Baby skin is more delicate and in many ways, not fully developed. For instance, a baby’s skin is thinner, has less hair, less oil and less pigment cells. Therefore, a baby’s skin is less equipped to handle temperature changes, more susceptible to sunburn and moisture loss. A new born skin is covered by vernix caseosa, a creamy white substance that helps the baby to adjust to the world outside of the womb.
#1 Avoid Over-Washing
Too much washing leads to dry skin, in particular as the baby’s skin is thinner and vulnerable to moisture loss. In particular, washing with hot water, washing too many times or washing for too long will dry the skin. Dry skin may itch and over-washing also weakens the baby’s skin barrier, making it vulnerable to irritants. Limit washing to no longer than five minutes and no more than twice a day.
#2 Avoid Soap
For washing or bathing, avoid soap as it is drying to the skin and may irritate baby’s skin which is more sensitive. Soap is alkaline which is drying and surfactants (i.e. word containing “sulfate” at the end) remove the skin’s natural lipids. Use a gentle cleanser that is hypoallergenic instead.
#3 Avoid Irritants
There are ingredients in skincare products that have been studied to commonly lead to sensitive skin reactions. Avoid perfume, preservatives, propylene glycol, lanolin and parabens. Certain natural ingredients may also irritate and therefore, always test on a small patch of skin before using on the whole body.
#4 Pat Dry, Do Not Rub
Due to the baby’s skin being thinner, pat dry instead of rub dry. Though not visible to the naked eye, increased friction from washing and rubbing/ scrubbing will further damage the baby’s skin barrier.
Moisturizing has been studied to have a protective effect from eczema in high-risk babies. Moisturizing a baby’s skin help retain moisture, act as an additional barrier against irritants and improve the baby skin’s barrier. Read the ingredients in the moisturizing cream to ensure that they do not contain known irritants or harsh ingredients.
#6 Avoid Direct Sunlight
Given that the baby’s skin has less pigment cells, it is less equipped to handle sun exposure. As such, avoid bringing the baby out in direct sunlight during the hot hours of the day from 10.30am to 5pm. Always use sun protection, such as at least SPF30 sunscreen (which has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, without harsh ingredients), wear light long sleeve clothing, sunglass and wide-brimmed hat.
#7 Keep Cool
As the baby skin is less able to regulate temperature and have immature sweat glands, it is important to take measures to prevent excessive sweating. infants have immature sweat glands, which often leads to transient blockage of the sweat ducts. Therefore, as more sweat is produced, the inability to secrete the sweat due to the blockage may lead to miliaria. Sweat residue may also irritate baby skin. Therefore, wear light clothing and avoid over-wrapping
the baby in blankets or thick clothing.
Air-conditioning dries the air and is potentially drying to the skin if the humidity falls below 40%. At low humidity, moisture is drawn from the skin to the environment. Be sure to include a humidifier in the baby’s room, preferably one that can be automatically activated once humidity falls below the set humidity level.
#9 Contact with Chemicals
As the baby’s skin is thin and sensitive, be mindful of the baby’s contact with chemicals. This may come in the form of detergent used, home cleaning agents and anti-bacterial wipes. Where water will suffice, use water and contact with cleaning agents should be limited. New clothes should be washed before wearing.
#10 Avoid Diaper Rash
Apart from miliaria, diaper rash is the other common baby rash. Diaper rash is typically a reaction to irritants, such as soiled diapers and stools. Apply diaper cream for an additional layer of protection, change diapers once soiled and air the baby’s bottom as much as possible.
The skin performs many functions and research is still uncovering new ways that our skin can heal and interact with the rest of the body. Moreover, care for the baby’s skin and protection of the skin barrier may potentially benefit the baby in areas beyond the skin such as in prevention of allergies.