Babies’ skin is not the same as our adult skin. It is more delicate and can become more easily irritated. Choosing the right lotion or moisturizer can make all the difference in preventing your baby’s skin from becoming irritated. Now, let’s learn what the best lotion for babies are.
Not all lotions and moisturizers are the same! Be wary, certain moisturizers can actually flare eczema and feel uncomfortable to individuals with eczema. In babies with sensitive skin, the choice of moisturizer is important to prevent irritation that can lead to an eczema flare. Eczema is a common skin condition that can affect up to 20% of babies and adults. Individuals with eczema have a sensitive skin type in which the skin is more prone to getting “rashy” from irritation or other triggers.
So, what is the best lotion for babies? To answer that question, let’s understand more about moisturizers. Moisturizers range from lotions to creams to ointments. There is some basic chemistry involved that makes a lotion different from a cream and a cream different from an ointment. Here we go! Lotions, creams and ointments can be classified as emulsions, which is a mixture of oil in water. As for an example of an emulsion, think of the classic oil and water salad dressing. To get all of the different components mixed up in a salad dressing, you have to mix it up by shaking it up. This wouldn’t be so practical for a skincare product, so there are ingredients called emulsifiers in our skincare products to keep the oil and water mixture stable. What makes lotions, creams, and ointments different is their composition of that oil and water mixture. Ointments have more oils and lotions have more water. Lotions are 70% water; creams are 70% oil; and ointments are greater than 80% oil. Water actually dries out the skin so that is why a lotion’s large composition of water makes it easy to apply but more dehydrating for the skin. Since they have that larger oil makeup, creams and ointments work best at locking in the skin’s natural moisture.
There you have it! The best lotion for babies is actually a cream or ointment!
When applying a moisturizing cream or ointment, timing is important. Do it right after bath time, within a couple of minutes. This allows for the skin’s natural moisture to be locked in.
Now that you know the best lotion for babies are creams and ointments, what other features should you look for in a product?
- Choose fragrance-free! Avoid fragrance! Fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis and can act as an irritant to eczematous skin. If you need a scent, choose a product with a low sensitizing essential oil like lavender, rosemary or thyme.
- Avoid these ingredients: parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde-releasers, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), dyes, and bisphenol-A. They can be sensitizers and irritants to the skin.
- Look for the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association (NEA). A product with this seal provides confidence that the product is one that can be used on all skin types including sensitive, eczema prone skin. Furthermore, this seal can provide you confidence that the product has been clinically tested to be irritant-free and hypoallergenic. The NEA also provides guidelines to how a product meets their Seal of Acceptance and provides nuances in products that you should be cautious about.
- Know that products with petrolatum or mineral oil are safe. Despite all of the hype out there that these ingredients are possibly unsafe, have confidence that medically sound research has repeatedly demonstrated their safety and clinical effectiveness at preventing and soothing eczematous skin. A recent study published this month in JAMA Pediatrics demonstrated that petroleum jelly was the most cost effective product that preserved the skin barrier early in life in high-risk individuals prone to eczema and other atopic diseases. JAMA Ped. 2016 Dec 5. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.3909