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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.
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Cleansers. Frequent baths can damage the integrity of a baby’s skin. Advise your client to spot-cleanse her baby many times daily and give a full bath only two to three times per week. Cleansing ingredients, such as thyme oil and plant- or sugar-derived surfactants are extra gentle, highly effective and nonirritating. Avoid any products that contain sulfates and alcohol in the base composition. Antibacterial soaps are very dehydrating and may pass toxins through a baby’s thin skin. Antibacterial products also disrupt the skin’s natural ecosystem by damaging the balance of healthy bacteria.

Treatments. The key to keeping baby’s first line of defense operating at full capacity is to maintain its hydration, preventing rashes and having the right balance between healthy cells and healthy bacteria so its immune functions can work efficiently. Although some of the following skin conditions are considered normal, many cause pain and could be indicative of bigger health issues. The skin provides your client with a tool to help measure her baby’s health. It is a window into the body’s internal condition and mirrors its external environment. Its ability to communicate stability and imbalance has been used for thousands of years as a primary diagnostic tool in nearly every form of medicine, Eastern and Western alike.

Dry skin. Because oil glands are underdeveloped, baby skin is always at a high risk of becoming severely dry. In fact, recent studies show that 60% of baby skin is dehydrated at any given time, but 90% of parents think that their baby’s skin is not dehydrated.7 Over-cleansing, weather conditions and irritants in toiletry products exacerbate dry skin, and result in cracks, infections and painfully sensitive areas. For dry skin, it is imperative that your client use hydrating, heavy creams that include daily sun protection to prevent secondary problems, such as cracking and infection.

Rash. A painful rash can occur anywhere on the body, and is most likely to show up in the diaper area, under the arms, in the leg folds and under the chin. Rashes are often caused by a food or an environmental contaminant of some kind. The best solution is to calm redness, treat pain and prevent infection by using natural creams, salves and zinc ointments. Excess heat can be trapped in the skin if your client uses products with petroleum by-products and irritants. These will likely slow the healing time of any rash. The products you recommend should create a protective, nurturing environment without exposing your client’s baby to unnecessary environmental contaminants, such as synthetic fragrances. If a rash persists for seven days, advise your client to consult her physician.

Cradle cap. Waxy-looking patches of brown- or clay-colored skin on the scalp are not painful and can be worked loose by gently massaging moisturizing ingredients, such as olive oil and shea butter, into the affected area. Brush well, rinse clean and repeat for several days, but beware of over-cleansing, which can lead to other skin problems.