Baby face. Supple skin and soft hair come so naturally to little ones. But these prized features actually require extra care, because a newborn's skin is thinner and more fragile than that of an adult or older child. "The vulnerability of a baby's skin to damage is a reflection of all the organ systems at this age," says Ellen Feingold, MD, author of the Essential Natural Alternatives for Self Care (Whitston, 2006). In fact, it can take two or three years for a baby's skin to fully mature. This means it's best to use natural skin and hair care products specially formulated for babies and free of harsh fragrances, chemicals, or other irritants. For an extra-gentle touch, try these tips and products for the most common baby body concerns.
The bottom line
Parents can prevent diaper rash with frequent diaper changes and by applying a protective cream that contains zinc oxide, which acts as a barrier between skin and diaper. It also helps to gently wash baby's bottom with a warm, wet washcloth (wipes that contain alcohol or fragrances can irritate some babies' skin) and allow the area to air dry before slipping on a new diaper.
To treat a rash, apply a cream made from healing botanicals such as chamomile or calendula after every diaper change, Feingold says. Baby powders can help absorb moisture between diaper changes, but choose natural products made with cornstarch or slippery elm bark over talc-based powders, which are believed to cause allergies and asthma.
Try this: Burt's Bees Diaper Ointment
This rich, soothing ointment contains almond oil and beeswax, which protect baby's sensitive bottom from becoming red and inflamed. Vitamins A and E help heal irritated skin.
Krusty, the baby
Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap usually looks a lot worse than it feels. To treat the condition, rub olive, almond, or jojoba oil into the scalp and then use a soft brush or washcloth to gently remove dead skin. Wash hair and scalp with a natural baby shampoo containing calendula or other soothing herbs to remove the oil and excess flakes. If the cradle cap becomes severe or spreads beyond the scalp, call your baby's doctor.
Try this: Simple. Pure. Baby. Little Star Happy Halo Cradle Cap Remedy
Made with jojoba oil, rice bran oil, sandalwood, lavender, and vitamin E, this fragrant oil can be massaged into baby's scalp before bath time to help loosen dry, crusty skin.
See ya later, alligator skin
If baby's knees, elbows, and cheeks feel more like sandpaper than silk, apply a natural baby moisturizer containing plant oils such as almond, jojoba, or wheat germ daily. Don't bathe baby every day; two to three times a week is plenty. Soaps, shampoos, and bubble baths can dry out and bother skin, so use them sparingly and choose products free of harsh cleansers, fragrances, and chemicals.
Try this: Weleda Calendula Baby Cream
Made with moisturizing almond oil and calming calendula, this gentle cream treats dry, chapped areas.
All people—including young children—need 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure without sunblock every day so their bodies can produce bone-essential vitamin D, Feingold says. But too much direct sun exposure, especially during peak hours between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., can be dangerous. If you're going outside with the kids beyond the 10-minute daily dose, everyone should wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Look for a sunscreen formulated for children that protects against both UVB and UVA rays, Feingold says. (Sunscreen is not recommended for children under 6 months.)
Try this: Jason Natural Cosmetics Earth's Best Chemical Free Sunblock SPF 30+
This extra-mild sunblock uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for UVB and UVA sun protection. Hypo-allergenic and chemical-free formula contains no mineral oil, petroleum, or parabens.
To help keep hair soft and manageable, try detanglers with herbal emollients such as aloe vera, horsetail, or rose hip seed oil. When washing long hair, massage shampoo into the scalp and then work your way down the hair. Piling and scrubbing hair on top of the head can cause more tangles. After bath time, gently pat hair dry. When combing out tangles, always start at the bottom and work upward.
Try this: California Baby Calming Hair Detangler
Use on wet or dry hair; includes yucca, aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, and calming French lavender.
Freelance writer Carlotta Mast finds her son's baby lotions and sunscreens to be perfect for her sensitive skin, too.