Can 3 Year Olds Get Cradle Cap? – A Gentle & Natural Remedy

Cradle cap

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I thought only babies could get cradle cap. Turns out I was wrong.

3 year olds can get cradle cap. Although it is usually thought to be and generally referred to as dandruff in older children. Cradle cap is just a common name for a dermatological condition called “seborrhoeic dermatitis”. Doctors aren’t entirely sure of its causes. It’s basically the toddler version of dandruff. It is common in babies but can still be found in children at the age of 3.

Cradle cap can be remedied with simple over the counter or natural products.

What a relief, finding out that cradle cap in your 3 year old is normal. I’ve done the research into its causes and how I could tackle it in my child. If you are at all worried that it may be something more serious, you should make an appointment with the doctor. If you think it’s a case of cradle cap then I’ll share how I dealt with it quickly and easily.


You have two options when it comes to dealing with cradle cap in your 3 year old toddler. A natural remedy (which we opted to try first because we wanted to stay away from harsh chemicals and had great success) and then a regular remedy.

Most parents like us and yourself don’t want to go straight to the traditional chemically infused remedy for cradle cap. I was searching for an effective natural remedy to try. Like I’m sure you are. I was lucky to find an easy natural method that worked wonders for our child’s cradle cap and it really cleared up, and within a week!

  1. Buy a good quality and safe all natural & plant based oil. We used Burts Bees Baby Oil, which is a blend of apricot and Grapeseed oils. It is 100% natural and smells divine and gave us great results. You can also use another plant-based oil of your choice.
  2. Rub a small amount of the natural oil into their scalp gently with your fingers: The gentle moisturizing action of the natural oil blend will loosen the flakes.
  3. Leave it on their scalp for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Use a soft bristle brush to gently tease out the flakes.
  5. After brushing. Make sure to thoroughly wash the oil from their head as excess oil left on their scalp could make their cradle cap worse.


I’m sure that the natural remedy that I detailed above will work wonders for your child. Our child’s cradle cap cleared up in about a week. If you feel like the natural oil isn’t working then you could also try Mustela Gentle Foaming Cradle Cap shampoo. If our child’s cradle cap hadn’t cleared so well with the natural oils, it’s what I would have tried next.

Mustela Gentle Foaming Cradle Cap shampoo

Mustela Cradle Cap Shampoo for Toddlers
  1. Loosen the scales: Firstly, we can use a soft bristle brush and gently loosen some of the flakes on your 3 year old’s head.
  2. How many washes?: As much as it’s tempting to want to wash their hair more frequently when they have cradle cap. Unfortunately, it won’t help the issue as it may increase the production of oils in the scalp and may make the problem worse. Try just once a day at first, as you need to find the right balance of oil for the skin to lose its irritation.
  3. Mustela shampoo: Just apply a small amount. Gently Massage it into their hair. Leave it on for 1-2 minutes then rinse it off thoroughly.
  4. Be gentle: The skin on your child’s head is delicate, cradle cap can make it even more so. It can cause cracks in the surface of their skin and these could get infected. So please be gentle when removing them.


It usually starts when you notice rough and scaly patches on your child’s head, they seem to just pop up out of nowhere. I was the same as you, I noticed scaly looking skin and started to feel a mild panic. Im so glad I know how to tackle it now, I shouldn’t have worried. Cradle cap isn’t generally a serious issue. It’s relatively common and harmless. It gained its name because it is more common in babies than in our 3 year olds.


  1. Cradle cap can appear in small patches or it can cover larger areas.
  2. It can present as a yellowish, patchy, crusty, greasy and scaly skin rash. The rash is most notable on the scalp, ear, eyebrows, and eyelids.
  3. It can be easily confused with other mild dermatological conditions, so if in doubt consult your doctor. Most children develop the mild version of cradle cap, the severe condition is thankfully rare.

Even though cradle cap can cause redness of the skin, the mild form isn’t generally itchy or uncomfortable for your child. You may also notice that cradle cap can make your child lose some hair, but don’t worry. Their locks will grow back once it has cleared.


Luckily, cradle cap isn’t caused by anything as nasty as a bacterial infection, which can be a relief for worried parents when they first find it on their little ones. Let’s also dispel two more common myths.

  1. Cradle cap isn’t caused by an allergy
  2. Cradle cap isn’t caused by poor hygiene.
  3. Cradle cap isn’t contagious.

Those myths were on my mind when I first found my child’s cradle cap. Especially hygiene, as no matter how many times you bath and wash your 3 year olds they still end up dirty within minutes. Of course, this isn’t true, its ignorance of the facts that lead to those conclusions. At least cradle cap isn’t contagious. So you don’t have the hassle of separating them from siblings or friends.

It’s a myth that cradle cap is anything to do with hygiene.
It only takes either a natural or over the counter remedy to visibly improve it

Doctors aren’t in agreement about what causes cradle cap but there are a few ideas that have been put forward. The first and most commonly accepted idea is that it is overactive sebaceous glands on your child’s head. These glands secrete the natural oils that we all have on our skin to protect and waterproof it.

Other ideas include a fungal infection or the condition being linked to a Biotin insufficiency (Biotin is a B vitamin). Whatever the cause, you can rest assured that it can be dealt with quickly and easily. Read on to find out what I discovered about dealing with it.


Firstly, if you are worried about your child’s cradle cap and you don’t feel like you can manage it yourself, then you should contact a medical professional. I would like to point out some warning signs for you to look out for and that should prompt you to contact a professional.

  • Scaly skin is thickening
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Rash spreads to other body parts

If your child has broken skin from the cradle cap then this could lead to bacteria infecting those areas of the skin. Basically, if the condition starts to worsen for your child then you need to seek medical attention as it could be a different medical issue.


The answer to this is definitely no, unless it’s just for a change in hairstyle. It won’t help and will probably be reasonably traumatic and over the top for the little one. The ways to deal with cradle cap, as listed above, are by far the best way to deal with this problem.


Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis is a condition that may appear similar to cradle cap but there are some important distinctions between them. One of the main reasons for the confusion is of the similar appearance and the fact that it can affect the same areas as cradle cap.

Eczema is a more serious condition, if you think your child may have it then you should contact a medical professional. It is typical to have red, itchy and dry skin caused by eczema as it is an inflammatory condition. It’s most commonly found in children, which may be another reason for the confusion between the two conditions. Thankfully it is rarer than cradle cap as eczema has more consequences for your child. Around 1 in 10 people will develop eczema in their lifetime.


I hope this article and my research has helped to curb some of the fears you may have had at first about your child’s cradle cap. It’s scary when you suddenly notice your 3 year old has a rash of any kind. I know I didn’t really know anything about the condition before I did my research, I incorrectly assumed it was just something babies could suffer from.

I’m glad I did the research because it hopefully has helped you and also because it is good to know the signs of the conditions that may be similar but may need more serious medical attention than cradle cap.