At birth, babies have an immature skin barrier. This protective lipid film covers the top layer of skin making it more sensitive as its highly delicate and vulnerable to daily outside attacks, and does not reach the first stage of maturity until the age of two. Between birth and age two, a baby’s skin is not yet able to retain the proper level of moisture it needs for its cells to function properly.
Defects in the skin barrier, allowing moisture out and germs in, could also be a factor. Overheating of the skin can also be a trigger in eczema. To manage eczema, maintaining clean, well moisturized skin is important in preserving a healthy skin barrier for babies as the skin is a baby’s first line of defence against infection, irritants and allergens.
Unlike adult skin, newborn skin is thinner and may not fully mature for up to 12 months. Since a baby’s skin is so thin, it is particularly permeable to water making it better at absorbing moisture. However it cannot store moisture as long as adult skin can, easily dries out due to environmental factors such as seasonal changes both in warm summer weather and cold winter conditions, in heated homes, air conditioning, too much washing and not careful enough drying thus making it more delicate and vulnerable todryness, irritation, itchiness, all kinds of infections, rashes, and other skin conditions like acne, atopic dermatitis and eczema.
Keep your child’s skin well moisturized at all times with regular use of an emollient to help to keep dry skin under control by helping improve the skin’s barrier function and helps break the cycle of irritation, which leads to itching and scratching. Moisturizers functions like a shield to protect it from outside attacks. It actively aids the development of the cutaneous barrier, helps maintain skin hydration level while protecting the skin’s cell reserves against everyday stresses.
They range from runny lotions to thicker creams and ointments and you may need to try several to find the right one. They work by creating a protective barrier, reducing water loss and moisturizing skin. A lotion is the least greasy as it contains more water. A cream is midway as it contains less water, more oil and is better than a lotion. An ointment contains no water, so it’s the greasiest of all. You may need a different type for day/night and depending on the season.
Apply a suitable baby oil or moisturizing cream: If you’re using a moisturizing cream, go for a hypoallergenic, non-scented mild one meant for babies. The fewer chemicals on a baby’s skin, the better.
Moisturize straight from the bath within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower for older kids, pat her/him dry and then apply moisturizer as a little bit of moisture seeps into the skin during the bath. Moisturizer helps seal in that moisture. After-bath moisturizing is all your baby needs. Moisturize every 12 hours.
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Babies don’t benefit from a tan! Sun protection for babies under 6 months is a must because your baby’s own photo-protection and their natural protection mechanisms have not yet formed and is still underdeveloped. Young skin is thin and its barrier function is reduced, making it particularly sensitive to harmful UV rays. This sensitivity is further enhanced by the low pigmentation levels in baby skin and it only takes 10 to 15 minutes for baby’s skin to burn from sun exposure, causing real and even permanent damage as excessive UV exposure and sunburn during childhood can cause long-term health problems including melanoma and other skin cancers!
Most pediatricians recommend that baby sunscreen products not be used on babies under 6 months of age as babies have more skin surface than adults making them receive a higher dose of chemicals thus increasing the odds of an adverse reaction. Instead, keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight altogether, particularly in the middle of the day between10 am and 2 pm, the hottest part of the day. Cover your baby’s body with protective clothing with long sleeves and loose clothing can help protect the rest of your baby’s skin. Ensure baby is wearing a wide-brimmed hat or shield baby with an umbrella when taking your baby outdoors.
After the first six months, sunscreen is a viable option. Use plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen, and reapply it often. When selecting a sunscreen, look for one especially designed for babies with an SPF of 30 or higher.