Our skin structure changes from the time we are nine-weeks-old, until the time we are 90. This means that there is a huge difference between the skin structure of your infant and you. To keep your little ones’ skin baby soft, it’s important to learn about these differences and the ways you can protect your baby’s tender skin from dryness, irritants, and other sensitivities on a day-to-day.
A baby’s skin performs the same functions as that of an adult’s. These important functions include the following:
- Protect the body from airborne illnesses
- Absorb and expel moisture
- Protect against harmful UV rays
- Maintain body temperature
- Provide sensory perception
Although a baby’s skin performs the same functions as an adult’s, the major difference here is that a baby’s skin is just developing the skills to perform all these necessary functions. Therefore, babies might not have the ability to absorb and expel moisture or maintain body temperature at the same efficiency level as adults. And that’s why it’s important to learn how to give them the extra TLC their little bodies deserve.
Skincare for Babies: What Parents Should Know
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, taking up a total average area of 20 square feet. In addition to being your body’s largest organ, your skin is also the fastest-growing organ of the body. As you can see, skin health is important—and it’s even more important for your sweet little babe. Read on to learn about how babies skin is different from yours and the dos and don’ts of basic baby skincare.
Why Your Baby’s Skin Is Different
- The outer layer of your baby’s skin, known as the epidermis, can be up to 30 percent thinner than that of an adult’s. This means your baby’s skin is more sensitive and vulnerable to damage.
- A baby’s skin absorbs and loses moisture at a rate faster than adults. Thus, your child’s skin will be visibly drier unless kept moisturized with the appropriate products.
- One of the functions of the skin is to act as a barrier to external irritants. Since the skin is not yet fully functional in a baby, this barrier is weak and the child is more prone to infections. Dr. Ashanti Woods, attending Pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center, Family Health Centers of Baltimore says, “Their skin is constantly maturing and developing, meaning that babies are more susceptible to irritation (rash), temperature instability, and infection, given that they do not have a fully matured immune system.”
Beacause of all these differences, your baby’s skin requires some extra TLC. It might be a good idea to start a daily skin regimen for your child, especially if you notice that he or she is susceptible to rashes and irritants.
The Dos and Don’ts of Baby Skincare
- Don’t bathe your child too often. Although bathing may seem like the obvious measure to protect your baby from germs, when it is done too often (daily or every other day), it can actually become counter-productive. Your baby’s skin has essential oils that are already working toward protecting their tender skin. Bathing your child every day, especially for an excessive amount of time, will strip your baby’s skin of these protective essential oils, exposing their skin to infections and irritants. A 10-minute bath every third day is sufficient to keep your baby’s skin clean and free of bacteria. But do make sure to clean in between your baby’s skin folds properly on bath days.
- Don’t dry your baby with old or rough towels or rags. Worn fabrics have a way of irritating your baby’s skin fast. Always be sure you use soft cotton towels when drying your baby. In between baths, use gentle, fragrance-free towelettes to wipe off dirt, milk, food, etc.
- Do use mild soaps and shampoos. Because your child’s skin is so much more sensitive, avoid using normal adult soaps and shampoos on him or her. In fact, even the detergent you wash your baby’s clothes with should be a gentle, mild formula. Many adult soaps contain harsh chemicals that will surely irritate your baby’s skin. Use only basic cleansers in your baby’s bath—look for fragrance-free and dye-free cleansers. Products that use fragrance or dye are more likely to contain chemicals that may irritate your child’s skin. Dr. Woods suggests Dove Soap or Aveeno for bathing (Aveeno Oatmeal wash can be especially soothing for your baby).
- Do moisturize your baby with emollients. Since your baby’s skin tends to get dry very quickly, it’s essential to keep it constantly moisturized. Emollients like sunflower seed oil or baby lotions should be applied daily or at least every other day. One health expert states that regularly moisturizing your baby’s skin, “greatly helps the health of their skin, as well as their immune systems.” For instance, giving your babe a quick massage with soothing, moisturizing oils can help boost their blood flow, which has a positive effect on your baby’s overall health. So pamper your baby with moisturizing products and massages to keep their skin comfortable and baby soft.
Dr. Tanya Kormeili, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor at UCLA, sums up the basic dos and don’ts to remember: “Avoid excessive heat, cold, over-washing, harsh chemicals, wind, or direct prolonged exposure to the sun.”
Some Final Words about Skin Protection for Your Little One
Dr. Woods suggests that you keep a hydrocortisone ointment handy in case of mild irritants or diaper rashes, and use Vaseline Petroleum Jelly or Aveeno for moisturizing your baby daily. Dr. Woods also recommends applying a sunblock with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or greater to protect your child against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays when going outdoors.
If you’re a new mother struggling to manage your baby’s diaper rashes or other skin irritations, rest assured that this is a common and treatable problem. Most babies will have skin issues that pop up from time to time, and then go away for months. If your little one is suffering from chronic skin issues, however, it may be time to talk to your doctor about all the available treatment options available to you. Some babies simply need more TLC than others.
PS: For solutions to suit your specific skin type, head to our Skincare Section.
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