This post was last updated on September 2, 2022 by Preethi Sukumaran
My baby has dry & sensitive skin – how can I help her / him? – this is a question we often receive at Krya.
Dry & Sensitive skin: an alarmingly common problem in babies
One in 5 children in under the age of 5 years in India suffers from eczema , also called atopic dermatitis. It often occurs quite early ,before the baby is two years old. Eczema is different from cradle cap and can occur on any part of the skin, though it often occurs on the cheeks, joints of the arms and the legs. It is characterized by red, dry & sensitive skin that is often itchy and rough. This skin reacts quickly and aggressively to any change in cosmetic products, detergent brand, and sometimes even water hardness.
Allopathic treatments for dry & sensitive skin: where the cure is worse than the disease
Of grave concern to parents today are the common allopathic treatments given for infant eczema – which are topical steroid creams and in severe cases , oral anti-histamines. Steroid creams act on the skin by shutting down the immune cell in the skin and thereby hoping to reduce the skin inflammation caused by the eczema. This gives a temporary relief to the itching and redness produced in dry & sensitive skin. However, as the effect wears off, which is in 8 hours or so, the itching starts, sometimes with an increased vigor.
However the steroid cream approach is terribly flawed and there is NO evidence that they provide any cure for the disease. On the other hand there is plenty of evidence for a number of alarming side-effects of steroid usage.
Depending on the strength and frequency of steroid usage , these are the side-effects – steroid addiction/dependence, skin thinning and atrophy, breakdown of skin barrier allowing easy entry of pathogens, unusual hair growth on skin, proliferation of visible skin blood cells (so skin appears flushed and red without any cause), discoloration of skin due to poor melanin production etc.
Parents should rightly be very very wary of using steroid creams on their child’s skin.
Factors that determine whether your baby can develop dry & sensitive skin:
Babies are prone to dry & sensitive skin condition through genetic factors – like the parents’s prakriti and the time, season and place of conception . A baby with this genetic pre-disposition develops the actual skin condition due to a number of factors that can trigger the eczema. It is a condition that many times settles down as baby grows up. But we can control and eliminate baby’s discomfort, by preventing a number of modern day factors that contribute to this skin condition.
To understand this skin condition better, we must first remember that the human skin is the host to a fantastic micro-ecosystem of microbes called the microbiome. The typical skin microbiome can contain around 1 trillion microorganisms, both helpful and pathogenic. This delicately balanced microbiome is vital to the healthy functioning of the skin – there is a clear difference in the micro-biome of healthy skin and the micro-biome of a person suffering from eczema.
A person builds the skin microbiome ( and the many other microbiomes in the body like the gut flora) over time , starting from the colony inherited from the mother during birth. So c-section babies and formula-fed babies will have a less diverse and different micro-biome from the babies that were born via a normal delivery and were breast-fed exclusively in their first few months. However these are large factors over which many mothers have little control after the event, so what can be done now ?
Building baby’s skin health: steps for concerned parents
This is why we introduced the concept of the skin micro-biome and its vital importance in maintaining healthy skin. The baby’s microbiome is intelligently built by the skin over hundreds of happy accidental acts everyday like contact with the parent , food intake , touching clothes, toys , books, the very air in the home, playing in the sand. So the best approach for a parent is to create an atmosphere that supports the creation of a healthy micro-biome.
Avoid creating an excessively sterile environment
The first step here is to avoid creating an excessively sterile environment – like the usage of a/c for long periods. Another common factor in a new baby household is the excessive use of anti-bacterial wipes and anti-bacterial hand-wash to prevent infections. An excessively sterile environment tends to reward disease causing micro organisms and encourages the growth of super bugs – a case in point is the super bug growth in hospitals across the world.
While the worry is understandable, these chemical sanitizing products are broad-spectrum and kill all bacteria – both good and bad. This creates a hyper-sterile environment, preventing the growth of a healthy microbiome and stunts the baby’s progress in building general immunity by interacting with the environment.
Avoid using bacteria killing and pH altering foaming synthetic soaps and petrochemical cosmetic lotions and creams :
All foaming baby soaps and body washes are harsh on baby’s skin and are broad-spectrum , killing all the bacteria on the skin. They also alter the skin’s pH , disturbing the delicate balance of the microbiome. Read more about what goes into a typical baby soap in our previous post.
Another common skincare mistake perpetrated by the baby cosmetic brands is the use of mineral oil based lotions and creams, after baby’s bath. This is flawed on 2 levels – one is the use of harmful petrochemical derived ingredients which cannot nourish the skin and also clog the fine channels.
The second error is the application of a oil or cream after the bath. This clogs the pores of skin and does not allow the Srotas of the skin to perform properly. Hence when baby has dry and sensitive skin, using a petrochemical moisturiser will give skin temporary relief. With the passage of time, heat will build in skin surface and trigger higher itchiness and skin irritation causing baby a lot of discomfort.
The correct procedure as per Ayurveda is to massage the baby FIRST with a good herb-infused vegetable oil and then give baby a bath with a herb & grain based cleanser. The pre-bath oil massage keeps skin soft, moisturized and supple.
These intelligent ,rakshogana herbs in the bath powder ( unlike a soap) cleanse baby’s skin gently, do NOT alter the pH, repair minor skin blemishes, kill pathogens and yet allows the healthy bacteria to function -thereby providing the ideal atmosphere for the skin microbiome to develop. You can read more about what goes into the Krya baby ubtans in our previous post here.
The choice of pre-massage oil is very critical for baby’s skin health. Many parents mistakenly believe that pure coconut oil is the right oil to be applied to relieve dry and sensitive skin. Read more about why we DO NOT recommend this practice here.
The microbiome of a baby is an important subject. we have an ongoing miniseries on the subject, of which the first part can be found here.
For a detailed step-by-step description of an ideal Ayurvedic baby care routine and how to maintain a healthy baby nursery , please read our previous blog post on this subject. :
To sum up:
There are many internal causes for a baby developing dry & sensitive skin. We will explore some of these in our upcoming posts. However, this sudden rise in skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis and other special skin conditions among babies whose parents have perfectly healthy skin is due to other, external, avoidable factors.
Our microbiome colony is what gives us immunity, good gut health, the ability to digest food and extract nutrients and keeps our skin healthy. It is presented to us as a gift from our maternal line – many of us may have remnants of microbiota which are thousands of years old, passed on from mother to mother, and finally to us.
Unfortunately, this generation old microbiota is in short supply for our babies today – mostly due to the fear driven, poor choices we are making as parents.
We hope this post helped you understand the link between dry & sensitive skin in babies and the effect of some of our cleaning and cosmetic choices. Our upcoming posts will delve more into the establishment of a healthy microbiome in baby and explore more on the subject of sensitive skin condition in baby.
Krya baby products for dry and sensitive skin in Baby:
- Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
- Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
- Krya Palmarosa &Rose nourishing baby massage oil– Can be used from the time a baby is 1-2 days old. Recommended for dry , non oozing skin conditions like dermatitis, dry eczema. Not recommended for oozing skin conditions.
- Krya Lemongrass & Grapefruit nourishing baby massage oil– Can be used from the time a baby is 1-2 days old. Recommended for dry , non oozing skin conditions like dermatitis, dry eczema (sensitive skin). Not recommended for oozing skin conditions.