Seeing a baby’s skin so tender and soft makes us want to squish and touch it. Not so fast! A baby’s skin may look smooth and beautiful and is basically structured like the adult skin, but it is much thinner and more delicate. The barrier functions of the skin are still immature, thus, there is a need to handle baby skin with extra care.
Dermatologist Dr. Lucy Marie Espino explains that the baby’s skin is 30% thinner compared to adult’s skin. She adds that it has lower natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and fewer intercellular lipid, which leads to a greater tendency of dryness.
“[A] baby’s skin is also more prone to allergies and irritation because the baby’s immune system has not yet fully developed,” Dr. Espino says.
Being the largest organ in our body, the skin plays a very important role in protecting our body’s inner parts. Just a bit of a science review: the skin is composed the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin and protects it from environmental pathogens like dust. It also regulates the amount of water the body releases.
The dermis, meanwhile, is where the skin organelles such as hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands, and blood vessels are found. This layer serves as the connective tissue between epidermis and hypodermis, and cushions the body from stress and strain. The lowermost layer of the skin, hypodermis, is used mainly for fat storage.
So, what are the most common skin disorders for babies? Dr. Espino lists three:
- Intertrigo – This comes in the form of rashes which usually appear in the baby’s skin folds. This is especially common among chubby babies.
“Lesions would appear as reddish rashes. It may or may not be itchy. When it worsens, the rashes would look raw,” Dr. Espino explains.
Treatment: Dr. Espino advises to wash the area gently with warm water and mild soap. Pat the skin dry and moisturize. Then, apply zinc oxide barrier to protect the skin.
- Miliaria or prickly heat – The lesions would look like red small spots and may form patches in the baby’s face, neck, back, or bottom. The patches would feel itchy, too. Miliaria is often caused by hot and humid temperature.
Treatment: Bathe the baby with mild soap and water to cool off the skin. Pat dry properly. Dr. Espino adds that during hot weather, the baby should be dressed in light and loose clothing to avoid these prickly heat lesions.
- Contact Dermatitis – It is a skin reaction to something it comes in contact with. Dr. Espino points out that it appears as a reddish papule, sometimes following the configuration of the allergen. If it worsens, it affects a bigger area of the skin. Likewise, it is triggered by material such as rubber, clothing, detergents, and soap.
Treatment: If the rashes are dry, moisturize and remove any material affecting the skin. For severe cases, see a dermatologist.
These baby skin problems are not to be taken lightly, as things might become more complicated for the baby’s condition. It is important to give it utmost attention and treatment.
However, things are still better off without having to experience these disorders. How do we avoid these skin problems?
Prevention is better than cure
Dr. Espino stressed that proper hygiene for the baby is key. It is important to keep the baby’s skin moisturized and healthy.
“[Both soap and] shampoo used should be mild and moisturizing. It must be free from harsh chemicals and perfumes,” Dr. Espino says.
Moreover, the baby’s clothing should also be taken into consideration.
“The clothing should be properly fitted. The fiber should be light and sweat-absorbing like cotton. The material should also fit the season – rainy or sunny,” she adds.
These tips will help the baby maintain a healthy skin, thereby allowing the rest of her skin cells develop properly.
So, the next time you want to expose your baby to various people or environments, think twice. Who or what will you allow to touch your baby’s skin? Take good care of your baby’s skin. Your baby will thank you for it in the future. (Rachelle Dangin)