Listen, you’re a busy mom, dad or grandparent, so I won’t go into details about what cradle cap is or what causes it, because that information is already all over the internet. When properly treated it can go away within a matter of days or weeks, permanently, or if more persistent, can be managed until your baby’s or toddler’s susceptibility to the condition changes.
If you are reading this blog, you are most likely looking for remedies that are not harsh for your little one’s skin or delicate system. Well, have no fear, I will tell you everything I know based on my own experience, what my crunchy momma friends have shared and a little careful research. So here is the deal.
Curing cradle cap, whether naturally or conventionally, basically boils down to two elements: proper cleansing and topical applications.
Some parents and caregivers rely solely on shampoos and washes to remove the build-up. In this case, obviously the cleanser contains active ingredients that somehow balance the scalp issue - be it from adjusting excessive oil production or by reversing any fungal growth in its tracks. I have listed the cleansers with which my peers have had the best results below.
Calendula based shampoos and cleansers. (California Baby has a great calendula care line that is easily available from Target, Whole Foods Market and Amazon.com.) Calendula is cradle cap’s most effective and gentlest herbal cure in my opinion. If there is a baby shampoo that you love that does not contain a significant or any amount of calendula, then try adding calendula oil or calendula tincture to your shampoo. Do not add this to the bottle directly (particularly the oil) but add about 5 drops of oil or tincture to the shampoo you are using, in your hand, prior to washing. That way you don’t have to worry about causing bacterial growth or needing preservatives.
· Cleansers that contain ash. Specifically African black soap products and Jamaican Black Castor Oil Products. The Shea Moisture line (available at Target) – has a head to toe Black Soap Cleanser, or you can get a powder from Shea Terra Organics that you can add to your favorite baby-safe shampoo. Alternatively you could also just mix the powder into a paste with other herbals like the oils and herbals mentioned in the “topical applications section below and use that to cleanse the head. The Jamaican Black Castor Oil line has a gentle sulfate free shampoo that is great for thick curly or coily hair (very moisturizing.) The only drawback with Jamaican Black Castor oil is the ashy smell – but that can easily be disguised with essential oils.
· Herbal tea and apple cider vinegar rinses. This should be your final rinse right before you use any leave-in products (if any.) It basically consists of a strong tea with about a tablespoon (more for an older child) of apple cider vinegar (go for the raw kind like Braggs – which is easily available almost anywhere vinegar is sold,) per 8 ounces of herbal tea or infusion. The best herbs to use for such a tea are calendula (#1), marshmallow root (will also soften, add shine and condition hair), neem leaf or powder, rosemary, lavender and nettles. The vinegar smell dissipates when the hair is fully dry. You can also add essential oils like lavender and chamomile for newborns, and tea tree for older babies.
· Oil. I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but so many mothers and grandmothers swear by this that you have to at least give it a try. If this method does not work for you initially, try a different oil or combining oil and cleansing together, before moving on. Ironically, oil actually helps to remove oil from the skin and scalp, thus providing a kind of cleansing in and of itself.
The best way to use oil for curing cradle cap is as a pre-shampoo treatment. This method will also help with detangling and not excessively drying your child’s hair if you opt for a stronger, medicated shampoo. Apply your oil of choice to the affected area, allowing it to sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour before bath time. Brush any loose flakes gently away then shampoo or cleanse the oil away during bath time.
Some people reapply the oil at least once during the day time. Unless you are only applying oil, I do not find this to be necessary. The most recommended oils are olive oil, coconut oil (antifungal and absorbs more easily), castor oil (plain or Jamaican black) and shea butter. I think if you are going to use olive oil, you might as well use calendula oil – which is basically usually olive oil infused over weeks or months with this number one cradle cap curing herb. You could also try herb infused oils containing any of the herbs recommended in the herbal tea and ACV rinses
· Leave-in Creams. By far the most touted cream used by natural parents for cradle cap is California Baby’s Calendula Cream. That is what we used on our first child. It was actually designed for skin issues, so you can use it for that too or just as a body cream if you have some left over after the cradle cap episode. We were told by the awesome women that guided me that way to expect results within 10 days or less. We just applied it to the affected areas after shampooing (we were using castille soap back then for shampooing because we didn't know any better) and didn't even brush away or scrape any flakes off. Within 3 days it was gone – never to return.
This is by far the easiest of all the cures. It’s not complicated or dramatic and comes highly recommended on almost every crunchy forum out there. It is also a great alternative for curlies choosing to do minimal shampooing, even during the cradle cap episodes. We rarely washed our child’s hair in the first year of life once the cradle cap was gone.
The only drawback is the price – It ranges from $20-24 per 4 oz jar. This can add up depending on how much you use. If your baby ends up needing this for maintenance or skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis and the like it can be quite dear. Fortunately for most babies a little bit goes a long way and you’ll barely get through the jar before the cradle cap disappears.
So to help out all the budget conscious moms out there, we created a calendula care line that we’re calling Rock the Cradle, specifically targeted for cradle cap. It does not contain a plethora of expensive botanicals. Each product is just chock full of organic calendula extracted into all three mediums – oil, alcohol and water – so as to benefit from every aspect of the plant. This makes the product way more affordable to you, and dramatically increases its efficacy at targeting your problem. Visit our Oggboo store for more information, if you are interested.
Otherwise, I sincerely hope this write-up helped in guiding you in the right direction to restore your child’s scalp to its original pristine condition.
Oggboo links for Calendula Oil and Rock the Cradle Calendula Care Line
Mountain Rose Herbs Link for CalendulaTincture, Bulk Calendula Herb and their excellent blog entry on Calendula, including how to make your own infused oil and other home remedies.