Cradle cap is not the most pleasant look for your baby’s head, but it is benign. It doesn’t harm your baby in any way, and for most kids, it will clear up on its own within a few months.
Some of my kids had minimal cradle cap while others had their entire head covered. I tried everything from trying to ignore it (didn’t work) to oils, shampoos, and brushes. If you want a safe, gentle solution, in my experience, these are the best cradle cap shampoos.
- Trustworth, dermatologist-approved
- Paraben- & phthalate-free
- Versatile for multiple skin irritations
- Excellent for dry, tight curls
- Effective within a week
- Formulated to treat eczema
- Created by a mom, perfected by a chemist, endorsed by a dermatologist
- FDA-regulated & CGMP-compliant
- Cruelty-free, suitable for vegans
- Shampoo & body wash in one
- Medicated but available otc
- Suitable for kids with eczema
- Effective cradle cap shampoo
- Pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil
- Also works for older kids and adults
How to Choose the Best Cradle Cap Shampoos
With so many cradle cap shampoos and other products on the market, it can be challenging to know where to start. These are the things to consider when you’re looking at cradle cap shampoos.
There is no standard for hypoallergenic, so companies can use this on their labeling, and you cannot be sure if it will cause allergies or not (1). Rather than rely on the hypoallergenic label, look at the ingredients list for any chemicals or additives your baby has previously reacted to.
Some cradle cap shampoos are marketed as being for a narrow age range, a specific type of hair, or for certain situations. Rather than limit yourself, look for the cradle cap shampoos that are for all ages, cover multiple issues, or also act as a body wash.
Again, tear-free doesn’t have a specific standard against which it is tested. Instead, it means that the ingredients used are less likely to cause issues if they get in your baby’s eyes.
I’ve always found tear-free labels to be reliable because, if not, other parents are quick to share their experiences.
Value for Money
I always look for kids shampoo that’s available in larger sizes and has other applications. That way, if the cradle cap doesn’t clear up quickly, I spend less on shampoo, and if it does clear up quickly, I can still use the shampoo anyway.
Bottle sizes vary greatly, but I calculated the cost per fluid ounce of dozens of cradle cap products to make price comparisons a little easier. I found between $1 and $2 per ounce was average for good quality, effective cradle cap shampoo.
I usually find “natural” or organic products of all types are more expensive than their standard cousins. As far as I can tell, this isn’t true for cradle cap shampoos, and you don’t have to pay extra to get fewer potentially harmful ingredients. Score.
The Best Cradle Cap Shampoos of 2021
Combining my experiences with that of other parents and considering the points above, these are my best cradle cap shampoos for hair of all kinds.
1. Mustela: Cradle Cap Bundle For Babies
The shampoo is a foam that is certified as safe for newborns. Both dermatologists and pediatricians have tested both the shampoo and the cream, so I feel confident it is appropriate for a newborn with the most sensitive skin.
This shampoo and treatment cream combo is safe for all areas of the body. So, if your baby has cradle cap behind their ears, on their forehead, or even, as some do, in their armpits or groin, you can use this.
The pump top bottle makes it easy to dispense a small amount of the foamy shampoo at a time, which is an important consideration when you’re bathing a slippery wet baby.
The instructions say to rub the cream into the cradle cap before bedtime, leave it overnight, and then wash the next day. You can use it every day, but I chose to only wash my newborn’s hair with it twice a week, and it still cleared up the cradle cap within the first week.
The American Society of Dermatologists says the active ingredient; Avocado Perseose, is “in total affinity” with human skin (2).
- Trustworth, dermatologist-approved product.
- Safe for kids — Paraben-, Phthalate-, and Phenoxyethanol-free.
- Versatile cream can be used for multiple skin irritations.
