How to EASILY Tell the Difference between Cradle Cap and Dry Scalp

There is a misconception that cradle cap and dry scalp is the same thing. That’s not the case. You can quickly ascertain if it’s cradle cap.

  • Short Answer: You can tell if a baby has cradle cap due to its location. Cradle cap is an oily scalp condition that’s found on the child’s ‘soft spot’ which is at the center top of the head. Dry scalp is NOT confined to one spot. Also, the color of the scales is yellow and not white!

Once you’ve ruled out cradle cap, it’s likely to be a dry scalp. The scalp can become overly dry for a variety of reasons. The underlying causes of dry scalp range from anything from climatic extremes (really hot or cold weather) to underlying medical conditions that affect the scalp.

Once diagnosed correctly, you can take steps to significantly ease the uncomfortable symptoms or recover entirely from the dryness and itchiness.

Table of Contents:

Do I have Cradle Cap or Dry & Itchy Scalp?

Cradle cap occurs due to hyperactive oil (sebaceous) glands. The experts don’t know much about why it happens. However, they believe the cause could be in connection with the changes to a mother’s hormones during birth.

If you notice that your infant has a patch of greasy-looking and scaly yellow skin on their head, it’s cradle cap. It can get red, and look like yellowish-colored scales. It is commonly seen in newborns of to two years of age, but it can also affect children who are up to 5 years old.

In infants, it’s NOT usually itchy, like it is with adults.

Some adults are also affected by the condition. Adults that have overactive sebum glands on their scalp can also experience this condition, although it is medically termed seborrheic dermatitis. It can appear almost anywhere on the face or body, but it usually affects the scalp.

Common symptoms of adult cradle cap include itchiness, redness, and scaly, greasy patches of skin. There are ways to treat this condition.

Is Cradle Cap Painful?

It doesn’t itch, and it doesn’t hurt the infant. Fortunately, the baby is not bothered by cradle cap. It’s more distressing for the parent(s).

Mothers are advised to see a doctor if one or more of the following apply:

  1. The patches start to spread to other areas of the scalp.
  2. There are clear and visible signs of infection.
  3. It’s not going away and treatment isn’t working.

You can try shampooing the infant’s hair more regularly to prevent the spread of cradle cap. It should, of course, be a mild formula, unless the physician provides you with a prescription-strength product.

Will Both of these Scalp Conditions Clear Up Without Treatment?

Cradle cap will typically go away on its own. It may take 3-12 weeks for it to go away completely. If it doesn’t clear up within a reasonable amount of time, you should talk to your doctor about prescription-strength treatments.

Recovery from a dry scalp may require a little work, though. Use hot oil treatments or deep-conditioning treatments to keep the scalp healthy.

If you plan on being out in the sun for a long time, put a bonnet over your child’s hair. Wearing a hat during the summer is a good idea, too. The key is to prevent the sun from drying out your scalp and hair.

  • Important: You should take a look at the shampoo’s ingredients before using on you or the baby. Make sure the product is free of parabens and sulfates. If the scalp begins to swell or itch with red patches, you should see a doctor before using any other home remedies or treatments.

How to Treat Cradle Cap for Infants

The use of olive oilalmond oil, and coconut oil are good treatments for cradle cap.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

  • Using a small amount of your preferred oil, you should gently rub this into the baby’s hair and scalp.
  • After you have done that, wait for 15 to 30 minutes for it to soak in. This will cause the scales to soften. Comb or brush out. You don’t have to remove all of the scales, but eliminate as many as possible. They don’t bother the baby, so if you don’t get them all, this isn’t a problem.
  • Don’t rub or brush too hard. Instead, use a washcloth or a soft-bristled brush. Be gentle so that you don’t irritate the scalp or cause red patches.
  • Wash the infant’s hair thoroughly with a mild shampoo. Leaving any shampoo behind can lead to further dryness and irritation.

Although it may seem strange to put a natural healing oil in a place that already has too much oil, it works. You’ll find that these are oils that heal the skin. They gently take the extra oil and scales away and put nutrients back into the scalp, keeping the skin and hair healthy.

