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SPOTLESS MAMA: Cure for cradle cap

by Anne on March 30th, 2012

All my kids have had cradle cap, that flaky, crusty, yellowish skin rash on the scalp that many infants get (infantile or neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis). They all got it as young babies and it persisted until… well, until I tried this remedy. In my eldest’s case that was when she was five, and in my youngest’s when she was one.

In all three cases it was gone after one application and has never returned.

Doctors don’t really know what causes cradle cap. Two prominent theories are that it is the result of a fungal infection, or because babies often have over-active sebaceous (oil) glands due to hormones received from their mothers during the last part of pregnancy. We know that cradle cap is not related to poor hygiene or allergies, is not the result of a bacterial infection and is not contagious. It is also not normally itchy or bothersome to the baby unless it is very severe. But it is unsightly, can become severe, to the point of becoming inflamed, red, itchy and even bleeding, and can provide an opening for bacterial growth. The conventional wisdom seems to be that it will disappear in time, but it sometimes does persist well into childhood and beyond.

Because it wasn’t a big problem, I didn’t put much effort into getting rid of my kids’ cradle cap at first. I tried rubbing on a bit of olive or almond oil occasionally, leaving it on for a bit and then washing it out, which helped a bit, for a while. The only other treatments I’ve seen recommended are anti-dandruff shampoos and anti-fungal or cortisone creams for severe cases, which I wasn’t about to try.

However, when I started looking into and using coffee grounds a lot, one of the greatest uses I found for them (among many, many others) was as a hair and scalp treatment. So I decided to try them out on my then five-year-old daughter’s cradle cap. I made a mixture of coffee grounds and coconut oil (a powerful anti-fungal oil that is great for hair and scalp) and rubbed the rich messy mixture all over her scalp. I massaged, gently but firmly, for a good few minutes, trying to make sure I had loosened up as much of the flakiness as I could. Then I rinsed and washed her hair and rinsed again (it is quite a messy business). And the cradle cap was gone, completely and (so far, a year and a half later) forever.

The treatment is also fabulously conditioning to hair but it does leave the hair a bit oily for a while, if you don’t want to go crazy with washing. But that seems a very small price to pay for a highly effective, single application treatment.

I was so amazed by how effective this was that I repeated it (successfully) on my son as soon as he would let me, and more recently on my baby too. She had quite a bad case and would scratch at it sometimes. Surprisingly, she didn’t object at all, even though I spent quite a while massaging it in and making sure I’d got all the spots. (I found giving her some dried fruit to snack on while I was at work helped distract her, but I can’t guarantee you’ll be as lucky.) It actually seemed that she enjoyed the feeling, and my only wish was that I had done it sooner.

I’ve repeated the treatment on my kids every six months or so, just as a preventative measure and because it helps keep scalp and hair generally healthy. If you do need to repeat it sooner to deal with a persistent case, I’d suggest leaving at least a couple of days between applications as the grounds, though round and quite gentle, are abrasive and can leave the scalp a little pink in places. That’s how they get all the flakes off. I’d also recommend that you apply the mixture when your child is sitting outside, or in the bath or shower, as it can get messy.

So, here’s the recipe for my coffee and coconut cradle cap cure:

  • A quarter cup of used (or un-used) coffee grounds
  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Mix ingredients together in a small bowl and massage into scalp.
  • Wash out after ten to fifteen minutes.

The mixture also makes a great dandruff or general scalp conditioning treatment as well as a lovely exfoliating body scrub or foot scrub.

Thank you Spotless Mama for this very useful post! Lily still has cradle cap at almost two, so I’ll definitely be trying it out :)

From → Spotless Mama

  • Robyn

    Thanks for the great post. As further interest to anyone wanting to try home-made recipes, bicarb of soda worked wonders for us. My son also had cradle cap, quite severly on the front of his scalp and I also found that olive oil did not work. After some research, I applied a mixture of bicarbinate of soda with water, left it on for 20 minutes, and then lightly scrubbed his head whilst rinsing it off, and after one application his cradle cap is history! My husband and I were amazed at how well it worked, and his scalp and hair are also so lovely and soft now. He is 4 months old. x