How to Care for Your Baby's Skin
Written by Kim Walls, M.S., of Beb Organic
Though your child’s skin will eventually perform all of the functions of your skin, her skin is quite different from yours in ways that are not immediately evident. The most important difference is that the functional development of baby skin is delayed. It is most vulnerable during the first year, and remains extremely delicate during the early years of life. Your skin can perform more effectively and easily. Your skin is also stronger and more resistant to environmental irritants and contaminants.
Your baby's skin:
is five times thinner than yours,
doesn’t produce as much oil,
is very reactive to environmental irritants,
has more surface area per pound of bodyweight,
is more sensitive to the sun,
and its immune boosting capacity is still developing.
Though the skin is your body’s largest organ, it is not always obvious just how many jobs and responsibilities the skin has. Here are the broad strokes about how your skin (and your child’s) keeps you healthy.
Skin creates a barrier between the internal body and the eternal environment, protecting the internal organs from bacteria, virus, fungi and a multitude of additional contaminants.
It maintains a healthy balance of surface microorganisms that both help and hinder in the skin’s functions.
Skin helps regulate the body’s temperature.
It identifies intruders and relays information about their biological composure to other immune system components, like T-Cells, for the body to mount an attack.
It produces oil to keep the skin from cracking due to environmental exposure.
It replaces itself with new, healthy cells quite frequently.
It produces melanin, a natural sunscreen, to protect the body’s DNA from destruction by ultra violet rays.
It produces vitamins.
The skin actively absorbs nutrients (and contaminants) from the outside and expels poisons and cellular byproducts from the inside.
It even influences emotions by accepting and transmitting sensations to the brain – from the sting of pain to the sweet touch of love.
Though your baby’s skin is not fully functional at birth, amazingly, it can still heal faster than yours because its cells can regenerate more quickly. Regardless of age and level of sensitivity, healthy skin is smooth, soft, moist, elastic, and it recovers quickly from bumps and scrapes. The color of healthy skin is even and it actively produces antibodies, melanin, collagen and elastin. The body’s immune system, basic protective mechanisms, and even emotional development are dependent upon healthy skin.
As a parent, your selection of pure, natural and organic baby skin care products, as well as adherence to healthy skin care rituals, is critically important to your child’s future because radiant skin fully participates in keeping your baby’s body strong. With proper natural skin care, respect for the body can be instilled from birth and result in lasting health, grace, and confidence.
CARING FOR YOUR BABY'S SKIN
Who doesn’t smile and even laugh out loud at the sight of a baby in the tub with a halo of bubbles? Bathing is a treat many adults overlook for their own sense of peace and joy. Grooming provides the opportunity for both you and your baby to be delighted by the ample stimulation available for your awakened senses of touch and smell. The hours you spend changing diapers, combing hair, brushing gums, bathing, and massaging your baby’s delicate skin are not only fun, they are necessary for her health and well-being. From this very early age you can institute joyful rituals and happy memories to create good grooming habits that will last a lifetime.
Typically, a sponge bath over your baby’s body with a little extra cleansing under the chin, under the arms, and in the diaper area is plenty. If warm, pure water cleanses sufficiently, there is no need to add a cleanser to your routine. The diaper area might be an exception. A build up of bacteria and fungi that aren’t thoroughly removed can cause diaper rash.
Many different kinds of products are available to aid in the task of cleansing. When water isn’t enough, try to select products that work safely, without the use of potentially risky ingredients. There are too many products on the market that can create unnecessary risks to your baby’s health, and yours. Many ingredients used in conventional toiletry products can disrupt the hormone, immune, and nervous systems and even damage your baby’s DNA. Also keep in mind that some clothing, diapers, food and water can also pose risks.
Natural cleansers provide a better choice to wash away the dirt, without stripping away natural oils in the process. Some common cleanser ingredients can be damaging to the skin and even your baby’s developing organs. You should also avoid antibacterial cleansers whenever possible. Antibacterial cleansers are unnecessary for every-day use and lead to increasingly stronger strains of bacteria that put everyone at risk for reduced health. There really is such a thing as too clean!
It seems all babies love a good bubble bath. Some babies love them so much that parents indulge daily. Babies really only need to be bathed once or twice per week. If more frequent baths are too much fun to pass up, try to keep them short. Your baby is ready for a bath when she can sit up by herself. If you see pruny little fingers and toes, the bath has probably gone on long enough. Because of your baby’s increased skin permeability, her fingers will wrinkle with water much more quickly than yours. Of course babies must never be left alone in a tub, not even for a second, but bath time can provide a wonderful break for you to relax, play and enjoy the beauty of your baby.
Moisturizing ingredients include a host of delightful options from pure aloe or noni gel to delicious plant oils like avocado or apricot kernel oil. Moisturizing is wonderful for baby skin, which is prone to dryness and it’s especially important for little ones who like to have frequent baths. Moisturizing also becomes more necessary when living in air-conditioned or heated homes or in windy, cold environments. A naturally humid environment is great for the skin. It may be less essential to moisturize regularly in a humid environment.
