Babies are amazing. They’re natural-born swimmers, have three times as many taste buds on their tiny tongues as adults do, and their cuteness makes us want to nibble on their chubby cheeks all day long. Behind all that that squishiness, however, there lies another, deeper, and more delicate layer – literally! We’re talking about skin, of course.
Here are eight interesting tidbits about your little one’s number one protector that will point you in the right direction when it comes to newborn skin care, from choosing the right detergent to learning how many baths your baby needs per week.
Eight Facts About Baby Skin
Newborn skin is famously thin, fragile, and sensitive, compared to grown adults’. Composed of a bottom and a top layer (the dermis and epidermis, respectively), your little bundle of joy’s skin is not as fully developed as yours, which is why it can turn red if the baby is hot, and a shade of blue if it’s cold (hence why it’s important to always wrap your baby in at least one layer more than you’re wearing).
This thinness can also lead to an increased risk of bacterial growth and a lower resistance to irritation. That’s why it’s important to bathe your family’s newcomer with gentle, baby-friendly products, and to wash his or her clothes and bedding with a hypoallergenic laundry detergent, such as Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Detergent.
- It Comes With Its Own Moisturizer
Before birth, your baby’s skin is coated in a waxy white substance called vernix. It acts as a protective film and natural moisturizer, and it is loaded with lipids, proteins, and amino acids, as well as anti-bacterial and anti-microbial compounds – all valuable stuff for your bambino. Rather than wiping it off, experts recommend to massage the remaining vernix into your baby’s skin over the next one to two days after birth to help prevent dryness.
- It’s Larger Than You Think
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and this is especially true for babies, who have an even bigger outer tissue covering their tiny little bodies – relatively speaking. You see, babies have a larger ratio of surface area to body volume compared to adults, which means that they have a larger area to absorb irritants, allergens, and bacteria from the environment. This, coupled with their higher metabolic rate, means babies can also lose proportionately more water per minute than adults do, leading to an increased rate of dehydration.
- It Requires Special Care
Having spent only a couple of hours, days, or weeks outside the safety of the womb, your baby has not have enough time to develop the natural acid mantle that protects his or her skin from drying out and acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses, and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin. Because it doesn’t have the acid mantle yet, newborn skin has a slightly higher pH compared to adults’, which is around 5.5.
Dermatologists therefore recommend using baby skin care products that match the skin’s natural pH level to help promote the formation of the acid mantle, which generally happens around the one-month mark. Proper baby skin care includes keeping infant skin free of unwanted irritants, including saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and dirt.
Exposure to such factors for long periods, especially in the diaper region, can lead to discomfort, baby skin rash, irritation, infection, and skin barrier breakdown.
- It’s Color-Changing
Did you know that for some babies, their permanent skin tone might take up to six months to set? Regardless of your bundle’s ethnicity, in the first couple of days he or she will be wearing a uniform of dark red to purple. It’s also completely normal for your baby to sport blue hands and feet, while the rest of your youngster is covered in pink skin.
As your baby’s circulation kicks into high gear and your baby adjusts to life outside the womb, these other-worldly colors will quickly fade, and your little angel will soon develop his or her permanent skin tone.
- It Will Dry Out If You Bathe Your Babe Too Much
Because baby skin has a higher water content than grown-up skin, your baby actually needs less bath time than you do! Three times a week during his or her first year should be enough, otherwise, you may risk drying out your baby’s skin. If your baby’s skin appears particularly dry, apply a tiny amount of perfume-free baby moisturizer to the dry areas after your child’s bath, and massage it well into your buttercup’s skin.
- It’s Super Sensitive to Sunburns
Because of their paper-thin skin, babies (even darker skinned mini-individuals) are at a higher risk of getting sunburned than adults. Because there’s still a long road ahead of them until they learn how to walk away from a situation (or communicate their thoughts in an adult manner), they need your help to save them from the hot rays of the sun.
To keep your newborn safe and his or her skin as beautiful as ever, try to stay in the shade at all times, out of direct and indirect sunlight, especially between 10 AM and 2 PM, when the sun is at its strongest. You can use sunscreen on exposed areas of a baby’s skin even before the age of six months, but make sure the product you use is a mineral-based, baby skin-friendly one.
- It’s Prone to Rashes
It’s not all peaches and cream when it comes to baby skin. Especially prone to rashes during the first few months, don’t be surprised if you catch some bumps and blemishes on your newborn’s skin as it becomes accustomed to the harsh environment of the outside world.
To give you an example, around 40% of babies develop milia on their faces: These tiny white bumps or yellow spots are caused by skin-gland secretion, and they disappear on their own within a few weeks of the baby’s life. If you notice a breakout that doesn’t seem to go away, though, contact your pediatrician.
Boning up on the delicate and elusive nature of baby skin is just the first step in preparing for the many challenges and delights your tiny tot will bring you. If you need a helping hand throughout this exciting journey, Dreft is happy to provide you with the lowdown on all the essentials, from sensory development in infants to getting stains out of baby clothes.