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Caring for your baby's skin

Written by Jacqui on February 9th, 2012.      1 comments

Baby skincare basics -
Here are some thoughts on caring for baby skin.
They seemed to fall under six main ideas:
  • Skin can absorb what we put on it
  • The basics haven’t changed
  • Natural tends to be … well, more natural
  • Babies vary in sensitivity/tolerance
  • Fragrance – baby doesn’t need it
  • Avoid mineral oils

wee-HarrySkin can absorb what we put on it
We think of skin as a barrier, but it absorbs some substances. Just think of smoker’s nicotine patches! Baby’s skin is delicate, and easily upset. But there are wonderful oils and butters that nourish the skin with natural nutrients.

The basics haven’t changed

Babies have been around for as long as humans have! And loving mothers have been thinking about how to care for them for just as long.
In Western society, where (unlike many traditional societies) we encase our babies’ bottoms, a traditional basic has been zinc cream, used to waterproof the tender skin. Zinc oxide has been used in ointments and sunblocks for a long, long time. Zinc as a mineral is important for healthy skin – that’s one of the reasons we seek pumpkin seeds, for example.
I find it interesting to look at veterinary care: good levels of zinc prevent facial eczema, a horrible illness of cloven-footed animals that affects the liver as well as the skin. (I’m keeping an eye on my sheep as I write, looking for tell-tale signs – conditions are perfect just now for the fungal spores that cause it.)
You can make your own zinc cream that will have none of the extras that the pharmaceutical industry may use to ensure long shelf life and perfect texture. There’s a recipe on our website – it’s called Soothing Diaper Cream.

Goats milk soap is another traditional baby-care item. Something strange and wonderful happens when goats milk is added to a pure soap. The result has a rich, smooth quality that makes it ideal for baby’s delicate skin – and let’s face it, babies do need cleaning at times!
Before the packaging for baby wipes had been invented, mothers used to carry around a moist flannel in a plastic bag, and a towel. You can make your own baby wipes that have none of the additions needed for long life in the commercial product.  There are heaps of suggestions on the net.

Natural tends to be … well, more natural
Over the last hundred years, science has permeated our lives – and one curious   thing throughout that period is the top scientists who say that we know most of the really important stuff now – there’s only bits around the edges that are unknown. Maybe the huge unfolding of scientific knowledge in recent years has made this attitude less common, but we need to remember that what’s currently known isn’t the last word. Many old wives’ tales have been found to be scientifically sound.
Naturally occurring, lightly processed oils and butters may well contain substances as yet undiscovered – present in tiny but significant amounts – that may make other (known) nutrients more bio-available to the skin. There’s nothing to lose, and potentially much to gain!

Babies vary in sensitivity/tolerance
Babies, like us, are all different.
I have two nieces who (like their parents) are totally different: As a baby, Emma was quiet, shy, hated noise and activity – but was very alert and took in everything. The sensitive one, you’d say. Whereas baby Sarah was in your face, social, funny, taking on every challenge, but slower to reach milestones.
But who had eczema? Sarah. Her mother felt that somehow her eczema was an expression of her inner (and invisible to the world) turmoil, unlike her sensitive sister’s inner calm.
You know your baby. It’s likely that s/he has characteristics that you recognise from your family or your partner’s. You can care for your baby in a way that lovingly takes account of those qualities. Your baby’s skin is an integral part of who s/he is!

Fragrance – baby doesn’t need it
Fragrance is for grown-ups. We want our baby to smell as gorgeous as they look. But the fragrance industry is not baby-friendly. In the USA, fragrance ingredients apparently slip through a regulation loophole that may have developed because fragrance is such a tiny percentage of a product. A small proportion of babies will react to some fragrance ingredients, and other ingredients may have a cumulative effect if used over a long period.

kids-in-riverAvoid mineral oils
Mineral oil, one component of crude oil, is the main ingredient in many supermarket skincare preparations for baby. It is very cheap, it doesn’t go rancid, and it is odourless and tasteless – great from the manufacturer’s point of view. It’s also nutrient-free.
Opinions differ on whether mineral oil is absorbed by the skin – probably most cosmetic-grade oil remains on the surface. Scientific studies suggest that cosmetic-grade oil doesn’t block the skin pores, as some believe.
But what a wasted opportunity to use mineral oil on your baby! Vegetable oils contain a multitude of substances that feed the skin and are probably absorbed by the body.
But essential oils, they are natural – surely they are fine? For most babies, a few drops of essential oil in a product would bring the benefits of that plant. But essential oils are potent ingredients, and to be used with great care in preparations for baby.
So… go with your intuitions, and go gently with your baby’s skin. There’s no single right way – just the right way for you and your baby.


Anne says ...
Very helpful post. I recently bought some sweet almond oil in preparation for the arrival of a little one (nearly 38 weeks along!) Was planning on buying something with fragrance (maybe chamomile) but met a baby massage expert who recommended a carrier oil with no fragrance. Note that we have not nut allergies in either of our families.

Am also interested in approaches for sensitive skin - especially for sensitivity in pregnancy. I have been diagnosed with PUPPP and tried my GP's prescribed approach (antihistmines and steroid cream) , a few items from the chemist but have found the most success with your pure aloe vera gel on the skin, and a bath with rolled oats and peppermint tea chucked in! My itch is now a lot more manageable :)

P.S. Thanks for the postcard Jacquie!