Who hasn’t dreamed of having baby skin again: all soft with a fresh and bright complexion. But when it comes to skincare, it can be difficult being a baby! Being so fragile and exposed, your little one’s skin needs the most gentle care. When it comes to helping their skin grow as comfortably as possible, there’s nothing better than plant oils.
Little baby = restrained care
What does your baby’s skin need? To be left alone most of the time! Although this doesn’t seem to match up with what you’re told by cosmetics companies whose samples are constantly handed out in pharmacies and on the maternity ward. However, using too many cosmetics on your baby isn’t helpful and can be potentially counterproductive or even dangerous.
Of course, baby skin is the most vulnerable type of skin. A very fine epidermis and dermis, sebaceous and sweat glands that aren’t fully functional: until around the age of 2 or 3, the skin’s barrier is still immature. Baby skin is sensitive and permeable, subject to irritations, overreacts, doesn’t retain water well and gets dry very easily. However, the baby’s skin and immune system is still developing, so it’s not recommended to carry out systematic prevention against these issues, outside of what your doctor recommends. You risk irritating the baby’s epidermis, and stopping it from learning how to regulate and defend itself.
Less is more: not including specific skin disorders, there’s no need for daily cosmetic use, nor for daily baths. Your baby’s bottom, hands and even the folds of their neck should be frequently cleaned, but 2 or 3 baths per week should be enough, so as not to strip the skin of its cutaneous flora. So what are some good habits to adopt when it comes to bathing your baby? Don’t leave your baby for too long in skin-drying hot water, only use a cold process soap that’s free from essential oils and perfumes and make sure you dry your baby’s skin thoroughly without scrubbing at it. Finally, use a moisturizing cream that’s adapted to your baby’s skin needs if necessary. The key is to observe your baby’s skin to adapt the type of products you use and how often you use them.
Cosmetics for your baby: only when necessary
Lots of things can cause potentially severe irritations to your baby’s fragile skin: clothes rubbing, being picked up frequently, washing powder that’s too aggressive or not rinsed out properly, cold or dry weather, sweat, teething, being dried too quickly after a bath… These irritations can lead to atopic dermatitis or even eczema when it comes to allergic reactions. Childhood eruptive diseases, high fevers and molluscums can cause areas of intense dryness. The cheeks, the area around the mouth which is dampened with saliva, behind the knees, the arms, the thighs and any skin folds are particularly vulnerable to irritation. Your baby’s bottom is also at risk of the infamous diaper rash that can lead to sores. In all of these cases you’ll need to soothe the skin and help it to heal and regenerate.
Babies aren’t safe from having oily skin either: baby acne or cradle cap are fairly common. If this is the case for your baby, there’s not really very much to be done. These are only aesthetic issues and heal of their own accord as the baby’s hormonal balance stabilizes. Inappropriate or aggressive remedies risk making the imbalance worse or even causing scarring. If you really want to speed up the healing, make sure you act gently: soften any scales with a plant oil or breast milk and then let them fall off on their own, or at most remove them using very soft brush.
If you want to give your baby a massage, make sure you choose the right cream. Massaging can help to soothe and relieve colic and constipation, help your baby become aware of their body and develop their senses.
Plant oils, the ideal product for your baby
For all of these skin issues, there’s nothing better for your baby’s skin than plant oils. Used
Look for a product that is gentle and natural rather than a cosmetic that’s specifically advertised as being “for babies”. Conventional cosmetics, even if they’re labelled as being pediatric, normally contain mineral oils which suffocate the skin under a waterproof film. Plant oils allow the skin to breathe, which is essential for oxygenation and temperature regulation in babies.
Plant oils are rich in excellent natural nutrients, they don’t need additives to be effective and for the most part there is no reason not to use them. Most importantly, they don’t affect your baby’s health. The lipids they contain are very similar to those in the epidermis, allowing them to soak in, nourish and reinforce the skin incredibly gently. This is of course as long as you choose oils that are pure, virgin, cold pressed and ideally produced from organic ingredients. By doing this, you protect your baby from heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and other ingredients that are produced via hyper-polluting extractions that at best alter the properties of the oils and at worse leave them contaminated.
