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The Placenta Perm (Explained)

placenta perm infographic

The placenta perm is the super thick biofilm that covers a baby’s hair (and body). The medical term (in the US) is vernix caseosa. It has Greek origins - vernix meaning varnish and caseosa meaning cheesy-like substance. Much of medical research (in America) has focused on how vernix nourishes and protects baby skin. But vernix is very noticeable on baby’s hair. And so, Gen Z has brilliantly renamed the substance to acknowledge its impact on the baby’s crown. If you've witnessed labor and delivery, then you've seen the thick whitish substance that temporarily cements the newborns strands in place. If left untouched, it magically disappears.

newborn covered in vernix

We like to call it nature’s best deep conditioner that is still noticeable days after birth. In fact its effects can literally be felt for months. While the vernix leaves baby’s skin feeling like butter, it leaves baby’s hair feeling initially waxy, then incredibly soft. Vernix absorbs into the skin within minutes, but absorbs into the hair after weeks. It loses its cheesy look moments after delivery, but continues to resemble a glossy covering until it has fully absorbed into the hair. You’ll notice it's gone when the hair becomes more fluffy and full. The following picture shows the difference between our baby's crown at 7 days old and 24 months.

placenta perm before and after

When Does The Placenta Perm Develop?

23 week old fetus

Researchers believe the placenta perm forms in the uterus around the 23rd week of pregnancy (closely following the hair follicle's development at 18 weeks). It serves as a...

  • waterproof barrier during the 3rd trimester,

  • lubricates the love tunnel during delivery, and

  • helps hair adapt to its drier environment in the 4th trimester

Overall, the placenta perm plays a super important role in cell growth, and barrier functionality both in and outside the womb.

What’s In The Placenta Perm?

The placenta perm is a super complex substance that has so much left to be discovered. At this point, scientists believe it is 80% water, 10% lipids and 10% protein.

composition of placenta perm infographic

Should You Wash Off The Placenta Perm?

No! You do not need to scrub baby immediately following birth. As the newborn lays on mom's chest you'll witness the change. Full absorption of the placenta perm sets the stage for a healthy crown. It's a living substance that communicates with the newborn's environment. It will naturally dissolve after it has done its job of helping baby transition to life outside the womb.

When baby is ready for their first bath, you can use a gentle cleanser to wash their hair. According to the Global Health Media Project, parents should wait at least one day after baby's birth. At that point the thick whitish film should be long gone.

When Does The Placenta Perm Wear Off?

Between 4 and 6 months. This is around the same time that intermediate hair begins to grow. Intermediate hair is the temporary fuzzy hair that appears right before babies get the hair they will have for the rest of their lives.

closeup of hair strand growing from scalp

Why Is It Called The Placenta Perm?

placenta illustration

The placenta is the temporary organ and lifeline supplying nutrients and oxygen to the baby inside the womb. A perm is a synthetic cream that chemically changes the hair's structure and helps the wearer achieve their desired look.

Using the two words together cleverly describes the temporary cream that yields beautiful results.

It’s important to note, that unlike the man-made perm, the placenta perm is natural and isn’t damaging to baby’s health.

How To Care For Hair Once The Placenta Perm Is Absorbed?

You’ll want to use gentle cleansers and nutritious oils to seal in the moisture.

Since hair is such a vital part of our culture, there are so many products geared towards altering its appearance. However babies are naturally blessed with the best. They enter this world with the most lubricating, protective, and nourishing treatment. So our job is to make sure the placenta perm is left uninterrupted so that it can work its magic.

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