Babies are born with an amazing protective coating called vernix. It may seem “gross,” but vernix is actually incredibly useful and should remain on baby’s skin for as long as possible. It helps to protect baby’s skin and to keep it moisturized. Once it’s gone though, many babies start to have issues with their skin from dryness to rashes to eczema. Much of these issues are simply due to the fact that many, if not most, moms don’t know how to care for baby’s skin properly. Now don’t get offended; I, too, was that mom who didn’t realize that baby’s skin is far different that my own (as sensitive as my own can be). We moms just need to use a bit more caution with what we do to or use on our sweet baby’s skin so we can make sure it stays silky and perfect for as long as possible. To help you do that, I have 5 tips for caring for your baby’s beautiful skin:
1. Don’t bathe too long or too often.
As cute as it is to bathe a baby, try to avoid doing it very often. Think about it: your baby is not running any marathons, he doesn’t have B.O. (yet), and you generally keep him nice and clean by changing his diaper regularly, right? They don’t really need baths very often. We are lucky to live in a part of the world where we have clean, available water, but that water is not necessarily gentle on baby’s skin: hot water is known to dry out the skin, but there are minerals inherent in the water that can zap moisture. Try limiting baby’s baths to only a couple of times a week at most, and instead use a soft washcloth or all-natural wipes to wipe baby’s face, neck and bum any time he or she needs a bit of freshening up.
2. Always check ingredients in ALL products.
Many people don’t realize that things like diapers and wipes can cause skin reactions in babies. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on most wipes packages? I was shocked to find a bunch of harsh chemicals listed as the main ingredients in wipes. No wonder my kids kept getting red, irritated bums! As soon as I realized what kinds of chemicals were in most wipes, I sought out a brand that had less rash-inducing ingredients. Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot out there when my kids were babies, but I got really lucky because soon after my daughter was born, Honest Company launched and there wipes were exactly what I was looking for!
As for diapers, be aware that most diapers are filled with nasty chemicals that are intended to trap moisture, which makes the diaper effective in not leaking once it’s wet. But what happens when that diaper gets wet, if baby isn’t changed immediately, baby sits in those chemicals for who knows how long and all that nasty stuff gets soaked into baby’s skin. More often than not, this is what diaper rash is from! As soon as I switched my kids from standard, big brand diapers to a more natural, organic brand, all their diaper rash woes went away. I can honestly say that in the past 4 years, we’ve had to deal with diaper rash only a handful of times since we started using more natural wipes and switching our diapers to a less chemical-laden brand (we have used and loved Honest Company and Seventh Generation diapers).
3. Be careful with shampoo and soap, or avoid it altogether.
Most soaps, even those made for baby or sensitive skin, is filled with questionable ingredients including sodium laurel sulfate, parabens and fragrances. There is really no need to use soap on baby’s skin at all; human skin is naturally oily and this is a protective substance created to protect and moisturize skin. Soap, even gentle soap, will remove those protective oils. Avoid using soap on your baby for as long as possible, and when you do start using a bath wash, make sure you choose a product that has the purest ingredients you can find.
This is also true for baby shampoos. I, personally, can get a very irritated scalp by shampoos with harsh ingredients, so I certainly don’t want to be putting them on my baby’s scalp! I recently started using Morrocco Method shampoos on my kids and I love the way they gently clean without stripping the skin’s natural oils. They are made with pure botanicals and minerals and the leave out all the harsh ingredients so often found in more mainstream baby shampoos. Both the Sea Essence and Heavenly Essence shampoos have a very light, natural scent which I love because my babies are sensitive to strong scents. This is a great product if you are in the market for a pure shampoo and body wash combination!
4. Consider changing laundry detergent.
Laundry detergents are also full of harsh chemicals and fragrances (as are dryer sheets). All of these questionable ingredients get saturated into baby’s clothes and can cause a lot of skin irritation. Consider switching to a hypoallergenic or gentle laundry soap, or at the very least, wash all of your baby’s clothes and towels in a gentle detergent (Charlie’s Soap is amazing and has a cult following; Dreft is another common favorite).
5. Moisturize naturally.
Generally, if you don’t use harsh soaps on baby’s skin during a bath, you don’t really need to use a lotion on baby’s skin. As I mentioned before, human skin has natural oils that are made to protect skin and keep it sufficiently moisturized. If you find that baby needs a bit of moisturizer, though, try to stick with something that is all natural, or as close to it as you can find. I personally use coconut oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil on my babies’ skin and it does a beautiful job of adding just enough moisture and no irritation (some people react to coconut oil, so always do a patch test first). Also, there are several brands that make amazing baby skin care products such as Honest Company, Burt’s Bees, Shea Moisture, Weleda, and Noodle & Boo.
Trying to figure out your baby’s individual skin needs can be a frustrating process. Each baby is different and will react differently to any given ingredient. Always do a patch test on a small part of baby’s skin for a few days before using a new product. As your child gets older, he or she will likely grow out of most sensitivities, so don’t fret too much if your baby has sensitive skin!