Your baby’s skin is precious – it provides important protection for them but it also needs protection from the elements.
It won’t come as much of a surprise that baby skin is different to adult skin. Your baby’s skin is constantly changing as they grow, so taking good care of it in their first few years in critical.
Why does baby skin need care?
New skin produces less melanin and is much more susceptible to sun damage. As well as this, a baby’s epidermis and dermis (top and lower level of the skin) have fewer hemidesmosomes between them and more fat. This means that it does not provide as strong a barrier as adult skin does, and foreign substances can “seep in” more easily. This can result in irritation so harsh substances need to be avoided.
When it comes to skin health, prevention is always better than cure.
Tips for baby skin health
With everyday routines, there are so many ways we can ensure that bub has the best skin care possible.
Bath time tips
Doesn’t have to be every day
While many parents think a daily bath will keep unwanted germs away, natural oils and other substances on the baby’s skin actually form a protective barrier from potential allergens and rashes. Frequent bathing – more than three times a week – remove these oils and can dry out the baby’s skin. It is enough to keep bub clean with a bath two or three times a week. You can wipe any muck off their skin in between baths.
Go easy on the suds! Always choose a non-irritating baby wash that is specifically formulated for bub’s age group. These contain no or fewer dyes, fragrances, weird chemicals, and other ingredients that may irritate the baby’s skin.
Never keep your eyes off bub during bath time. Dips in the bathtub are not encouraged until the baby’s umbilical stump falls off. A sponge bath around the nappy area will suffice until then.
The ideal temperature for bathwater is 36-37 degrees for bathwater. If your baby has eczema, a slightly cooler 35-36 degrees is recommended. Test the temperature with your elbow or the inside of your wrist – it should be comfortable to you. If in doubt, a cooler temperature is better than risking scalding your baby’s skin.
Gently towel dry bub by patting them. Ensure moisture is dried in skin creases and hard to reach places.
Baby’s skin is prone to dryness. Moisturisers should be applied immediately after bub is patted dry to prevent dry skin.
You may consider bathing bub at a more regular basis when they begin on solids and crawling around. Things are about to get messy!
Nappy change tips
Chances are that at some point you will encounter nappy rash – if you haven’t already. Nappies often contain materials that keep leaks in – unfortunately it also reduces air flow! Nappy rash is usually caused by your baby’s skin coming into contact with all those nasty things that are left behind without thorough cleaning.
Clean thoroughly and pat dry - The cleaner and drier the baby’s bottom, the happier bub’s skin will be. Use a gentle disposable baby wipe or wash cloth during each nappy change. Allow the skin to dry – avoid rubbing – before changing to a fresh nappy.
Use barrier cream - A barrier cream can help prevent and treat nappy rash. Avoid talc as the powder can irritate the baby’s lungs.
Allow fresh air when possible - Give the baby as much nappy-free time as you can. Going nappy-less for a while can help air out the baby’s bum and help nappy rash heal.
Play time tips
It’s beneficial for you and the baby to get outside for some fresh air. Whilst that may be the case, direct sun exposure on their skin is not generally recommended. Protecting bub’s delicate skin from the sun’s harsh skin is the most important baby skincare step you can take.
Sun protection - Physical protection – in the form of protective clothing and shade – is a preferred over using sun cream. Use brimmed hats, covered clothing, and sunshades on the stroller and in the car to prevent direct sun exposure.
Sun cream - Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months old – try to stick to the shade and protective clothing. However, it is safer to use some sunscreen in hard to cover areas rather than none. Rub it in well. Use a broad spectrum baby sunscreen if possible.
Always wash new clothing, blankets, and towels that the baby will come in contact with before using them.
Safe detergent - Give the baby as much nappy-free time as you can. Going nappy-less for a while can help air out the baby’s bum and help nappy rash heal.
Well rinsed - Baby detergents, and even normal detergents, can leave a residue after washing. Ensure that the laundry is well rinsed and dried before using.
For more information on baby skin care, take a look at our baby bath tips, eczema and nappy rash pages.