What Causes Cradle Cap in Adults? And How do You Treat it

Cradle cap is a skin condition prevalent amongst infants but can also occur in adults. While it’s usually referred to as cradle cap in babies, it’s often known as dandruff or seborrhoeic dermatitis in adults. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a general term comprising a variety of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, dandruff, cradle cap, and other types of eczema. Although it might have a different name amongst adults, its symptoms and treatments are similar to those in infants.

What is the cause of Cradle Cap?

Scientists are yet to define the exact cause of cradle cap in grownups. However, it is allegedly linked to stress, genetics, and hormonal changes. For instance, the hormonal changes that happen during menopause or pregnancy can increase the production of oil on the scalp. Subsequently, the increased oil production results in clogged hair follicles.

Stress also plays a role in the development of cradle in grownups. Whenever you have stress, your body releases stress hormones that may affect the skin and cause the development of scaly patches on the scalp. Genetics may also make you develop a cradle cap. Studies show that infants with cradle cap usually have a family member with conditions like eczema. Suppose someone in your family has had a cradle cap. In that case, there are high chances you might develop it.

How to treat Cradle Cap

The good news is that this condition is treatable. Here are some steps you can take to alleviate cradle cap:

Use dandruff shampoos

When treating cradle cap in adults, your physician might recommend using home remedies before switching to medical treatment, especially if your condition is mild. In most cases, the doctor may suggest using over-the-counter (OTC) dandruff shampoos with essential ingredients like coal tar, salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide to relieve itching and reduce flaking.

It is recommended to follow the guidelines on the bottle when using shampoo. Apply the shampoo thoroughly on the hair, let it sit for a few minutes, and rinse it off fully. Once the symptoms are under control, you can consider using the shampoo two to three times weekly. Alternating between several types of dandruff shampoos each week can improve their efficiency.

Manage your environment

To lower the likelihood of adult cradle cap, it’s essential to maintain overall health and manage stress levels. Engaging in outdoor activities to get sun exposure provided you wear a safe sunscreen, can help keep the condition in check. Plus, adjusting your diet and being mindful of how weather impacts your skin can significantly control the cradle cap. However, it would be best to remember that these changes are easier said than done.

Apply coconut oil

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids such as capric acid and lauric acid, which gives it a solid antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal property. Applying it to your skin can help alleviate the amount of microbes, fungi, and yeast that may cause excessive oiliness, irritation, and dryness.

You can apply coconut oil straight to your flaky scalp or use a shampoo with beneficial oil. However, you should note that applying it to your scalp may lead to oily hair. To prevent this, let the oil sit on the scalp for at least 30 minutes before washing the hair.

Apply essential oils

To enhance the benefits of coconut oil, dermatologists recommend that you use it in conjunction with calming essential oils like tea tree, lemongrass, cedarwood, lavender, and rosemary. Tea tree, in particular, is proven to help lessen seborrheic dermatitis. If possible, consider using a shampoo with tea tree oil.


In summary, cradle cap is a skin condition that can affect both adults and newborns. Scaly patches on the scalp characterize it, and medics believe that various factors like stress, genetics, and hormonal changes cause it. Although the exact cause of the condition is yet to be well understood, you can use oils, medicated creams, and the tips mentioned above to treat it. Please consult an experienced dermatologist if your cradle cap is persistent or severe for further treatment options and advice.

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