What Are the Causes of a Dry Scalp?

Dry scalp, on the other hand, is skin that has become dry due to an underlying reason. This could have been caused by the use of hair care products or a medical condition, such as scalp psoriasis, eczema or a fungal infection (ringworm, dandruff, etc.) Each of the causes needs to be treated slightly differently to get the best possible results.

The pores may have gotten clogged, and the natural oils, or sebum, can’t reach the surface of the skin to protect it. You need to get a clear medical diagnosis before commencing a treatment plan. Some conditions can’t be cured, such as eczema and psoriasis, but the symptoms can be alleviated.

One known cause of dry scalp is blocked pores. If you use specific styling products or chemical-laden shampoos, they can get into your skin and be hard to remove. When you use ‘regular’ OTC shampoo, it may not contain the right ingredients to get under the layers of skin to clean out the pores.

How to Bathe a Baby with Overly Dry Skin

  • Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises moms to wash their infant’s hair while bathing. Some moms tend to wash their baby’s hair every day. This isn’t necessary. In fact, the experts tell us that it’s okay to shampoo or bathe the baby three times per week!

With this said, you still should clean the baby’s bottom, face, and hands regularly. Apply a light moisturizer on the scalp and skin, if needed, in between baths or when shampooing. This hydrates the dry skin. If not applied directly to the skin, you should pour some emollient in the bath water.

This will soften the skin and reduce any itchiness. Just so you know, there won’t be any lather or bubbles in the baby’s bath water when using the emollients, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not working. This will only help to add moisture to dry skin. Consequently, it may make cradle cap worse.

A newborn’s skin is delicate and isn’t as thick as that of an adult. Being that it’s thinner, it absorbs moisture faster and is easier to self-treat. It’s also more tender and vulnerable to certain ingredients and excess washing.

Natural Shampoos to Remove Dryness

Specific shampoos soak into the scalp to clean the pores and remove the debris that is blocking the skin. When you use them three or four times per week, they will continue to do so, and you won’t have any more problems.

One of the most effective selections is Christina Moss Naturals Organic Shampoo. It is entirely natural, so you won’t have to worry about any further irritation to your scalp. There are also specific formulas that were developed for babies but always check the instructions and feedback.

what causes cradle cap?

Reduce Scalp Itchiness with an Essential Oil

Most scalp-related conditions can be ‘treated’ or ‘relieved’ with essential oils. They keep your scalp hydrated, penetrate the layers of your scalp, and clean out any debris from the pores. They won’t leave your skin or hair greasy, as you may think because they soak completely into the skin.

One of the best products that you can use to heal any itchy, dry scalp is “Ooh!”. It contains essential oils and skin-healing vitamins. When you apply it directly and massage it into your scalp, you’ll immediately experience relief from the itchiness. It’s a good option for adults with cradle cap.

Reduce Dryness with a Humidifier

Humidity and dry skin usually go hand-and-hand with winter.

To stay warm, people turn on the heat and artificial heating steals the skin’s moisture. Use the humidifier during the cold weather months to help retain moisture in the skin. Plug it in the nursery to take the dry heat out of the baby’s room.


The main differences between cradle cap and dry scalp are the color (yellow vs. white), oil production, and position (soft spot vs. anywhere on the scalp). Cradle cap is mainly experienced by babies, and children under five years of age, on average.

Adults can suffer from cradle cap as well, but it’s far less common.

Dry scalp is itchy and causes small white flakes. There can be redness and tenderness if you scratch your head a lot.

No matter which of these conditions you are dealing with, you need to treat it correctly. When it’s on babies, you should gently rub a treatment onto the spot and let it soak until you are done with their bath. Then lightly brush or rub it off.

The treatments for a really dry scalp will heal the dry skin but also keep your scalp and hair healthy.

If you’re still unable to determine the difference between dry scalp and cradle cap, we strongly recommend consulting a medical practitioner. Also, if the condition isn’t going away, it’s advisable to check that your self-diagnosis is accurate and that you’re using the right treatment.

Copyright 2018 by DryScalpGone.