- Some users dislike the smell.
|Bottle format||Foaming pump dispenser|
|Active ingredient||Avocado Perseose|
|Free from||Paraben, phthalate, and Phenoxyethanol|
|Age range||Newborn to adult|
2. Child’s Farm: Sweet Orange Hair & Body Wash
Created by a British company Child’s Farm is an entire range of kid-friendly bath and skincare products designed for kids with eczema. There are both baby and kid versions and Farmologie is a companion range of products for older children and adults.
The Sweet Orange Shampoo is not explicitly marketed as a cradle cap shampoo, but it is very effective at clearing up the issue. It is also the number-one children’s brand in the UK, and all items in all ranges are dermatologist and pediatrician approved.
I particularly like that this is shampoo and body wash is suitable for eczema but way more affordable than many specialist eczema creams and products. I also like that the range can be used by all family members, from newborn and up. Then, when kids get older they can segway into the Farmologie line.
- Excellent for dry, tight curls.
- Effective — removed cradle cap within a week.
- Eczema-safe, formulated to treat eczema.
- Bath and body wash in one.
- Not readily available in major US chain stores. You may have to buy it online.
|Shampoo format||Liquid gel|
|Bottle format||Depress lid section dispenser|
|Free from||Synthetic fragrances and dyes|
|Age range||Newborn +|
3. T is for Tame: Cradle Cap Shampoo
Use one squirt of T Is For Tame cradle cap shampoo and massage it into your baby’s hair, rinse and brush. If you use it once a day, as recommended on the packaging, the cradle cap will be gone within a week.
Some users find the lack of a “soapy shampoo feel” off-putting. They say it gives them the impression it’s not soapy enough and consequently not cleaning properly. However, this shampoo isn’t designed to foam up like an adult shampoo, so don’t let that put you off.
Although the product is suitable for bigger kids and is effective, you’ll find you need multiple pumps of shampoos for an older child’s hair. This tends to make T is For Tame a budget-friendly option for babies but a more expensive proposition for toddlers and older.
- Created by a mom, perfected by a chemist, endorsed by a dermatologist.
- Made in the US, FDA-regulated, and cGMP-compliant facility.
- Cruelty-free, suitable for vegans.
- Multiple pumps needed for older kids’ hair.
|Bottle format||Foaming pump dispenser|
|Contains||Salicylic acid & calendula|
|Free from||Paraben, phthalate, sulfate, fragrance, dyes, animal products|
|Age range||Newborn to toddler|
4. Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo
Mainstream dandruff shampoos for adults are medicated shampoos, and these are the options most often recommended by pediatricians. Created by a pediatrician, Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy shampoo is considered a medicated item because it contains the active ingredient zinc pyrithione.
Active ingredients directly affect a medical condition or a biological process, in this case, infant seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap. However, “Dr. Eddie” wasn’t comfortable suggesting an adult shampoo for his tiniest patients, and so Happy Cappy was born.
Formulated without synthetic fragrances, dyes, or colors, the shampoo is shown to be safe for babies. However, it is not what is often referred to as a tear-free shampoo, and the label says to rinse the eyes immediately if it gets in there.
Having said that, I’ve never met a parent who didn’t rinse the shampoo out of their baby’s eyes as quickly as possible, so this is not really an issue.
- Save money with shampoo & body wash in one.
- Medicated, but conveniently available without a prescription.
- Suitable for kids with eczema.
- Zinc pyrithione can cause skin reactions in those sensitive to it.
|Shampoo format||Creamy liquid|
|Bottle format||Pump dispenser|
|Contains||Pyrithione zinc, licorice root extract|
|Free from||Paraben, sulfate, dye, artificial fragrances, alcohol, BPA|
|Age range||4 weeks to adult|
5. Bella B Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo
Bella B Bee Gone shampoo is formulated for those with cradle cap and dry skin. Enriched with shea butter, vitamin E, and aloe vera, this shampoo has a very light “fresh” scent that isn’t overpowering.
