When you think about skin care, there are a number of things that naturally come to mind right away. You might think about cleansing, acne treatments, moisturizing and even anti-aging. But something people don’t tend to think about is skin care for your baby. When it comes to the most sensitive skin around, you need to be informed and educated. Taking the proper steps with baby skin care will set the foundation for healthy skin development throughout a child’s life. It can even have an impact on a child’s developmental health. And it all starts during the first precious year of your infant’s life so there’s no time to waste.
The Science Of Baby Skin
To truly understand skin care and the impact quality care can have, you need to understand how skin works. Skin is one of your body’s largest organs. It starts to develop very early, about a week so after conception. Throughout pregnancy, the skin continues to develop and evolve. Once born, the skin will continue to grow through the first year of life. At birth, babies have an extra layer of skin called the vernix which will shed on its own. You know that dry, scaly period babies go through? That is the vernix peeling off. As much as you’d like to, don’t rush this process. The vernix actually has many healing benefits including acting as a natural moisturizer, cleanser, and anti-oxidant.
It’s no secret that infants have the softest and smoothest skin – why else would there be a product line called Baby Skin—but along with being super soft, it’s also the most delicate and sensitive.
Since infant skin isn’t fully developed, it lacks one of the most primary functions of skin, which is to act as a barrier of protection. Without this barrier, baby skin is easily susceptible to harmful toxins found in products, the environment, and even clothes.
Basic Baby Skin Care
Knowing how skin works helps lay the foundation to excellent baby skin care. When it comes to caring for your infant’s skin, always remember: Less is more. Take this with you as you develop great skin care practices for your baby.
Limit bathing to three times a week at most. Besides the fact that babies don’t really get messy—they save that for the glorious toddler years—bathing an infant too frequently can actually remove the oils that skin naturally produces. These oils help keep skin dry and protected so they are essential for healthy skin. When bathing, use warm water and a soft cloth to gently cleanse the skin. You don’t need to use more than 2 – 3″ of water to give your baby an adequate bath. It’s also important to note that excessive bathing can also irritate one of the most common baby skin issues, eczema. If your baby is dealing with eczema or increasingly dry skin, you may want to cut back on the baths even more.
Avoid fragrances, chemicals, and dyes in the first few months. These are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to baby skin sensitivities. If you’re using a ton of different products with any of these variables it can be hard to narrow down exactly what could be causing issues with your baby’s skin. By sticking to a limited assortment of products, with limited ingredients, you’re not only preventing potential issues, but also ensuring that your baby’s fragile skin doesn’t absorb any harmful chemicals or toxins.
Avoid direct sunlight for the first six months. Due the harmful rays of the sun and the damage it can cause, it’s best to keep babies out of its direct path. Should you decide to take that weekend trip to the beach this summer, be prepared with umbrellas and hats for your infant and keep as much of their skin covered with loose clothing as possible. Sun protection is key for every good skin care practice so you can imagine why it would be equal, if not more important, with babies delicate skin which is known to be 40 – 60% less thick than adults. For sunscreen, be careful to only use those with SPF 30 or higher that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Other types of sunscreen can actually cause more damage than good with baby skin, so it’s important to pay attention to the labels when you’re picking up sun protection for your baby.
Use a cool mist humidifier in the winter. Not only is this great for your baby’s breathing during the cold winter months, but using a humidifier also works great at keeping baby skin moisturized. Baby skin loses moisture quicker than adults so in the winter when skin generally tends to be drier, keeping your baby moisturized is crucial. Using a cool mist humidifier in addition to natural moisturizers like organic coconut oil and/or cocoa butter, will help replace any moisture lost. Plus, your skin will benefit from the humidifier as well. It’s a win-win!
Wash all baby clothes before they are worn. This is one practice that often goes overlooked. Even if you are using the most natural products and following all the directions, if you’re putting untreated clothes on your baby it could negate all of your hard work. Not all clothes are created in the same standard and though you might want to buy fair trade, non-dyed, organic cotton only clothes, that might not exactly be an option for you. Taking time to wash all baby clothes with unscented, chemical and dye free detergent before wearing them is just another step of protection for baby skin.
Things To Avoid In Your Baby Skin Care
Now that we’ve covered all the things you should be doing for your baby’s skin care, let’s touch on the things you should be avoiding. You can imagine how long this list can become but, to narrow it down, there are three common things parents are used to doing that aren’t exactly the best for baby’s skin.
Be mindful of labels. This is not to say avoid baby labels but take note that everything that’s labeled “baby” doesn’t mean it’s good for YOUR baby. Be sure check all ingredients taking care to avoid the things we’ve mentioned before like chemicals and dyes. Wherever possible buy natural or organic products and always opt for fragrance-free.
Avoid baby powder. This has long been a staple product in every home, but it’s been found that the fine grains in powder and cornstarch can be dangerous for infants. If inhaled, they can cause potential lung problems down the road so it’s best to just opt out of using them altogether.
When possible, avoid wipes. Although wipes have their time and place, when it comes to wiping your baby, try to use a clean cloth instead whenever possible. Baby wipes tend to have all the ingredients you want to avoid in them, making them a less than desirable option. If you must, and trust us we know sometimes it’s just easier to have a wipe, be sure to use the natural, unscented kind.
Common Baby Skin Issues
We all know that even when you do the very best you can, sometimes things still happen. Such is life. They are some common baby skin issues they may pop up regardless but they’re all easily treatable if you know what they are and what to do. Here are the ones you’re most likely to run into:
Baby Acne – which isn’t really acne in the sense that it’s not the same kind your teenager might have. Baby acne is extremely common and is caused by yeast instead of oil production. The good news is, it clears up on its own and there’s no need for special cream or treatment.
Diaper Rash – normally caused by the moisture from a wet diaper. This can be easily avoided by frequent diaper changes. If you encounter it, applying petroleum jelly or an ointment will help soothe the skin and heal the rash.
Eczema – the worst of the three, eczema is a red itchy rash that usually appears on the face, elbows or behind the knees. This is harder to treat so be sure to check with your pediatrician before trying to solve this on your own. Some creams and ointments may make it worst instead of better.