Those early weeks with a new baby can be magical… and exhausting. You’re still working out how to hold a slippery baby while you wash their delicate skin, and you’re learning what they like and don’t like. (Clue: they’ll definitely let you know). You don’t need to use moisturiser at this early stage, but as you start taking your baby out and about more, their skin is exposed to more toxins from the outside world and might start getting dry.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s the first line of defence against dehydration, protecting against viruses, bacteria and pollutants from the outside world. Healthy skin cells are plump with water, which help them form an effective barrier. Skin has a watery layer covering it, called the acid mantle; underneath this, there’s the stratum corneum, which works as a barrier to shield the tissue beneath. Cells in the stratum corneum contain keratin, a waterproofing protein that gives skin its strength and flexibility.
Why baby skin is different
Inside the womb, the skin’s protective qualities aren’t needed because your baby is shielded from the bacteria and toxins of the outside world. After birth, your baby’s skin gradually adapts to protect itself, but it needs particular care. A baby’s skin doesn’t have an acid mantle for the first 3 months or so.
Babies’ skin is also up to 10% thinner than adult skin. It’s got a higher water content, but it loses this water more quickly. This is because babies have less keratin than adults, so their skin is more fragile and prone to drying out. Another interesting fact about newborn skin is that it’s sterile. Skin flora, the beneficial bacteria that protects the skin, develops gradually.
The importance of moisturising
As babies’ skin is more delicate and less resistant to bacteria, it can be easily irritated and exposed to harmful substances in the environment. It loses water quickly, so regular moisturising is important to keep it hydrated and protected. Look for products that are naturally derived, and have been specifically made with baby’s delicate skin in mind.
How often and when to moisturise
Moisturise normal, healthy skin after every bath, shower, splash-about session and visit to the swimming pool. Moisturise dry areas at least once every day – and then as often as you feel necessary. You don’t have to lather on loads of product, just the amount the skin can absorb. And don’t forget the nappy cream to help protect your baby’s bottom against nappy rash.
Always patch test
Before using any new product on your baby, always do a patch test. Put a fingertip of product behind your baby’s ear or on the inside of their elbow and wait 24 hours. If your baby’s skin shows any sign of redness or irritation, do not use it as they may be sensitive to it. If there’s no reaction, the product is safe to use.
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