The Basics of Baby Skin Care

For your newborn, every moment is a new experience. And the same goes for their skin—each cleanser, lotion and cream you use in those early days introduces a whole new spectrum of ingredients (and potential irritants) to your baby’s body.

Newborns are exposed to a surprisingly high number of chemicals through topical products; one study found that the average newborn is exposed to 8 different skin care products and 48 different environmental chemicals.1

Because baby skin continues to change for as much as a year after birth, it’s hard to quantify the exact differences between brand-new skin and adult skin. But skin is your largest organ no matter your age, and infants have a greater body-surface-area-to-weight ratio than adults do, which likely causes them to metabolize products differently.

So, it’s smart to choose these early-care products carefully to avoid unnecessarily introducing your baby to potentially irritating or harmful chemicals. Here are a few tips on how to navigate the earliest stages of caring for your baby’s skin

Keeping Clean

A good rule of thumb is to start a regular bathing routine—so, 2-3 baths per week—once your baby’s umbilical cord falls off. Steer clear of tallow- or coconut-based soaps, which can be drying and have the potential to alter your baby’s skin pH. It’s also smart to avoid cleansers that include sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a known irritant even for adult skin. Apply small amounts of cleanser directly to the skin and rinse it off thoroughly, rather than creating a soapy bath—the less time their skin stays in contact with cleansers, the better.

Maintaining Moisture

Babies lose moisture from their skin at the same rate that adults do, so it’s important to regularly replace what’s being lost. At least twice a week, apply an emollient lotion—look for options that have naturally derived fats and oils like shea butter, sunflower seed oil or olive oil. These can rehydrate and support a strong moisture barrier without introducing unnecessary chemicals or potential irritants to your baby’s skin.

Avoiding Irritation

With babies come diapers, and with diapers comes the potential for diaper rash. It’s a very common condition—more than half of children between four and 15 months of age will develop it at least once every two months. It’s caused by overhydration of the skin, heightened pH levels and exposure to irritants from, well, the diaper’s contents. The solve: breathable, super-absorbent and frequently changed diapers, some diaper-free time whenever possible, and barrier creams that can reduce friction and protect the skin’s surface.