This is all the more important since with a higher skin surface/ weight ratio, the concentration of a product in a baby’s body will be higher than in an adult. Babies have much more permeable skin, organs which aren’t able to fully carry out their filtering roles and a developing brain that’s hypersensitive to any substances circulating in the blood. For the first three years of your baby’s life you need to be 1000000 x more cautious! This means protecting them against synthetic substances, preservatives and surfactants that expose them to endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins and allergens… but also against essential oils: no essential oils should be used on babies under 3 months, and even after this, there are only some that can be used with the advise of a professional. Look for products that are perfume-free, regardless of whether the perfume is natural or synthetic. When it comes to products for your baby, the priority is that the product is good for your baby’s health, not that it “smells good”. Babies already smell good!
In short, make sure that you only go for a single or mixture of seed or kernel oils that are mixed with plant extracts and hydrolats.
Which plant oil(s) should you use for your baby?
What should your criteria for plant oils be? a lightweight, easy to absorb and non-comedogenic oil for your baby’s tiny pores. Avoid using coconut, cotton, wheatgerm, linseed and musk rose oils in their pure forms. For the littlest babies, choose the oils with the weakest fragrances so as not to mask the natural smells of mommy and daddy and their home environment as these comfort the baby.
Here are two light weight and well tolerated oils that are ideal for little ones: Olive oil, traditionally used from birth in the Maghreb, as it’s rich, calming and antiseptic. And sunflower oil: it’s toning and is rapidly absorbed so you can dress your baby immediately afterwards, it’s great for a morning massage.
Even better, oily Calendula macerate, a true wonder product. The star of babycare products! It’s obtained from Calendula flowers via maceration over several weeks in a plant oil, generally olive or sunflower. The result being that it combines all of the advantageous qualities together. It’s gentle, hydrating and nourishing without being too oily. Regenerating, soothing, anti-inflammatory and healing, it’s effective against dry patches, erythema and dermatitis. It’s ideal for an evening massage: it’s calming and, if applied gently to the stomach in a clockwise motion, relieves colic. The INCI list name to look out for is Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract mixed with Helianthus Annuus Seed oil or Olea Europaea Fruit Oil.
If your baby suffers from dermatitis or has skin that’s dry due to cold weather, Avocado oil is very nourishing, healing and softening, all whilst being very gentle. Borage and Evening-Primrose soothe eczema. Hypericum is effective against red patches and healing but photosensitizes the skin, so only use it on your baby’s bottom, mixed with Calendula.
Remember to warm them up in your hands and apply them by hand rather than with a wipe or cotton pad so that your baby can get the most from these products. This is better for your baby’s skin and of course your baby will enjoy the direct physical contact.
A few precautions
Unlike synthetic cosmetics, plant oils are edible for the most part. Perfect for little ones who put everything into their mouths, especially their body parts. Some are not recommended for ingestion and/or are too strong, so they should therefore not be used in pure form, even on the skin, on children younger than 3 years: Broccoli, Mustard, Safflower (laxative), Neem and Linseed (laxative and hormonal effect). Castor oil, also a laxative, should be avoided as well.
What about nuts? Sweet almond oil, particularly if it has been starified, is strongly advised against as it is an allergen. Outside of allergen territory, one-off use on babies older than 3 months is not necessarily advised against after a test on a small patch of skin, but probably shouldn’t be applied from head to toe. They have numerous advantages: Argan oil helps heal chickenpox lesions, Sweet Almond is great for calming irritation and regenerating areas of skin that have been damaged by erythema. In winter sesame oil can help warm up babies who aren’t able to regulate their own body temperature well.
Playing with different combinations can be interesting and a well put together formula won’t cause any damage. Be aware, if you make your own mixtures, apply the same principles as dietary diversification: test each component separately in order to identify the causes of a possible allergic reaction.
Most of all, do not apply anything to your baby’s skin if you have any doubt about it. Always opt for the products that’s most natural and transparent about its ingredients, take the time to analyze labels, ask the brand questions if necessary. Gentleness, moderation and of course rigidity when it comes to the quality of the products are the keywords when it comes to helping your baby’s skin grow healthily.
This post is also available in french.