It has become fairly obvious that we like to keep things pretty simple around here, including the products and toys we buy for our kids. My son skin care is no exception. Personally, I think that newborn skin needs nothing other than being skin to skin with mom and dad as much as possible. When babies get older their skin barely needs more products, although getting mobile and eating solids may lead to skin reactions that require special attention. Before our son was born, we hadn’t bought any skin care products for him. We have kept this minimal stance until now, and have only introduced items as they were needed. At almost 14 months, we use only four products on his skin, and one of these is just a troubleshooter that we rarely use.
We bathed our son for the first time when he was almost 3 weeks old, after the cord had fallen off and the bellybutton had dried out completely. For the longest time of his first year of life we bathed him once a week, not more. Until about 6 or 7 months old, we only bathed him in water – no shampoo, no bodywash, no moisturizer afterwards. Now at almost 14 months we typically bathe him 2-3 times per week. I truly believe that especially newborn skin needs no products – and research seems to support that.
If you want to read more research, I can only encourage you to check for the authors’ affiliations or research sponsorships before you start reading the article and to be critical regarding potential recommendations in the article. In my experience, both researching before my son was born and now for this post, it was not easy to find quality research that wasn’t sponsored by companies like Johnson & Johnson.
Some research on baby’s skin
Baby skin and particularly newborn skin is more sensitive, thinner, and more fragile than adult skin. The skin’s barrier function is still developing during the first year of life, adapting to the environment outside the womb. A thinner skin means that babies lose more water via their skin and that their skin absorbs topical chemicals more easily. Adult skin has a ph-value below 5, i.e. our skin is slightly acidic, so our skin acts like a protective barrier. Newborn skin has a pH-value closer to neutral (pH of 7) which indicates a weaker barrier function of the skin. Also, the skin is more sensitive to mechanical damage through wipes or wash cloths which may remove skin cells and thus decrease the skin’s barrier function further. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, this article provides a great starting point.
Why you should use green products on baby’s skin
Conventional skin care products, both for adults and children, contain compounds that may damage the skin topically and act toxic in our body. Newborns and babies are particularly prone to these reactions due to the lower barrier function of their skin and the subsequent higher absorption of the compound. In combination with a less developed drug metabolism in babies and a higher ratio of skin surface to body weight, these compounds can create substantial damage in babies and particularly newborns. Again, this article provides a great starting point for deeper research and here is another helpful website for further research on harmful substances.
The three most common compounds to avoid
The three most common compounds to avoid in skin care for newborns, babies, and children – and really there is no reason we as adults should use products that contain these, either:
Sodium lauryl sulfate damages the lipid barrier of the skin, i.e. the skin’s protective barrier, and can cause inflammation. SLS is most often found in soaps and shampoos.
Sodium laureth sulfate damages the proteins in the skin and often leads to contact dermatitis, i.e. a rash. SLES is most often found in soaps, shampoos, bath foams, and toothpaste, basically most conventional products that lather up.
Parabens often lead to contact dermatitis. They are most often found in shampoos and baby wipes. Parabens are suspected to act as endocrine disruptors. For instance, methylparaben is suspected to act like estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer in women, while butylparaben has been linked to reduced sperm counts in men.
Our green skin care (baby & toddler)
Weleda Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash. It’s very gentle, not drying at all, and smells lightly of lavender and other flowers. It’s key ingredients are calendula, almond oil, and sesame seed oil.
Weleda Calendula Body Cream. Again, a Weleda product because they provide great organic and toxin-free products at a great price (no, not sponsored – I just genuinely like the products). The body cream is great for the particularly cold days to protect the sensible skin on baby’s face. Our main use, however, is as a diaper cream and I couldn’t be happier with it. My son has never, yes NEVER, had a diaper rash.
Primavera Almond Oil.When my son was about 8 weeks old we started baby massage and both baby massage and this oil have been part of his night routine since. Almond oil is great for dry and sensitive skin and it has a pleasant, light scent. Primavera is a German brand with a lot of expertise in oils, unfortunately it is really hard to buy outside Europe.
Medela PureLan 100. My midwife recommended this for sore nipples due to breastfeeding, but I hardly needed it in the first few days. When my son developed eczema from about 10 months onward and I was desperate to get them under control I turned to PureLan and it has helped a lot. As I wrote before, the eczema were most likely dairy-induced and have vanished completely since we dramatically reduced his dairy intake. But PureLan helped to prevent skin damage and, once we sorted the diet-side of the equation out, it healed the eczema within days.