How does baby skin differ to adults? How do we take care of it and what are its specific needs? Dr Anita Sturnham, GP specialising in Dermatology and consultant to pH balanced skincare brand, Sebamed, shares her advice on how to clean, moisturise and protect your baby’s skin
What happens to baby skin?
Baby skin is delicate and so is the baby’s immune system. Its barriers are weaker; moisture content is lower and its immune system not yet at maximum capacity. Baby’s skin can also be up to ten times thinner and is therefore damaged more easily than adult skin.
Baby skin takes some time to develop an acid mantle and as the skin matures, the baby skin becomes slightly acidic. For all of these reasons, it is essential that you use carefully selected baby skincare that are hydrating and skin conditioning as well as gently supporting the formation of the acid mantle.
How often should you bathe babies/ toddlers?
Whilst bathing can be a fun and enjoyable experience with your baby, you don't need to bathe them every day. Overdoing this can lead to a breakdown in your baby’s important skin barriers, which are still maturing and strengthening. This could lead to an increased risk of skin allergy, atopic dermatitis and sensitivity further down the line. How you take care of your baby’s skin in the early days can alter its strength in later life.
Alternate night bathing works well. On the in-between nights use the ‘top and tail’ washing method The latter refers to washing their face, neck, hands and bottom rather than having a full bath session. For either method, I recommend choosing a time that your baby is alert and awake for maximum enjoyment for yourself and your child. Ensure the room is warm and that you are well prepared. Have your baby bath, water, towels, fresh nappy and clean clothes to hand. It's best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired. Make sure the room you're bathing them in is warm. For the first month don’t add cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month. After the first 4 weeks of life, using baby care bath washes only, such as the Baby Sebamed range, which has been carefully formulated to care for your baby’s delicate skin.
What are your top tips for soothing nappy rash?
Nappy rash is common and up to a third of babies have nappy rash at any one time. You may first become aware of it when your baby seems agitated and uncomfortable and you may notice redness, spots, pimples, blisters, dryness, flaking, and sensitivity when applying nappy creams. It can be caused by a number of things, including overgrowth of bacteria and fungi, irritation of the skin from urine and faeces and nappy friction. Most nappy rashes are mild and can be normally treated by adjusting your nappy care routine. In more severe cases, there may be a skin infection and you should take your baby to your GP.
Clean using mild baby wipes or a warm, wet washcloth to gently cleanse your baby’s skin.
Pat the skin dry after cleansing. Apply a healing protective cream, for example, zinc oxide creams or ointments; application of these creams with every nappy change is advised.
If eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis is present, your GP may recommend adding in a stronger prescription topical treatment such as 0.5-1.0% hydrocortisone. Finish with an application of a thick layer of nappy barrier cream such as Sebamed Baby Cream Extra Soft, which adds intensive protection and moisturization or Baby Sebamed Diaper Rash Cream,
- which is clinically proven to promote the development of the acid mantle and reduce inflammation.
- Make sure the nappy is not too tight and the right size, this will help to reduce skin irritation and friction. Allow some nappy free time where possible
What are the benefits of using moisturiser on your baby?
Research now indicates it is sensible to use minimal skincare products on your baby’s skin for the first few weeks of life, until your baby’s skin has had time to mature naturally.
Following birth, vernix, the creamy white coating that covers a newborn, should be left on the skin to absorb naturally. Studies have shown that early skin exposure (before 2-4 weeks) to some products may result in allergic reactions or eczema so I recommend using plain water for cleansing your baby, i.e. no soap or baby bath. After a few weeks, the skin will have developed its naturally protective barrier. At this stage you can then introduce PH balanced baby washes and an emollient based cream on any dry skin, which will not dry out the skin but will give some protection. Any product introduced should be used sparingly and should be free from alcohol, colour and perfume. Baby Sebamed range uses vernix- related squalene to mimic the skin’s natural moisturizing factors and to gently strengthen and condition the skin.
For premature babies, skin products are avoided for 6-8 weeks, as the skin’s protective barrier takes longer to mature.