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The SCOBY Cure – Home Remedy for Cradle Cap

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Back in 2010, my eldest son was coping with a bad case of cradle cap, i.e., thick, waxy dandruff on his head. He's always had very sensitive skin, and I suspect weekly swimming lessons took their toll on his scalp. This is how we used an extra kombucha scoby as a “scoby cure” home remedy for cradle cap.

Our experience using a kombucha scoby as a "scoby cure" home remedy for my son's cradle cap, which we believe was caused by excessive chlorine exposure.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

I did a bit of research, trying to find out what causes cradle cap. Mayo Clinic says:

Though the exact cause of cradle cap isn't known, one contributing factor may be hormones that pass from the mother to the baby before birth. These hormones cause an abnormal production of oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles.

Another factor may be a yeast (fungus) called malassezia that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. Antifungal treatments, such as ketoconazole, are often effective, supporting the idea that yeast is a contributing factor.

Cradle Cap Treatments

Given that he was 12 at the time, I'm pretty sure the birth hormones weren't playing a big factor at this point. They go on to recommend the following treatments:

Cradle cap usually doesn't require medical treatment. It clears up on its own within a few months. In the meantime, wash your baby's hair once a day with mild baby shampoo and brush the scalp lightly with a soft brush to loosen the scales.

If frequent shampooing doesn't help, consult your baby's doctor. He or she may recommend a stronger shampoo — such as an adult dandruff shampoo containing tar, 2 percent ketoconazole or 1 percent selenium — to help dissolve the scales. Hydrocortisone cream applied daily or every other day is sometimes helpful to reduce redness and inflammation.

We did try treating the cradle cap with emu oil and coconut oil, and even tried adult dandruff shampoos. I'd clear up the deposits, but they'd keep coming back, and his skin was raw and itchy. Something was just not right.

Finally, I went back and reread the information about underlying causes. What if the natural balance of microbes on his head was thrown out of whack by frequent exposure to the chlorinated pool? How could I restore a population of healthy, non-irritating microbes to his head? I had seen passing mentions of using kombucha to treat skin problems, but I had never tried it myself.

Enter the SCOBY Cure…

My first experience with homebrew kombucha - step by step kombucha brewing instructions, plus a quick explanation of some kombucha health benefits.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It's also called a “kombucha mother” or “kombucha mushroom”. The scoby is used with sweetened tea to brew kombucha. Since I had been brewing kombucha for some time at this point, I had plenty of extra scobys around. As any kombucha loving mommy would do,  I decided to slap a scoby on my kid's head and see what would happen. I had him put on one old, grubby t-shirt for drip catching. Then we wrapped another t-shirt around his head to secure the scoby in place. (Scobys are mostly liquid – if you dehydrate one they will form a very thin sheet of leather-like material – so it dripped quite a bit.)

I left the scoby on for around 15 minutes. We repeated the process two more times over the course of a week. The second and thirds times we did it in the evening not long before he showered, so he didn't have to spend much time smelling like vinegar. By the next week, his cradle cap cleared up completely. He did get a little bit of mild dandruff this past winter when it was very cold and dry, but nothing like last winter. I believe that the kombucha scoby cured his cradle cap.

Have you used kombucha (or other ferments) topically before? I'd love to hear your stories and suggestions.

Our experience using a kombucha scoby as a "scoby cure" home remedy for my son's cradle cap, which we believe was caused by excessive chlorine exposure.

If you need a kombucha SCOBY or other home fermentation supplies for water kefir or kombucha, I highly recommend Kombucha Kamp.

Order Fresh Live Kombucha and Water Kefir Cultures and Brewing Equipment

Other posts in the Kombucha Series:

Originally published in 2011, updated in 2017.

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20 Comments

  1. Hit it from the inside. Start him on Fish Oil tabs for that redness behind his ears.

    You know what's strange about this? My Miniature Schnauzer was diagnosed with Comedome Syndrome. It has the very same symptoms as cradle cap on human babies – caused by confined gene pools from overbreeding in the breed. He was found to be allergic to chicken and pork. But we also found very low heart rate and sensitive stomach. We ended up putting him on a thyroid med and going through a regimen with treated shampoos for about 6 months. Very expensive fight. But we made it. The thyroid meds have turned him around, completely. However – I wish we would have had the knowledge about the Scoby. I would have tried that, first!

