It’s a surprise to most new parents that the concept of ‘baby-soft’ skin is a bit of a myth! Skin blemishes and rashes are actually very common in the first year of life. However, as the skin is your baby’s largest organ, it’s important to look after its health and there are steps that you can take to try to keep your baby’s skin as healthy as possible.
Baby skin is structurally different to adult skin, with the epidermis 20% thinner in babies than adults, meaning baby skin is more permeable and more prone to dryness than adult skin. The three basics, in terms of caring for your baby’s skin are, gentle cleansing, moisturising and appropriate sun protection. We’ve shared some tips below:
Bathing: We would advise bathing your baby every day with just a short bath, always adding a moisturising bath emollient. Water alone can be very drying on the skin. Once out of the bath, pat the skin dry rather than rub it dry with a towel, and apply an emollient moisturiser within 2 minutes of drying while the skin is at its most absorbent. Opt for fragrance-free products that contain lipids (fats) or ceramides to help improve the skin barrier.
Nappy Rash: Unfortunately urine is an irritant to the skin, so if you’re leaving a baby in a nappy for a couple of hours, which is the norm, that urine is staying on the skin and is going to irritate it. Making sure you always have a barrier cream to hand – in the car, in your baby bag, at home – means that they will always be protected. It sounds simple but is something that we often forget if we’re out and about or in a rush, if you have the barrier cream on then the urine will sit on the barrier cream, so it doesn’t directly impact on the skin. Bathe your baby once per day, as above, and don’t use any soaps or bubble baths, which may irritate your baby. Lie your baby on a towel and allow your baby some nappy-free time for as long and as often as you can. Avoid talcum powder and any scented emollients.
Suncare: Babies less than 6 months old should be kept completely out of direct sunlight. Opt for physical sunblocks (containing Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide) in babies and children, rather than chemical sunblocks that needto make a chemical reaction with the skin to be effective and can cause irritant or allergic skin reactions.
Contact Dermatitis: As above, using soap-free, fragrance-free emollients, washes and detergents is key. Saliva and urine, also mentioned above, can also be irritants as well as dyes, perfumes, cosmetics, latex and some metals.
Identifying Eczema: The classic places that it happens are the creases of your arms, the backs of your knees, and in the body folds below the neck. The most common place for small babies to develop eczema is actually on their cheeks. Thankfully most babies usually grow out of it by the age of two or three and it may just stay in the classic places. For others, it can be more severe and cover larger areas of the body.
Managing Eczema: We recommend adding an emollient to your baby’s daily bath and moisturising with a fragrance- free baby moisturiser as well as keep them in cotton clothing and ensuring you are using fragrance-free washing detergents etc. If you’re doing all of this and you feel your baby is still uncomfortable then a visit to your local GP is advised. Your GP will easily manage mild eczema and may refer you to a paediatric dermatologist if the condition is more complex to manage.
Cradle Cap? Cradle cap is a common skin condition in babies that usually develops between ages 3 weeks and 3 months and is the infantile form of “seborrheic dermatitis”, more commonly known as dandruff. With cradle cap, you’ll notice yellowish, greasy-looking patches, called plaques, around your baby’s scalp and the crown of their head. Cradle cap can also appear on the forehead, eyebrows, and around the ears. In most cases, cradle cap will clear up on its own. Before bathing your baby, it may help to apply a small amount of emollient, such as mineral oil, to the affected area before washing your baby’s scalp and head with a gentle shampoo.
Babies are prone to several different skin conditions in the first year of life. If a rash appears with a fever of 100°F or higher or an infection, or if your baby is generally unwell, you should contact your baby’s GP.