When it comes to your baby's skin, it's important to be aware that it's very different to your own.
For a start, newborn skin is much thinner, and is also quite delicate during the first few weeks of life. By the end of the first month it will have changed into baby skin, but it will take some years to develop into thicker skin.
As a result, it’s more sensitive and more susceptible to irritants. Your little one’s skin is also more prone to dryness. Compared to adults, babies have a bigger skin surface area in proportion to their weight and lose moisture more easily. This natural tendency towards dryness has seen a plethora of products on the market that claim to help your baby’s skin stay as soft as the proverbial bottom.
So what is safe and suitable to use? Nina Goad from the British Skin Foundation offers some guidelines on keeping your baby’s skin soft and supple from day one – read her best tips below!
‘Before your baby is a month old, common sense suggests you should use as few products as possible,’ says Nina. ‘Cotton wool and water are great for nappy changes, and fresh air circulating around the area should help prevent nappy rash. If this isn’t possible, a gentle nappy barrier cream can be safely used. Unless your baby already has very dry skin, she shouldn’t need a moisturiser at this age.’
Baby skincare: 1 month +
‘After a few weeks, your baby’s skin will be thicker and less sensitive than a newborn’s,’ says Nina Goad. ‘But it still makes sense to avoid any unnecessary skin products. Avoid those that create lots of lather, as these can remove natural oils from your baby’s skin.
‘If your little one’s skin is dry and needs moisturising, use a simple baby lotion or baby oil. Opt for gentle soaps and cleansers, as harsh ones may damage a baby’s skin, making it more prone to eczema. And avoid using anything that contains alcohol, as this can make skin even drier.’
Jill Barker, founder of The Green Baby Company, suggests buying handmade toiletries for babies, as they tend to be gentler.
‘Look for brands with a use-by date, as this gives you an idea of when the product was made. Cosmetics and toiletries can go off, just like the food in your fridge,’ she explains. ‘For babies and older children with sensitive skin, sweet almond oil is a good base to look for in a product. It’s gentle, soothing and sweet-smelling.’
Baby massage is a great way to keep your little one’s skin soft and moisturised and to enjoy bonding, too. According to Kim O’Rourke, from the International Association of Infant Massage, baby massage may also have all kinds of other benefits, from promoting better sleep and boosting a baby’s immune system to aiding digestion.
Pure olive oil is the safest option for baby massage, but you can also use oils such as sweet almond, grapeseed, and sunflower. Any product specifically marketed as a baby oil would work well, too.
Baby skincare: Bad reactions
Many parents worry about using skincare products on their little ones, but any product designed for babies must conform to strict standards.
‘As a rule of thumb, the skin products you buy at your local supermarket won’t be detrimental to skin, because of the rigorous testing that’s legally required before a product goes on the market,’ assures Nina Goad.
So is it a case that common sense should prevail? Renata Wells, mum to Benjamin, 3, and Madeleine, 15 months, thinks so. ‘I’ve read about concerns over chemicals in skincare products in the press, but I try not to get worked up about these things and just do what I think is best,’ she says.
If your baby reacts to a particular product, try experimenting with different brands or consult a dermatologist to help you work out which ingredient(s) she’s sensitive to. If you’re worried about a reaction to washing powder, switch to a non-biological alternative.
And don’t rule out the fact that your baby’s clothes could be causing irritation. Avoid scratchy fabrics such as wool and opt for cotton garments.
The rise of eczema
The rate of eczema among children has risen threefold in the last 30 years: one in five children now suffers from it. But have chemicals in skincare products played a part in this and how can you treat it?
The National Eczema Society says that chemicals in skincare products can be problematic for children who already have eczema.
‘They have more of a tendency to react to highly perfumed products, for example,’ explains chief executive Margaret Cox. ‘This is because if your child already has eczema, it’s easier for irritants to get into the body via the skin, which may be cracked.’
However, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association points out that there’s no proven link between established babycare products and eczema.
‘Companies that make baby products have to show they are 100% safe for babies,’ says director general Dr Chris Fowler. Labels such as ‘suitable for sensitive skin’, ‘hypoallergenic’ or ‘dermatologically tested’ don’t always mean a product has been tested for its suitability for eczema sufferers.
So if your baby has eczema, consult your GP. They’re likely to prescribe an emollient and, possibly, wet-wrapping or steroid creams if the eczema is severe.
Childs Farm baby moisturiser is one product that has been hailed as a ‘miracle cure for eczema‘ and the pictures show impressive results. At just £3.99 a tube it is well-wroth considering.
Baby skincare: Swimmming
How can you protect your child’s skin from chlorine in the pool?
To minimise the effects, apply a barrier cream such as Vaseline all over the skin before entering the pool. Afterwards, rinse the skin thoroughly under running water and apply the usual lotions to all areas while your baby’s skin is still damp.
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Find out more:
* The British Skin Foundation: www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk
* Allergy UK: www.allergyuk.org
* International Association of Infant Massage: www.iaim.org.uk
* The National Eczema Society: www.eczema.org
Do you have any tips on how you kept your baby’s skin nice and moisturised? Share your tips and join the conversation over on our Facebook page!