oil, vegetable oil or olive oil into your baby's scalp to soften the scales. You can leave the oil overnight, and then wash off the oil with a mild baby shampoo in the morning. Be sure to thoroughly wash the oil away each time, as too much oil may cause the scales to build up and make the cradle cap worse

• Cradle cap treatments are available at pharmacies – ask your pharmacist for advice on which is the most suitable for your baby. Always follow directions of use carefully

When to see the GP

If things don't improve or the cradle cap spreads to other parts of the body, it's a good idea to consult your doctor, especially if patches on your baby's head start to look red and swollen. This could mean it has become infected or that it is a different condition such as eczema.

Next steps

• Don't pick at the scaly patches on your baby's head

• Regularly wash your baby's head with a mild shampoo and then gently massage with a soft brush to loosen flakes

• See a doctor if the cradle cap doesn’t improve, spreads elsewhere on the body or shows signs of infection