Many parents worry about how to take care of their babies ‘ skin after birth. What is normal and what to do to avoid dry skin on the baby’s face and other parts are the questions that come in their mind.
Skin plays an essential role in regulating body temperature and fluid balance (1). The integrity of human skin is central to the prevention of infection. A baby with dry skin may develop rashes (1, 2). These roles of skin are especially crucial in newborns because they transition from a fluid-filled womb environment to new earthly life (1, 3).
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Cause of Dry Skin on Baby Face:
Skin Immaturity: There are differences between neonatal and children’s or adults’ skin. The epidermis (the outer layer of skin) is thinner, especially in premature infants. It causes water loss to occur quickly. Also, this epidermis in a baby is very fragile, and various insults can damage it easily. This immaturity makes it more prone to infection (1)
General management of keeping skin hydrated is all that required.
Eczema: It is a dry and itchy condition of the skin (4, 5). It affects almost 15-20% of children at some point. Atopic eczema and atopic dermatitis are its other names (4). Scratching makes the skin red and thick (5). Dry skin can’t hold moisture; it is more likely to crack. The skin barrier breakdown increases the risk of irritation and infection (6).
The areas affected in babies are the face, hands, elbows, neck, and backs of the knees. In this condition, the skin barrier doesn’t work correctly. It makes the baby’s skin more susceptible to infections and allergies that can make the situation worse (4).
The condition of most children improves in their teens. The severity of eczema determines its treatment. There is no best cure for eczema, but one can control it with proper treatment. One should consult a pediatrician. He/she usually prescribes emollient lotion, cream or ointment, or steroid cream (4).
Moisturizers improve the smoothness of the skin and keep it hydrated. Moisturising the skin is essential to avoid dryness in eczema. All children with eczema need to use large quantities of emollient several times a day (4). Daily use of full-body emollient therapy reduces the risk of atopic dermatitis in high-risk babies who have a genetic propensity to develop it (7).
Ichthyosis: It represents a large group of genetic skin disorders. Scaling of skin is characteristic of these disorders. Scaling can be localized or generalized, and there can be additional cutaneous or systemic manifestations. These conditions are rare(8, 9).
In these patients, there is an impairment of the skin barrier function. There is a decreased ability to protect against infection and injury. Water loss occurs, leading to dry skin (8).
Infants presenting with ichthyosis will require admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. Most of the therapies improve the barrier function.
The management includes providing a humidified, temperature-controlled environment by daily bathing with only water or mild cleanser. Reduce the scale during your baths. Frequent applications of emollients such as petrolatum-based products are also useful (8, 10).
Improper care of baby skin can also lead to dry skin. Weather also impacts on the baby’s skin. One should follow the advice to avoid dryness as given:
Remedies for Dry Skin on Baby Face:
1. Leaving Vernix Caseosa alone
It can give benefits to the infant. Oily and waxy secretions called vernix caseosa may cover the entire skin of the newborns. This coating provides essential protection against infection. It also maintains pH balance and prevents dehydration. Typically, this coating remains for a few days. It then transitions to moderately dry, soft baby skin (1).
2. Avoid Friction
One should take care of the newborn to avoid friction in areas such as the neck or groin. The caretaker should prevent the use of adhesive strips as they can strip the top layer of epidermis off when removed (1).
Excessive bathing using soap can also cause dry skin. The first bathing can cause hypothermia and respiratory distress. Delay the bathing two to four hours to allow temperature and vital signs to stabilize. One should do sponge bathing with a moistened cotton ball or cloth. Use the Immersion method for future bathing.
This type of bath has the advantage of promoting sleep. The height of water should be enough to cover the infant’s entire body to decrease heat loss. Test water for the correct temperature. Parents should use a widely accepted wash product and avoid any product not specifically designed for the baby’s skin. The baby should be gently towel-dried, and the head covered immediately after the bath (1).
4. Topical applications
Childbirth educators should educate baby’s caregivers about products used for topical application. The skin of an infant is immature and therefore, may absorb anything applied to it. So one should be careful before giving topical application treatment.
One should not use over the counter medicated creams or ointments unless ordered by the pediatrician. Topical use of corticosteroids or diphenhydramine can cause toxicity in an infant. It also includes preparations that protect from sun exposure
5. Massage oils
They have both positive and negative effects on a baby’s skin, and additional research is needed.1 Even the most common oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil, may have a detrimental impact on skin barrier function (1, 7)
6. Avoid Sun Exposure
The best practice for infants is to protect the skin with appropriate clothing and avoid the sun. If sun avoidance is not possible, the zinc oxide-based formula for infants may be suitable (1).
7. Avoid the use of Infected Products
General advice for infant caregivers is the protection of any product from contamination. Previous use of any cream or ointment can make it impure. It acts as a reservoir for the growth of bacteria.
A person who applies creams from a jar can contaminate it by the hands. Tubes are less easily infected, though avoiding touching the application tip is needed (1).
A neonate’s skin serves many vital roles, but is fragile and requires special care. Impaired skin function makes the skin susceptible to chemical damage, microbial infections, and skin diseases. It compromises the general health of the infant.
Preterm newborns have less developed skin barriers so they are even more at risk. Thus, it is essential to evaluate the risk of infection, skin breakdown, topical agent absorption, and the risk of thermoregulation (heat production and loss balance) failure. The rashes are common and treatable with expert guidance. Childbirth educators play a crucial role in providing this education and reassurances to parents.