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Baby Skin Development and Treatment

By: Kim Walls
Posted: June 29, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
cute baby

Understanding the treatment and care of skin as it develops from infancy through early childhood provides a unique opportunity to share in one of the most exciting and intimate experiences your clients will ever know, while creating an opportunity to enhance the strength and longevity of your business.

Most parents are perplexed by the unexpected skin problems that babies are born with or develop very early in life. Skin care professionals can support clients with insight and information about what to expect and how to handle an infant’s skin. Parents want to actively support the health of their babies and young children, but tend to overlook the role skin plays in the immune system. Unfortunately, many don’t understand the importance of finding products that are designed to address the critically important issue of prevention of chemical exposure. By providing information, education and products relevant to the journey into parenthood, you can be of service to your clients in a way that hasn’t been fully explored in the skin care industry.

Baby skin development

Skin goes through tremendous physiological development from ages 0 to 5. Infant skin is five times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t produce enough oil or melanin to adequately protect itself. The purpose of skin is to protect the body before it is even born, and many of the physical changes that keep a baby safer inside the womb are still visible at birth.

Lanugo. For example, babies are often born with a dark layer of hair called lanugo, which is Latin for “wool.” Lanugo is developed during approximately the fifth month in utero, probably to provide an insulating layer to help regulate temperature. Many babies shed this hair during the 40th week of pregnancy, but some are born with it. If this happens, you can assure your client that it will indeed fall out and be replaced by vellus hair, which is like peach fuzz.

Vernix. Vernix, which is Latin for “varnish,” can also cause new parents stress because it is a flaky, waxy white coating that slightly resembles cheese. In utero, vernix protects the sensitive skin of the fetus from becoming waterlogged by amniotic fluid. After birth, the vernix helps balance the skin’s pH, protects newborns from becoming scaly or dehydrated, and is believed to have antibacterial properties. Advise your client that vernix is a very healthy coating on the skin and not a symptom of dry or problem skin. Remnants of the vernix slough off naturally during the first couple weeks of life, but because it looks funny, it is often removed immediately after birth. You might suggest to your client that she ask her nurse to leave the vernix intact for as long as possible, especially for a baby born prematurely.