  2. I've got some combo fish oil/butter oil tablets that I'll have to give a try. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Yea, actually: there is a brand of lotion and oils called "California Baby," and it is fabulous! They have one lotion in particular for exima and it totally took away my daughter's "contact sensitivity dermititis." Also, things like rubbing aloe vera on it (not just the gel, I mean break off a stem from a cactus, open it up, and rub the inside on the infected area – like twice a day), and also drinking aloe vera juice can do wonders too.
    Good luck!! Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  4. Food allergies can cause a myriad of skin issues. The redness behind the ears sounds like eczema. GAPS diet can sometimes help this, or if you want to start slow, avoiding gluten and dairy (you might already do this- sorry I get all my bloggers confused and am too lazy at the moment to backtrack and study your diet) 😛
    My daughter's eczema clears when she eats a low salicylate diet, specifically having a problem with apples. Look at what he is craving or what might be out of balance in his diet, and unfortunately, that is usually the culprit. AWESOME idea about the SCOBY too. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Interesting indeed. I don't doubt that the SCOBY worked at all, but I wouldn't have come up with the idea.

    As for the ear, someone already mentioned the aloe, if you have lavender, tea tree or chamomile oil you can mix the aloe with that..

    My youngest had a red, dry skin patch on his leg for the longest time. We increased the omega intake, reduced the milk (this was years ago), and I mixed massage oil or aloe vera gel with lavender and applied. It disappeared.

  6. chickiepea – we're not gluten and dairy free, although I have been working on reducing our consumption. (I know that if you eat any and your sensitive, it can still trigger problems, but right now we're just not ready to switch.)

    I've started on the extra oils internally, and will see if that helps, then work my way through the other suggestions.

    Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  7. Awesome idea! And I laughed so hard when I read this because I totally could see myself doing that…

  8. lol – one of my friends was teasing me recently that I was recommending kombucha for everything lately. It reminds me of the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, spraying Windex on everything.

  9. I know this is 3 years later but I would definitely recommend trying essential oils along with diet change for anyone who is currently looking for help with skin issues!

    1. Essential oils can be a wonderful healing tool, but it should be noted that skin conditions are often found in conjunction with liver trouble. Some individuals with impaired liver function will have just as much difficulty with the oils as they do with environmental toxins, so it’s always best to proceed with caution. EOs are powerful medicine!

  10. I get dry flaky patches behind my ears. I use an ointment I make that is a quarter coconut oil, a quarter raw cacao butter, quarter beeswax, quarter olive oil, plus a small spoon of honey, and a little propolis – if I have it.
    Works a treat for me.
    Also use the cream as a lip balm, and for any dry skin like hands and elbows.

  11. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to try a SCOBY on my one year old, if she’ll sit still for fifteen minutes, Ha Ha. 🙂 One thing that’s worked for us for behind the ear rash is Shea butter cream with tepezcohuite, heals it right up. I believe it’s a herb used primarily for burn victims. The website for the cream we use is below.

    http://lavigneorganics.com/tepezcohuite/

  12. Always focus at the root of the problem. The issues are symptoms. Clearing the body and diet of stressors including social, environmental, and nutritional stressors are important. Swimming in chlorine depletes the body of iodine. Showering with a natural soap and shampoo and thoroughly drying the bodaybody and hair would be the first step. Hydrating with pure water and a pinch of seasalt will also help replenish lost minerals. Removing potential allergens like wheat, soy, PB, dairy, and all food coloring, sugars, and refined chemical non-foods will lessen the liver burden. Eating a variety of pesticide free vegetables and including grass fed proteins and good fats like olive oil and coconut oil will help manage inflammation. Be well.

  13. Iodine deficiencies are common in the SAD Standard American Diet, and play a large part in thyroid imbalances. Swimmers need to supplement their diet.

  14. He must stop eating carbohydrates. Yeast and bacteria cannot grow without it. Keto diet will cure him and make him healthy

  15. Try the Kombucha liquid/drink with a cotton wool bud on your husbands ears. I have a small dry patch of skin just outside my L)nostril (noticeable mostly to me) and went away when I dabbled (with my finger) the liquid on it randomly, and it went away. I noticed it came back when I stopped 2 days later (not as bad this time) so perhaps treatment may need a little longer and would vary from person to person.

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