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The Best Shampoos For Cradle Cap

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by Margeaux Baulch Klein

If your baby has developed cradle cap or seborrheic dermatitis — the all-to-common condition in which dry scaly patches appear on their scalp, forehead, or body — there are many products you can use to reliably and safely manage flare-ups, but one of the best places to start is with shampoo. Besides being dermatologist- and/or pediatrician- backed, the best shampoos for cradle cap are free of common irritants, like fragrance and alcohol, and contain only gentle ingredients that will reduce flaking, redness, and other symptoms. For more intense cases, however, a medicated shampoo may be recommended.

Romper reached out to pediatrician Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP, a medical consultant for MomLovesBest, to learn more about shampoos for cradle cap. The good news, according to Dr. Alexander, is that most cases of mild "baby dandruff" are harmless and can be greatly improved with the use of gentle, no-tears shampoo that's labeled specifically for use on cradle cap.

However, if the level of scaling or crusting on your child's head starts to get thicker and more severe, there are more potent over-the-counter options that you can turn to. "For more persistent cases, or when seborrhea has spread to other parts of the body, I recommend washing the scalp with a pyrithione zinc 1% shampoo," she tells Romper. For reference, pyrithione zinc is an antibacterial agent that can help break down the rough, patchy from seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff (and is notably the star ingredient in the classic Head & Shoulders formula).

Beyond wash-off products, one other simple way to get rid of cradle cap is to get a soft baby brush that can help you gently massage and loosen flakes away. Finally, you can use a leave-on emollient or balm for extra conditioning.

Take a look below at the best cradle cap shampoos. And if an OTC product isn’t giving you the results you're looking for, remember to consult with your pediatrician about other options.

1
The Overall Best Shampoo For Cradle Cap

This Mustela shampoo is dermatologist and pediatrician tested and one of the most popular options on Amazon for treating mild cases of cradle cap— in fact, it's been given a five-star rating from more than 3,000 shoppers because it "works like a charm," so much so that several fans reported their baby's cradle cap was cleared up in as little as one application. The lightweight foam is vegan, hypoallergenic, and tear-free and you won't find any potential irritation triggers (fragrance, alcohol, parabens, phthalates, or phenoxyethanol) on the ingredient list. Instead, the 99.9% naturally-derived formula includes things like soothing sunflower seed oil and avocado perseose, which is a patented extract that the brand states will protect infants' skin. Additionally, gentle exfoliators are included to promote the lifting of dead skin cells and flakes. For best results, massage the airy shampoo onto troublesome spots, leave on for one to two minutes, and rinse.

Helpful review: “This works amazing for cradle cap! Seriously, buy this if your kid has cradle cap! Our daughter had it for almost 2 years and when our newborn got it at 4 months, we bought this and it got rid of both their cradle cap after 2 uses. We hardly had to use any in the bottle, but so happy I found something that works!”

2
The Best Medicated Shampoo For Persistent Cradle Cap

If cradle cap is an ongoing issue or you're noting the flakes are getting thicker, a medicated OTC shampoo like Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy is a great option from a pediatrician-developed brand that contains 0.95% pyrithione zinc as its active ingredient and licorice root to help with the calming of redness in places beyond the scalp (like neck folds and behind the ears). The vegan and fragrance-free formula is also free of dyes, sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.

Keep in mind that this shampoo is not nearly as fast-acting as the pick above— according to the brand, if you use it as suggested (at least twice a week), it could take about one to two weeks to notice significant improvements. And for little ones with even more concentrated scales, results may take up to three weeks.

Helpful review: “My son has been battling severe cradle cap for about 6 months and it seemed nothing was working. We've tried countless things and some would help but it would just come back. So I decided to try this shampoo after seeing the reviews and I'm happy to say my son is several weeks free of cradle cap and dry scalp. This product is amazing and it's nice to see all hair that has been able to come in as well. I would recommend this product to everyone struggling with their child's dry scalp/ cradle cap.”

3
The Most Affordable Shampoo

Like the Mustela option above, this Bella B Naturals cradle cap shampoo is also very highly rated on Amazon (it has earned a 4.5-star average from more than 3,000 shoppers) only it's a bit more cost-effective when you consider the amount of product you're getting. The hypoallergenic and paraben-free formula includes oatmeal, vitamin E, organic shea butter, aloe vera, and tea tree oil. However, if your baby has particularly sensitive skin, do note that there is fragrance included on the ingredient list (though a number of fans reported it's a very pleasant smell). The brand recommends using daily for best results, and many reviewers mentioned how fast-acting it was "Cured baby cradle cap in 1 wash!" boasted one.

Helpful review: "After noticing my son was developing cradle cap I wanted to find something gentle but powerful enough to get it under control. I did a lot of research and read a ton of reviews and stumbled across one from another mother who swore by Bella B Bee Gone and she was right. It not only cleared up his cradle cap quickly."

4
You May Also Like: A Gentle Brush For Cradle Cap

This Fridababy tool is another great product to keep in your cradle cap-fighting arsenal. Following the brand's suggested three-step process, you would first use the soft foam sponge head to lather up a shampoo. Then, flip the tool over and rub the gentle bristle brush head to loosen scaly patches. Finally, the fine-tooth comb can be used to sweep flakes off your baby's skin. Several Amazon users mentioned being impressed with not only how easy the brush was to use, but also how relaxing the steady combing motions seemed to be for their baby.

Helpful review: “I was looking for a treatment for my 7 month old that didn’t require switching up her whole bathing routine, then I discovered this. You start off by using a soft scrub brush, then you flip the side over and loosen up the flakes. From there, you comb out the flakes and I was shocked at just how many came out of my daughters head. This works so much better than I expected, and definitely helped with my daughters cradle cap."

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You May Also Like: An Organic Healing Balm As A Soothing Leave-In Treatment

Made of all-natural, USDA-certified organic ingredients, this Era Organics Super Balm can work as a post-bath treatment to loosen thick scales and soothe inflamed skin due to cradle cap and other skin conditions. It's applied just like a lotion (though, according to shoppers, it has more of the rich texture of "refrigerated butter"), which means you can rub it into any of your child's affected areas and let it absorb right into their skin. Some of the ultra-moisturizing ingredients inside include cocoa butter, sunflower oil, and beeswax. It's made specifically for sensitive baby skin and is free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates, and mineral oil. Amazon reviewers love this ointment, with one parent describing it as a "miracle in a little tub" and another boasting, "I wish I could give it 10 stars."

Helpful review: “I swear by this balm. My 2 month old has had hives, cradle cap, dry skin...you name it and this stuff works miracles on all of it. I use it generously all over so it takes a little while to soak in but this balm has been a life saver on my baby.”

Expert:

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and medical consultant for MomLovesBest