The shampoo is effective at removing even the toughest cradle cap, but will leave your baby’s hair feeling soft and silky. Having said that, Bell B Bee Gone shampoo is not just for babies. It’s just as effective for older children and for adults with dandruff.
On the downside, we are not huge fans of the branding focus for Bella B. There is lots of talk about “natural,” “ hypoallergenic,” tear-free,” and “organic.” Most of these phrases are vague, so they are not much use in helping you choose the right product for your family.
In addition, while the label says there are “organic ingredients,” the ingredients in question are just the flower extracts.
- Effective cradle cap shampoo.
- Pharmaceutical-grade tea tree oil gives shampoo a boost.
- Versatile, also works for older kids and adults.
- Contains sulfates, which may be a no-no for some.
- Has fragrances, which may irritate some users.
|Shampoo format||Clear liquid|
|Bottle format||Pump dispenser|
|Contains||Tea tree oil, aloe vera, shea butter, sulfates|
|Age range||Newborn to five years|
|Product||Best||Shampoo format||Bottle format||Active ingredient||Free from||Age range|
|Mustela: Cradle Cap Bundle For Babies||Best Hypoallergenic||Foam||Foaming pump dispenser||Avocado Perseose||Paraben, phthalate, & Phenoxyethanol||Newborn – adult|
|Child’s Farm: Sweet Orange Hair & Body Wash||Best for Curly Hair||Liquid gel||Depress lid section dispenser||Orange oil||Synthetic fragrances & dyes||Newborn +|
|T is for Tame: Cradle Cap Shampoo||Best Budget Pick||Foam||Foaming pump dispenser||Salicylic acid & calendula||Paraben, phthalate, sulfate, fragrance, dyes, animal products||Newborn – toddler|
|Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo||Best Versatile||Creamy liquid||Pump dispenser||Pyrithione zinc, licorice root extract||Paraben, sulfate, dye, artificial fragrances, alcohol, BPA||4 weeks – adult|
|Bella B Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo||Best Natural||Clear liquid||Pump dispenser||Tea tree oil, aloe vera, shea butter, sulfates||Paraben||Newborn – 5 years|
Cradle Cap Shampoo FAQs
These are the questions I hear most often about cradle cap, specialty shampoos, and other cradle cap products.
What’s the Difference Between Dandruff and Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap is another name for infantile seborrheic dermatitis (3). Dandruff can be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, but it can also be due to allergies, hair product build-up, a yeast called Malassezia, or not cleaning your hair often enough.
So, cradle cap is a form of dandruff, but dandruff is not always cradle cap.
How Often Should I Wash My Baby’s Hair With Cradle Cap?
Over shampooing can cause the scalp to produce more oil, making the cradle cap worse. Wash your baby’s hair twice a week to help treat cradle cap (4).
Can I Pick Cradle Cap Off?
Picking cradle cap off is not recommended as this can cause irritation or even tiny cuts and scarps which could become infected (5).
Is Coconut Oil Good for Cradle Cap?
While there is no scientific evidence to show that coconut oil is effective for removing cradle cap, many parents feel there is an improvement.
Coconut oil moisturizes your baby’s scalp and softens and loosens the scales. This makes the cradle cap easier to shampoo off or remove with a gentle soft-bristled brush.
Coconut oil will not cause your baby any harm, so it is worth trying out this traditional remedy.
Should I Put Lotion on Cradle Cap?
Like coconut oil, the lotion will moisturize your baby’s scalp and soften the cradle cap making it easier to remove via shampooing or brushing.
Not Pretty But Totally Harmless
We don’t know for sure what causes cradle cap, but we do know, if left alone, it is usually harmless.
Experts think most cradle cap is caused by the fluctuating hormone levels in a baby’s body after birth. The hormone levels make skin oilier, this causes cradle cap, and as your baby grows, the oil levels recede, and the cradle cap clears up on its own.
If you want to help cradle cap on its way, a cradle cap shampoo is a safe and effective way to do so.