There's nothing quite like beautiful, unblemished baby’s skin.
As parents we strive to keep our young as healthy and nurtured as possible. We want to keep hold of the delicate softness our babies were born with. Many parents are keen to make sure that their children eat and drink a balanced diet of organic produce, and the same applies to skincare. A child’s immune system is not fully developed until around the age of 6 so it seems common sense not to expose our children to unnecessary chemicals.
But are parents being unnecessary cautious and overprotective of their children?
The skin is a complex and dynamic organ which performs several vital functions; it forms a physical barrier between our bodies and the environment, the bacterial colonies on its surface form part of the immune system, it provides UV protection, helps to regulate body temperature and acts as a stimulus sensor.
To deliver appropriate infant skincare, it is necessary to understand how the skin is different to adult skin and how infant skin evolves with consideration to its unique characteristics, as it differs in structure, composition and function from adult skin.
A baby’s skin is still developing. Skin maturation is a dynamic process, which starts at the moment of delivery, when the skin needs to adapt to a dry environment compared to the womb, and ends in the first year of life. The developing epidermal barrier is more permeable and more reactive to the environment and continues to develop and strengthen during the early years of life, with certain skin structures such as sweat glands, reaching full function only in adolescence.
An adult’s skin is exposed to environmental changes and chemicals, amongst others, that tend to have an unwanted impact on it. A baby’s skin is very sensitive to external factors.
Babies’ skin is less oily than adults and their sweat glands are not yet fully developed, which means that the baby's skin absorbs and loses moisture easily. Due to this, the function of temperature regulation of a baby's body is much less as compared to that of an adult.
The epidermis of a baby's skin is one third the thickness of an adult skin. Now consider that baby skincare products are often applied to most of their body surface. The skin to body weight ratio is completely different in children than in adults, meaning that any product you apply to an infant’s skin potentially has a stronger effect.
This brings me to the next point. Fragrance. What should a baby smell of?
In my humble opinion it should be a top note of baby’s breath, a heart note of motherly love, and a bottom note of, well… baby bottom. Anyone who has ever held a baby knows that they have that perfectly gorgeous baby scent of their own. It is also the natural scent of their parents that offer babies closeness, comfort and protection. I often wonder why we want to mask or diminish their natural smell.
There are therapeutic and healing benefits in using essential oils such as lavender or chamomile in low dosages in functional products such as nappy creams but what purpose do they serve other than fragrance in other products?
Once the skin maturation process is complete and your baby’s skin is more robust, it could be enjoyable (even beneficial, depending on the source) to use naturally fragranced products, but I personally believe that during the first, formative year of your baby, the principle of “less is more” should be a strong mantra. Parents often get nostalgic when they smell a newborn. Enjoy it. Embrace it.
A baby's skin is delicate, tender and sensitive; it needs specifically developed products containing ingredients which are gentle and kind to their soft skin and its unique needs. Fortunately, new evidence regarding differences between infant and adult skin can help guide our recommendations to parents regarding skin care for their children.