Also, be sure to take care of yourself! Maintain clean, soft hands when you cuddle and care for your baby. Hands should be free of dry or abrasive patches that might scratch your baby’s delicate skin. Because you wash, dry, and disinfect your hands before and after diaper changes and eating, your hands are at great risk of developing painful cracks and rough patches from extreme dehydration. Moisturizing hand cream may be your new best friend. Try to avoid any products containing alcohol in the base composition. Alcohol is very dehydrating and may be passed onto your baby’s skin. An excellent disinfectant is Thyme Oil. When your hands caress and love your baby, they should be worthy of her perfect little being.
MINERAL OIL AND OTHER PETROLEUM BYPRODUCTS
Though mineral oil is completely inert, it is a petroleum byproduct that can coat the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. It can interfere with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Mineral oil can slow down skin function and cellular development. Like petroleum based PEG compounds, mineral oil can be contaminated with cancer causing PAH’s (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) due to manufacturing impurities. Since September 2004 the European Union has banned the use of petroleum jelly due to the carcinogenic contamination found in products containing petrolatum. The ingredients for which these impurities are of concern include mineral oil, liquidum paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin wax and petrolatum.
Good lubricating oils including sunflower oil, avocado oil, sesame seed oil, plant sourced squalane, olive fruit oil, neem and jojoba oils, and other oils with a high polyphenol content. Many of these oils are powerful antioxidants. Historically oils have been used to promote soothing and healing, to soften skin and to prevent dryness and cracking. They lubricate without clogging pores, unlike petroleum based lubricants, and they help even skin texture, and soothe rashes. Therapeutic skin lubricants sooth and heal providing nourishment by increasing the oxygen and nutrient capacity of the skin.
SKIN & IMMUNITY
Proper skin care for baby’s most formative early years is an essential component to health and a proactive approach to enhanced immunity. As the body’s first line of defense against harmful elements, and the producer of important immune chemicals like interleukin and interferon, healthy skin is integral to the strength of the immune system, and actively supports the body’s natural healing and protective abilities.
Not only does the skin support immunity, it contributes to, and communicates about, the body’s overall state of health. Nearly 30% of all unscheduled visits to the pediatrician’s office are prompted by a variety of skin conditions, such as rashes, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and sunburn (Baby Skin, Dr. Nelson Novick). Rashes, bumps and redness can be a telltale sign that your baby’s body is being exposed to more than it can handle.
Parents need to understand how baby skin is unique and know that it needs special care to help it stay healthy. A child’s skin has differing needs depending upon its stage of development and baby skin is more vulnerable to environmental irritants and contaminants. Below is the predominant framework to help parents understand the natural skin development during a child’s early years:
BABY SKIN STAGES™:
Newborns & Preemies – Baby skin is thin, permeable and, much like baby isn’t yet functioning at full capacity. The skin is therefore very vulnerable to its surroundings, especially environmental toxins from personal care products, food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. During this phase it is essential to limit contact with any synthetic chemicals and to support the skin’s barrier properties with pure natural and organic skin care products that help build baby skin strength and thickness.
Infants & Toddlers – The Baby’s natural skin functions develop and the surface thickens, however the skin is not producing enough melanin, sweat or natural oils to maintain necessary moisture and act as the body’s first line of defense. Baby’s growing independence results in exposure to the elements and environmental toxins, making hydrating, protective, and anti-inflammatory skin care an additional priority.
Preschool & Beyond – Skin function begins to mature and children learn to take over some of their personal grooming. Many children of this age spend time in group-care settings, increasing contact with bacteria and viruses. Establishing good natural skin care habits with organic skin care products that reduce exposure to harmful chemicals is essential to creating a lifetime of health and well being.
FIRST FIVE YEARS – CREATING GROOMING RITUALS
As parents, we know the first five years of a child’s life are the foundation for developing knowledge, skills, behavior and emotions. One of the first ways babies experience the world is through touch – making their tender, delicate skin, and its care, so significant to their overall health and development. The grooming rituals created during this formative time translate into a healthy lifestyle for the future.
Those hours we spend changing diapers, combing hair, brushing gums, bathing, and massaging baby’s delicate skin are loving forms of bonding and serve a very necessary purpose for the continued health of our children. Through these nurturing experiences we become more aware of the impact our choices have on our health.
A key element in Kim Wall’s approach to skincare is the understanding of a simple concept: Skin is a window into the body’s internal condition and mirrors its external environment. It is able to communicate stability and imbalance so well, it has been used for thousands of years as a primary diagnostic tool in nearly every form of medicine – Eastern and Western alike.
As loving and caring adults we can teach our children the significance of good grooming, with natural, green, and organic products, for their wellbeing. As they age, they will become more in touch with the concept of taking responsibility for one’s own good health. The naturally luxurious baby skincare products, with their pure and gentle formulations, support a lifetime of closeness and good habits beginning with pregnancy and baby’s early years.