By Marie Be
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
The largest organ of the body, the skin, begins its complex process of development about a week after conception, and continues to evolve throughout pregnancy and following birth. Proper skin care during the first year of an infant can positively affect the full term development of the skin, as well as enhance a child’s overall developmental health. Sadly, with the propaganda from the cosmetic industry, we’ve lost fundamental knowledge on how to properly take care of the skin of a baby.
Many baby products have been associated with systemic toxicity. This is in part due to the fact that the cosmetic industry created the misconception that the skin is impervious, and regulations misleadingly classify skin care products as ‘external’ products (1) – ignoring the effects of dermal chemical absorption. Baby products do not escape this lack of safety and therefore contain a smogboard of toxic chemicals. (check out : The Cosmetic Industry; A History of Subsidies, Under-Regulation and Propaganda)
The most basic skin function, the barrier function, is not fully developed in infants. This means baby’s skin is a potential portal of entry for hazardous toxic chemicals. There is a direct correlation between young age and toxin absorption, simply because of the higher skin surface area to weight ratio in infants.
Risks from cutaneous exposure to cosmetic chemicals may differ between children and adults for a variety of reasons, including anatomic and physiologic differences in absorption and metabolism, and developmental differences of vital organs (2). Infant skin is still underdeveloped and more fragile than an adult’s skin:
- The full thickness of a newborn’s skin is considered to be 40-60% that of adult skin (3). Baby skin is therefore more absorbent than adult skin. This means that chemicals and pollutants have an easier way at making their way into baby’s fragile body.
- Infant skin both absorbs and loses moisture more quickly than adult skin. With a greater exchange rate, external irritants penetrate infant skin more easily (4).
- Baby skin contains a higher lipid content, which makes it easier for fat-soluble substances to pass through the skin (5). Most cosmetic products are fat-soluble.
The effect of systemic chemical absorption are also greater in infants and babies:
- Children have a greater skin to body size ratio than adults. This means they absorb more toxins per body weight (6).
- Babies do not have fully effective detoxification systems, which means that damages from exposure are increased. For the first year of its life, an infant’s kidney’s filtration rate is a fraction of adult values (7). Since kidneys are the principal pathway for elimination of most chemicals from the body, infants are therefore more susceptible to bio-accumulation.
- Infants are growing and developing at an accelerated rate. The effect of toxins on growing tissues and organs, and developing immune, endocrine and nervous systems is greater.
- Children have immature blood-brain barriers and enhanced central nervous system (CNS) receptivity (8). This means toxins encounter less resistance while traveling through the body and can easily access sensitive areas such as the brain.
Toxicant absorption from skin care products has many detrimental effects on the overall growth and development of a child. (see: Toxic Babies) Propaganda from the cosmetic industry has been going on for at least a century, and misinformation is now part of the “common knowledge”. (For more information, please see: Skin Science – Debunking Cosmetic Industry Propaganda.)
Here Are Some Tips On How to Naturally Take Care of Your Infant’s Skin
During the last trimester of pregnancy, a layer of vernix grows on baby’s skin to protect it from bacteria and amniotic fluid (8). Babies are covered in vernix when they are born. Hospital protocol calls for immediate washing of the vernix, which needs to be scrubbed off. Vernix is a natural skin cleanser and moisturiser, with anti-infective, anti-oxidant and wound-healing properties. It is meant to protect baby’s skin against potential infection, acidification and transepidermal water loss (9). Vernix should not be removed immediately following birth, but allowed to fall off naturally and its beneficial elements absorbed into the skin (10).
During the first weeks of life, frequent bathing is neither suitable nor beneficial. Babies only need bathing about every four days. Frequent bathing can adversely affect the maturation of the skin, cause potential irritations, pH changes or chemical absorption (11). Use of conventional toiletries, soap or wipes , even labeled “for baby”, should be avoided at all cost. Synthetic toiletry products commonly used for neonatal skin care contain chemicals which may affect skin maturation and be absorbed into baby’s fragile body (12-13).
Effective nappy care should prevent damage to the developing stratum corneum. Nappy rash can be reduced if nappies are changed frequently during the day and at least once during the night, with the baby being nursed with skin exposed as often as possible (14). The nappy area should be cleaned using water only. It can be beneficial to protect the stratum corneum from rashes and irritation due to contact with urine and faeces. Many diaper ointments contain zinc to produce a protective barrier between the skin and the content of the diaper. While zinc is an effective protective barrier, baby’s thin skin and large pores have the potential to absorb the substance into the body, increasing systemic toxicity (15)
Another effective way to protect the skin from rashes is to absorb the bacteria with zeolite clay. In the complete absence of bacteria, rashes cannot develop. Zeolite works best in conjunction with cacao butter, which prevents the skin from absorbing too much moisture and becoming sensitive. (Check out CocoBum from EarthSun for a natural product that combines zeolite and cacoa butter.)
Children’s skin might need to be moisturized. Make sure he or she drinks plenty of water, as it has a direct effect on skin texture and health. An effective skin moisturizer for dry skin is simply virgin coconut oil or cacao butter (16). Applying anything that is not eatable on an child’s skin only increases toxic absorption.
When unsure, ask yourself — What your great-grandma would have used? Nature always provided what we need to make our bodies healthy and take care of our skin – we just have forgotten!