After nine months in the womb, your newborn’s delicate skin is suddenly exposed to the outside world and its various irritants, which can cause dryness in the form of redness, dry patches and itching. From environmental pollutants to laundry detergents, synthetic fragrances, soaps and shampoos, many things can cause skin dryness.
What causes dry skin in babies? Contrary to popular belief, babies are not always born with soft, smooth skin. Their skin is coated in a thin layer of fat and water that is renewed by the sebaceous glands. But in some infants, these glands are less effective, making their skin more susceptible to external aggressors likely to cause dryness, such as long baths, sun exposure, wind, dry air, and extreme temperatures, among other things.
What does dry skin look like for babies? It can flake, crack, show signs of redness and light shedding. Your child may feel discomfort and will have a tendency to scratch. Note that different factors such as genetics, environmental exposure, etc., may cause dry skin in children.
When should you consult a healthcare professional? Consult a doctor if your child has eczema (skin inflammation), very flaky skin or if you notice frequent scratching. In the latter two cases, your child may be developing dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease that can become infected and develop into impetigo (a highly contagious bacterial skin infection). Thankfully, in most cases, dryness is not a sign of a disease. Aside from external elements, the personal care products you use on your baby, as well as his or her skincare routine are also important factors to consider. Fortunately, dry skin symptoms can easily be remedied with a good all-natural skincare routine.
Try this at home: 6 tips to prevent and soothe dry skin in babies
1. Soak your baby in a soothing bath
When babies are born, their skin is coated in a fatty layer (vernix caseosa) to shield and protect them from external pollutants. Bathing your baby every day strips this natural barrier and can weaken the skin over time. Space out baths and limit bath time to fifteen minutes at the most. Also, avoid hot water; lukewarm is preferable. For best results, opt for a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and natural shampoo and body wash that is gentle on your baby’s skin and scalp. Once your little one is out of the tub, be sure to gently pat his or her skin dry with a towel. Never rub.
Ingredients to avoid:
- Antibacterial soaps that contain alcohol
- Soaps that contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), a chemical that dissolves the skin’s natural protective fats and dries it more easily than other mild non-ionic surfactants SLS is often contaminated with substances such as 1,4-Dioxane or Ethylene Oxide, considered carcinogenic by the IARC
- Preservatives known to be allergenic, such as Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) or Benzyl alcohol
2. Keep your little one’s skin well hydrated
Right after bathing, apply a natural deep repair cream and massage your baby’s skin gently. This daily ritual will help deeply moisturize your baby's skin. While it is recommended to apply cream right after bathing, you can also reapply several times a day for best results. To avoid allergic reactions, opt for an hypoallergenic moisturizer that is free of synthetic fragrances or alcohol. Carefully read product labels to choose safe and natural ingredients on the packaging.
Ingredients to avoid:
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) and Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), preservatives grouped under the name Kathon-CG
- Highly allergenic essential oils
- Mineral oils, petroleum derivatives (Petrolatum) and synthetic silicones, as they keep the skin from breathing and can contain chemical contaminants according to the EWG
3- Use baby wipes that are gentle on skin Most baby wipes sold in stores contain alcohol, synthetic perfumes, harmful preservatives such as MCI or MIT, as well as harsh anionic surfactants like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which can dry out your baby’s skin. Take the time to carefully read the label before purchasing and applying products on your baby’s sensitive skin. Artificial perfumes or alcohol may increase dryness, cause irritations and in some cases, provoke skin allergies. Opt for hypoallergenic and natural baby wipes for sensitive skin.
4- Use a zinc diaper cream
Just like your baby’s daily body moisturizing routine, it’s important to apply a natural baby diaper cream that respects the skin’s pH balance. Choose a natural mineral-based cream containing zinc to create a physical barrier on your child’s delicate skin. It will block moisture and help prevent skin irritation.
5- Protect your baby’s skin while outdoors
No matter the season, protect your baby’s sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful rays by opting for protective clothing (long sleeves, pants and a hat) and applying an SPF 30 mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide (for babies six months and older). In winter, skin has a tendency to dry out due to the cold and extreme changes in temperature. Cover your baby with a scarf or neck warmer to protect his or her face from the cold and prevent skin dryness, and apply a nourishing and moisturizing cream several times a day.
6- Use hypoallergenic and enzyme-free laundry detergents formulated for babies
We seldom think about it, but synthetic fibers (nylon, polyester, acrylic, elastane and microfiber) can be very irritating for sensitive skin. Opt for soft fabrics like cotton, bamboo or linen for your little one’s clothing and sheets. Wash your child’s clothes with a hypoallergenic laundry detergent that’s free of harsh enzymes and dyes, and use a fragrance-free fabric softener. Use a on stains. Finally, avoid overloading your washing machine, and turn on the extra rinse option to remove any soap residue.
Conclusion To care for your baby’s dry skin, adopting a daily clean skincare routine can help reduce dry skin symptoms. You can choose gentle skincare products bearing the EWG VERIFIED™ logo, as they contain natural, safe ingredients for your child.