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How to choose the right cleanser for your baby
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How to choose the right cleanser for your baby

A baby’s skin is delicate and prone to infections. Using a pH-balanced cleanser can help evade infections and preserve the protective acid mantle

How to choose the right cleanser for your baby

Saee Mahambre, a child psychologist and mother from Goa, says that her eight-month-old son, Shardul, loves getting baths. “He gleefully awaits his bathtime and enjoys water being splashed over his head,” says Saee. The routine also allows quality bonding time for the mother-son duo. While planning his bath and skincare routine, Saee was especially particular about using a pH-balanced cleanser for her baby.

The skin is the most common channel through which babies, specifically neonates and infants, contract infections. “As their skin is extremely sensitive, it is crucial to choose the right products,” says Dr Moupia Chakraborty, consultant, pediatrics and neonatology, Manipal Hospitals, Salt Lake, Kolkata. Saee adds that she zeroed in on a pH-balanced soap for her child after extensive research.

What is skin pH and why does it matter?

pH (potential of hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance and ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Objects with pH over 7 are considered basic or alkaline, while those below 7 are considered acidic.

One’s skin also has a specific pH, and maintaining this is key to healthy skin. “The adult skin pH ranges from 5.5 to 5.9 — it is mildly acidic,” says Dr Sandeep R, consultant, neonatology and pediatrics, Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Marathahalli, Bangalore. The acidity of the skin surface is because of a protective acid mantle on the skin, which helps maintain a healthy skin barrier. “It protects against environmental pollutants and lets good bacteria thrive,” says Dr Sandeep.” Good bacteria protect the skin against bad bacteria and infections besides keeping it hydrated. Failing this, one can have skin dryness or breakage, which can lead to infection.

How is a newborn’s skin pH different?

A newborn’s skin pH is slightly towards the alkaline range (6.3-7.5), and the protective acid mantle is absent. “The higher pH results from the alkaline amniotic fluid that the fetus floats in,” says Dr Priyanka Kuri, consultant, dermatology, Aster Whitefield Hospital, Bangalore.

The baby’s skin becomes acidic over the first few months of birth.

Choosing a pH-balanced cleanser for your baby

Cleansers, including soaps and shampoos, are usually alkaline. They rob the skin of its acid mantle. “While the acid mantle can reappear on the skin in 2-3 days, regular usage of high pH products can cause permanent damage,” says Dr Sandeep. “Alkaline products can cause irritant dermatitis, skin dryness, redness and rashes, besides making the skin susceptible to infections.” Babies with low birth weight can also lose water from the body easily, which is aggravated by using products with high pH, leading to a further drop in body weight.

Dr Chakraborty opines that it is important to use mild cleansers that are closest to the baby’s skin pH. She shares that the packaging of many products mentions their pH and recommends looking for ones with pH between 5 and 5.5. One can opt for hypoallergic, dermatologically tested products with moisturizing agents like glycerine while steering clear of those containing preservatives, scents and fragrances.

Skincare routine for the baby

Saee gives her baby a coconut oil massage before his bath. She waits up to 10 minutes before bathing him with a pH-balanced cleanser in lukewarm water. “The bath doesn’t exceed 15 minutes. I pat him dry and use a moisturizer,” says Saee.

Dr Kuri advises introducing cleansers into the baby’s bath routine after only two weeks of birth. “The baby should be bathed with plain lukewarm water for the first two weeks. One can introduce cleansers occasionally before making it a regular part of the routine,” she says. Further, parents should not use very hot water for their baby’s bath as it can affect the good bacteria on the skin.

Applying moisturizer on your baby after a bath can help in hydration and keep skin infections at bay,” adds Dr Kuri.

Healthy bath routine for babies

Takeaways

Adult skin is acidic, which acts as a protective barrier for the skin. A newborn’s skin tends to be alkaline, making it prone to infections and dryness. Using a pH-balanced cleanser for the baby is key to protecting a baby’s delicate skin.

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