Cradle cap

Does any baby really look like this when you're washing its hair? I think we all know the answer to that.

Cradle cap is a bohemian beauty issue for our little minions and for some of us grown folk, too!

Cradle cap is a mysterious brownish to yellowish crusty gummy greasy flaky viscous (and vicious) scum that forms on the scalps of newborns, sometimes older kids, and, less frequently, adults. Its legal name is Seborrheic dermatitis. According to PubMed, Seborrheic dermatitis may happen because of a combination of an over production of skin oil and irritation from a yeast called malessizia. They say it's a lifelong condition that must be kept in check. Wow.

Bad case of cradle cap
Mild to moderate case of cradle cap

It may be genetic, but can be exacerbated by stress, extreme weather conditions, infrequent cleaning, weird lotions, acne (!), and obesity! It can also be associated with Parkinson's disease, head injury, stroke, and even HIV. They say it's not contagious and has nothing to do with poor hygiene (weird because in the same paragraph they say infrequent shampooing is a risk factor). It's not an allergy, but it may itch. Scratching it, of course, can make it worse (inflammation, infection, bleeding, etc.). Plus it looks FONKY!

My precious bubby had this issue. His daycare pointed it out to me and told me it was cradle cap. Horrors. Because, guiltily, I thought it was just a caking of dirt. I should probably mention here that, being a sort of "hippie-ish" type of gal, I never washed the boy's hair more than once every two weeks, convinced that too much washing would spoil his pristine head. Don't ask me why I thought this. I don't know. It was a nugget of something stuck in my brain and no-one could have convinced me otherwise. Part of the mortification of being informed that my son had cradle cap was the sudden realization that he looked like a guttersnipe. He had a very mild case, I should point out here in my own defense, nothing like the top picture. Even milder than the second picture, in fact.

Soooooo.....I tried EVERYTHING to try to get rid of it: natural neem shampoo, vinegar rinse, lemon juice, tea tree oil, brushing, and scraping it off with my fingernails. I should get a medal for that one. YOU try to do that to a 3-year old!  

It lasted for over a year. It never got better or worse, but it just didn't seem to want to go away. Finally, I brought out the big guns: Selsun Blue. My vet in New Orleans prescribed it to my dogs for everything from irritated flea bites to tachychardia. I don't think he's practicing any more. It tingles, but it doesn't work on cradle cap. Or canine tachycardia. (It does work for irritated flea bites, though.)

I decided to try hemp oil next. Here are the factors that led to that decision:

  • Dissolve: Oil cleanses the skin, so it may help dissolve the scummy stuff.
  • Prevent: If cradle cap is caused by overproduction of scalp oils, that means that the scummy stuff is composed of sebum that for whatever reason sticks to the scalp instead of traveling down the hair shaft like it's supposed to. This may mean that the sebum is too thick and viscous. If the scalp sebum acts like face sebum (which I suppose it does), then maybe he has the same problem as me: too much oleic acid (which causes sebum to be sticky and thick) and not enough linoleic acid (which causes sebum to be more thin and fluid). Makes sense, too, since this has been my problem and PubMed says cradle cap is genetic. Same root cause, perhaps, then? No better oil in the world than hemp to raise linoleic acid levels (thereby lowering oleic acids). Here's an earlier post on the wonders of hemp oil.

I decided to ignore the fact that a yeast may be involved (for the time being). So hemp oil, it was.

Each am and pm, I rubbed about three drops of hemp oil onto his scalp and brushed it through with a boar bristle brush. He hated it. It was pretty awful, but do-able. 

The cradle cap was gone in three days. THREE DAYS. After a year of trying to get rid of it every other way I could think of. After a week, I stopped doing the hemp oil treatments on him, and so far it hasn't come back. It's been about a month. I still put a drop of hemp oil in his hair every couple of days because it makes his curls look positively divine.

I also started using it in my hair when it looks frizzly. It works great. If I had dandruff or other scalp issues, I'd definitely work this into my hair routine.

Look at those perfect curls!

That's right. The miracle plant strikes again. 
Happy hemp, everyone. I'll leave you with this guy:

The dude that makes it all possible???

P.S. Coffee! Another miracle plant!

I just found this recipe on Spotless Living:

Coffee and coconut cradle cap cure:
  • A quarter cup of used (or un-used) coffee grounds
  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Mix ingredients together in a small bowl and massage into scalp.
  • Wash out after ten to fifteen minutes.
Very interesting! She says it worked after one application. I may actually have tried this if I'd found it a few months ago. It sounds good. The coffee grinds probably exfoliate the scum and the coconut oil moisturizes the scalp and hair. The only problem with this for me is the coconut oil. It's comedogenic. And if the sebum is collecting on the scalp because it's too viscous, then adding a comedogenic (clogging) substance is only going to make matters worse. If cloggy pores with dry skin is not a problem with you or anyone in your family, then this may be a good recipe to try. If you have closed comedone acne like me, though, maybe try replacing the coconut oil with hemp oil.

Happy hemp and coffee, everyone!