Baby skin care
After the early months of babyhood have passed the skin of most children has a more than adequate layer of fatty 'padding' which gives it a beautiful smooth appearance, often described as having the quality of 'purity'. All the functions are very active, and because the stratum corneum is functioning effectively the skin is very well hydrated. Indeed, by and large children's
skin is the healthiest we ever see.
A child's skin shows little or no damage from sunlight. Children have more leisure time than they will ever enjoy again, however, and many of them play outside whenever they can, often spending most of the summer out of doors. There is often massive exposure to the sun during childhood, which will have long-term consequences.
The care of the skin of small children is almost entirely in the hands of parents or other carers. Nevertheless it is never too soon for them to begin to learn about skin care. The skin does not need moisturising unless there is atopy or eczema, or after prolonged exposure to sun or sea, but regular protection against the sun should begin now.
Products for babies and young children are usually highly fragranced. That delicious, recognizable aroma you could smell a mile away is nothing more than added fragrance, which we know can cause irritation. Moreover, baby products almost always have a pretty yellow or pink tint, which is contrived by coloring agents, another group of problematic skin-care ingredients for sensitive skin. If baby products were really gentler than those that adults put on their skin, they would be fragrance free and contain no coloring agents. Sadly, few of those exist.
Cosmetics and hair-care companies know that mothers have an impulsive emotional pull toward scents that trigger the image of their babies. That subconscious pull is difficult for a marketer to ignore, given the way women gravitate to the fragrance generated by other perfume-laden products. In other words, hair and skin-care companies don't have much motivation to take these problematic ingredients out. That means you, the mother and consumer, as an advocate for your child, need to pay attention to this issue and choose fragrance-free and color-free products whenever you can!
Many bubble bath products for young children are based on detergents that destroy beneficial bacteria and harm the baby's acid mantle. Furthermore, bubble baths are a leading cause of vaginitis and urinary tract infections in infants. This problem has become so prevalent that the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that bubble baths for children must carry warning labels advising parents against excess bathing of their children. If you wish to scent your baby's bath, add a bit of lavender oil (5-10 drops only) to the water. (Lavender oil is not to be taken internally.)
Lotions and Oils - Massaging lotions and oils into your baby's skin can relieve irritation. But anything you use should be free of petrochemicals, which are themselves irritants. Also, look for healing herbs in your baby's lotion or oil. Chamomile and aloe have a long history as soothing and moisturizing ingredients and have a good record of safe use in cosmetics. Other healing herbs to look for in lotions and oils (and other baby products) include calendula, marigold, and arnica. The same guidelines for finding gentle shampoos apply to lotions: Avoid artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, and seek out products that use gentle preservatives.
Most powders contain tiny particles that irritate the skin and many contain fragrance, a leading cause of allergy and irritation. Under all circumstances, avoid baby powders containing talc. Several studies have linked talc to cancer. The only places you might need to use a little powder (never talc) are in the creases of the baby's skin -- the underarms, genital area, and neck, says Gordon. He recommends scent-free powders made with cornstarch or bentonite clay. These are available in health food stores.
Powders, of course, are most frequently used to "treat" diaper rash, but there are better ways. Some diaper rash stems from high-protein diets or allergies to substances on diapers (either disposable or reusable). Most diaper services use strong chemical detergents that leave residues in the diapers. Stave strongly recommends that parents rinse these diapers by hand before using them, or wash diapers at home. Many disposable diapers also contain irritants, although some diapers contain less than others. Another preventive measure is frequent changing.
Allowing fresh air to get to your baby's bottom whenever you can will also reduce the likelihood of diaper rash. Zinc oxide and chamomile, applied to the inflamed area, will help dry and soothe the skin. Most pediatricians specializing in natural skin care warn parents to avoid petroleum jelly, which traps moisture against the skin and is also a common allergen.
Shampooing schedules should be determined by the amount of hair your baby has and how oily it is. Most babies with thin hair don't need to be shampooed all that often during their first year. (Only do so as needed.) When you do shampoo, a mild shampoo is best. You can recognize them by what they don't contain: synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, or highly allergenic and irritating preservatives including quaternium 15, imidazolidinyl urea, and parabens.
Also, avoid products containing diethanolamine (DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA), both of these interact with nitrites -- which may be inadvertently added as preservatives and not shown on ingredient lists -- forming carcinogenic nitrosamines that rapidly penetrate the skin. You will often see these ingredients abbreviated and listed as compounds with other ingredients such as TEA-sodium lauryl sulfate or cocamide-DEA.
The gentlest preservatives include citrus seed extract, phenoxyethanol, and vitamins A, C, and E (also known respectively as retinyl palmitate, ascorbic acid, and alpha tocopherol). Most baby products you find in health food stores rely on these preservatives.
Though plain water usually does the job, occasionally a small amount of soap may be required. If so, use a mild soap containing olive, coconut, or palm oil and possibly herbal extracts such as calendula. (All pediatricians recommend avoiding antibacterial soaps.) After soaping, replenish the skin's oils by using a soothing oil or lotion containing saturated oils such as coconut or sesame, with herbs such as calendula or arnica. Few babies are sensitive to these.
Once your baby is six months old, you should get in the habit of using sunscreen on your child year round, even on overcast days. Choose a hypoallergenic, PABA-free sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. When applying sunscreen, avoid your baby’s eyes and keep it off your baby’s fingers as your child might rub his eyes. Also, avoid or limit exposure to the sun between 10am and 3pm. During the day, if the child's skin is going to be exposed to the sun, a sunscreen is essential. The UVA-protecting active ingredients should preferably be titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. (Avobenzone does protect from UVA rays, but it can be a skin irritant and the goal here is to eliminate all sources of irritation as much as possible.) Formulations with only titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredient are best because of their reduced risk of irritation compared to other sunscreen ingredients. Besides, babies don't mind the white cast these kinds of sunscreens give to the skin.