Your baby’s skin is delicate; it’s more sensitive and fragile than adult skin and has few defences against harsh elements while it is still in its development stage. Premature babies and babies less than 4 weeks old have particularly sensitive skin as they haven’t yet formed a completely functioning skin barrier.
Here are some handy tips to help you properly care for and nourish your baby’s skin.
What are the most common skin conditions your baby can experience?
Dry skin: Babies are prone to skin dryness and the first signs are usually rough skin and scaling skin. Dry skin may appear to be dry and cracked and may flake off.
Eczema: Eczema or atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition and includes symptoms of dry skin. The skin will also appear to be spotty or patchy and will also emulate the appearance of a red rash. If you see signs of eczema, make sure that you use a suitable moisturiser on your baby – you may need to change moisturisers depending on the season. Avoid overheating, such as too many layers of clothing or using a thick doona, as it can irritate the skin and worsen eczema conditions.
Heat rash: Heat rash is a skin condition usually experienced in the hotter months where the sweat glands get blocked and trap sweat beneath the skin. It is identified by little, red spots, but can also present green pustules or white spots and may also be itchy. In mild cases, heat rash can be resolved on its own with moisture reduction, but in more severe cases, it may need to be treated using topical steroids to reduce inflammation and itchiness. Similarly to babies with eczema, it is recommended to change moisturisers depending on the season and what suits your baby’s skin. It’s also recommended to dress your baby appropriately for the weather to prevent clogging of the sweat glands.
Nappy rash: Nappy rash is an inflammation of the skin in the nappy area that can be identified by its red and spotty nature, and may also include skin pustules. The skin is often raw and tender and can be extremely uncomfortable for a baby. Use zinc oxide barrier creams to help protect your baby from nappy rash. More on nappy rash here.
Sunburn: Sunburnt skin will look red and, in serious cases, the skin may blister. Research has shown that UV exposure in infanthood and childhood poses a greater risk in adult life. Sunburn can also be particularly painful for a baby so it’s important to protect a baby’s skin with protective clothing and wide brim hats. In areas that can’t be covered by hats or clothing, such as the hands and feet, sunscreen should be used.
It is advised that sunscreen should be used on babies who are at least 6 months old, however, sunscreen may be applied to small areas such as the hands and feet for babies under the age of 6 months.
Does a baby need a bathing and skincare regime?
Absolutely! It doesn’t have to be an overly complex regime, but since a baby’s skin hasn’t formed its fully functioning skin barrier yet, it can’t produce the necessary oils and proteins to help nourish the skin, making it prone to moisture loss and skin irritation.
When bathing your baby, use warm or tepid water (usually around 35-38°C). You can use your elbow to test the water and it should feel comfortable but not hot. Always dab a small amount of water onto your baby’s chest before you immerse them into bath water. Opt for soap-free bath products when cleaning your baby’s skin as products containing soap can often irritate the skin.
It’s also important to moisturise your baby’s skin regularly to help treat the skin as it develops. Look for moisturisers and creams that are paraffin-based and contain glycerin, which will help draw water into the skin and help prevent dryness and irritation. Moisturise your baby’s skin after applying a zinc oxide product in the nappy area.
You may need to change your moisturiser depending on the season. Look for a thick moisturiser to use in winter and a lighter lotion in summer to prevent problems with heat rashes and blocked pores.
What are the ingredients to look out for in baby products?
Fragrance free and hypoallergenic products are excellent to invest in as they have been formulated with gentle ingredients and have been carefully tested to minimise allergens. They are particularly great for babies who have especially sensitive skin.
When looking for moisturisers, look for enriching and nourishing ingredients such as paraffin and glycerin. These ingredients are particularly useful as they help draw water back into the skin to prevent dryness and irritation.
To prevent or treat nappy rash, opt for products containing zinc oxide. This ingredient has been shown to be very effective in soothing and repairing the skin barrier seal and, more importantly, it’s safe to use!