Moisturizers are vital for good basic skin care. They help keep the skin hydrated and create a barrier to protect the skin from elements. The second step in our recommended daily skin care routine, called Dr. Amy’s Daily 4, is Slather. This means slathering on moisturizers right after your baby’s nightly bath. But even though we know we should use moisturizers on our babies, it can be tough to decide what to use. What may work for you may not work for your baby or kids. Read on for our best tips on choosing a moisturizer for your baby.
To start off, we have to provide a little bit of basic skin biology. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an MD to understand it, but it helps to know the differences in baby skin and adult skin. The skin is our largest body’s largest organ and is our first defense and protector from the elements. The skin is made up of an intricate network of cells that produce our natural oils (called natural moisturizing factor), immune cells, nerves, blood vessels, oil glands, and collagen.
As mentioned, one of the important roles of our skin is to protect. The skin protects by acting as a physical barrier and by protecting our body from water loss. Things that can speed water loss from our skin are increased water exposure (like staying in a pool or bath for long periods of time) and the reduction of our natural skin oils (natural moisturizing factor). Contrary to what many may believe, sitting in a warm bubble bath does not hydrate your skin – it dries it out. To minimize water loss from your skin, try avoiding long and repeated showers or baths. After your shower or bath, immediately apply a lotion, cream or ointment to form a protective seal and lock in moisture.
Remember that adults and babies have different skin. A baby’s skin is thinner, more sensitive, more prone to irritation, and more prone to losing water. This matters in your decision of what type of product to use on your baby.
What makes a lotion, cream, and ointment different from each other? Basically lotions, creams and ointments are a mixture of oil in water, called emulsions. As an example of an emulsion, think of the classic oil and vinegar salad dressing. To get all of the different components mixed up in a salad dressing, you have to shake it. This isn’t practical for skin care products, so there are ingredients called emulsifiers in them to keep the oil and water mixture combined. What makes lotions, creams, and ointments different is their make up of the 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. As you can probably guess, the best moisturizers are first ointments, then creams, and then lotions.
As mentioned before, your baby’s skin is thinner, more sensitive, more prone to irritation, and more prone to losing water. Since lotions have more water that can potentially dehydrate the skin, creams and ointments are better choices to protect your baby’s skin.
But what about your baby’s different skin care needs? If your baby has normal skin, a cream is a good choice. If your baby has sensitive skin that is more prone to eczema, then an ointment would be better. Ointments do the best job to protect the skin from water loss. A trick to make ointments feel less greasy is to apply the ointment on skin that is damp or has some water droplets on it.
Here are a few things to avoid in your baby’s moisturizer. Look for products that are free from these ingredients: parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde-releasers, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), dyes, GMOs, and bisphenol-A. These ingredients are not necessary and each have raised some concerns regarding safety. Also important, avoid products with a fragrance. Fragrance is becoming the most common cause of skin allergies. A good resource for clinically tested, non-irritating moisturizers can be found on the National Eczema Association’s website.
We hope these tips on choosing a moisturizer for your baby will keep your baby’s skin healthy, soft and scrumptious for years to come.