As most of our customers know, Mokosh products are designed to be multi-purpose, while at the same time delivering the most potent, pure nutrients to your skin in their raw, natural state. To serve the needs of one of the most precious and vulnerable segments of our customer base, we have introduced a new product, Baby Massage Oil (find it here), which can be used both for massage and to moisturise your baby’s skin. After careful research into the particular skin care needs of babies, we have formulated this product with particular attention to the differences between baby and adult skin. We thought we would share with you what we learned about baby skin, and why it needs to be treated with care.
Newborn skin is not fully mature
As you can imagine, the transition from the watery, microbe-free environment of the womb to the relatively dry, microbe-laden atmosphere of the outside world means that the skin of a newborn baby needs to undergo dramatic changes. Most critically, it needs to develop a competent barrier that will prevent excessive water-loss, and in addition build effective defence mechanisms against invasion by microbes.
Structural change in the stratum corneum
You may have noticed that the skin of a newborn baby looks dry, even a little rough, compared to the plump skin of a baby older than around 3 months. This is because the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is less able to hold water in these early weeks. As the skin adapts to the outside world, its water-holding capacity improves so that by the age of 3 months, the stratum corneum holds more water than adult skin, giving that beautifully smooth plump skin we associate with babies (summarised in 1).
Change in pH
One of the most dramatic changes occurs in skin pH. While the pH of adult skin is quite acidic, with a pH of 5-5.5, newborn baby skin verges on the alkaline, with a pH of 6.34 - 7.5. The switch to a more acidic environment, with development of an ‘acid mantle’ as it is known, is critical for a number of reasons. The acid helps provide defence against bacterial infection, promotes the survival of beneficial bacteria in the skin, and affects how lipids are processed in the stratum corneum, so that a healthy structural barrier is formed. Application of substances that disturb the skin pH, such as very alkaline soap, can affect the acid mantle, and disrupt the vital barrier function of the skin (Summarised in 2).
The importance of the skin microbiome
During the first few days after birth, the dramatic changes in the skin encourage the growth of some bacterial species, and inhibit the growth of others. The population of bacteria can be affected by a range of factors, including the method of delivery (2). The population of bacteria in the skin continues to evolve over the first year of life, and can influence immune cells resident in the skin and the skin’s resistance to pathogenic bacteria. Science is now beginning to understand that disturbing the balance of the skin microbiome can lead to skin disorders or infections. Recent evidence suggests that preservatives in skin care could disrupt the skin’s microbiome, and as a result we believe preservative-containing skin products should be used with care, particularly during the first year of life when a baby’s skin microbiome is evolving (Read more here).
Caring for newborn skin
Most health care professionals recommend that baby skin should be kept clean, but not over-washed. Because harsh detergents can remove protective lipids from the skin and disrupt the skin’s barrier function, very mild soaps or detergents should be used. The face, skin folds and nappy area need the most attention, and skin should be patted dry after washing. Because newborn skin is thin and delicate it should be treated extremely gently, particularly in the early weeks.
Application of a protective balm to the nappy area, and use of a moisturiser or well-formulated baby oil will help protect the skin against irritation and dryness. Studies have shown that oils high in oleic acid, for example olive oil, mustard oil and soybean oil, can disturb the skin’s barrier. In contrast, oils high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, can improve skin barrier function in newborns (3). Topically applied omega-6 fatty acids can be incorporated into the skin ceramides, which are important structural lipids in the skin’s barrier. Omega-3 fatty acids applied to the skin can be anti-inflammatory and can reduce injury from UV-B radiation to skin. We have written about the role of essential fatty acids in skin care in our blog here.
How our certified organic Baby Massage Oil fits in
We have formulated our Baby Massage Oil to be extremely light, well absorbed, and useful both for massage and to moisturise your baby’s skin. It is free of essential oils, which should be avoided in babies (read our blog about essential oil safety here), free of preservatives which could upset the balance of your baby’s microbiome (read about how preservatives in skin care can put the microbiome at risk here), and free of emulsifiers which can disturb the skin’s barrier function (read about the potentially damaging effects of emulsifiers here).
We have blended oils rich in omega-3 and omega- 6 fatty acids to help protect and build your baby’s skin barrier. The oils are also rich in pro-vitamin A and vitamin E, and contain natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. Like the rest of our range, the oil is 100% certified organic, and therefore contains the purest, most nutrient-rich plant oils available. It can be used after a bath for a soothing massage (read about how to perform a beautiful, soothing Ayurvedic massage on your baby here), or simply to moisturise and protect your baby’s skin. If your baby develops a skin problem, always follow your doctor’s advice.
Find our Baby Massage Oil here.
Other Mokosh products suitable for babies include:
Pure Body Balm - a protective balm suitable for the nappy area or where extra skin protection is needed.
Pure Face & Body Cream - a concentrated cream that is rich in protective shea butter.
Olive Oil soap, fragrance free - a pure olive oil soap that is extremely mild for delicate skin.
1. Telofski, L.S. et al (2012) The Infant Skin Barrier: Can We Preserve, Protect, and Enhance the Barrier? Dermatology Research and Practice 2012 18 pages
2. Oranges, T. et al. (2015) Skin Physiology of the Neonate and Infant: Clinical Implications Adv Wound Care 4(10): 587–595.
3. GL Darmstadt, et al (2002) Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Pediatr 91:546-554