Bath time is a great time to play and bond with your baby, but it is also an important part of maintaining the health of their skin as they are developing. This can be a challenging time for vegan mums - searching through the vast array of brands available on the market to find suitable products to cleanse, moisturise and protect their baby’s skin – all while still staying true to their personal ethos. (As if you don’t have enough to do!)
As a newborn’s skin is thinner than adult skin and has not properly developed its acid mantle and normal barrier functions it is more sensitive and requires special care.
Medical professionals recommend not to use harsh soaps or synthetic chemicals on your baby for the first few months, and while natural and organic products may be suitable (perhaps consult with your maternal child health nurse for advice), animal ingredients such as milk protein, silk protein or lanolin may be key components to some of these formulations.
Natural fats and oils in the skin help retain moisture, maintain body temperature and prevent harmful substances or bacteria from entering the body. Therefore a bath time skincare routine which effectively cleanses the skin, maintains moisture and hydration, and further protects from possible irritants, will provide your baby with a positively healthy start – but how do you achieve this naturally – and vegan?
Let’s have a look at the three key steps to achieve this:
1) Cleansing (without dryness)
2) Moisturising (maintaining hydration)
3) Nappy & Extra Care (soothing & protecting)
Choosing ingredients known to be beneficial to skin can also make a big difference to the end result. Because plant ingredients and humans are perfectly compatible (unlike their synthetic counterparts) selecting organic vegetable oils and calming plant extracts in your baby’s products will gently and naturally nourish, hydrate and moisturise their skin without the possible side effects of other commonly used ingredients which may cause itchiness, dryness, skin irritation or other health issues.Because skin products are absorbed through your baby’s skin it is important that they be as gentle and non-toxic as possible.
Water alone is not a sufficient cleanser to remove the bacteria which can hide in excess skin oils, vomit or defecation and can even be quite drying to the skin, so it is important to add a suitable ‘wetting agent’ while bathing. When choosing a cleansing bar or wash look for one which is pH balanced (ie. a similar pH rating to the skin itself) to help maintain the skin's fatty protective layer. Soaps too alkaline, although great at cutting through grease and debris, will break up the natural acidity in the skin, causing dryness. To be effective at cleaning the skin these products need to contain ‘surfactants’, or foaming agents, to grab the dirt and excess oils and, when washed away, then leaves the skin clean and fresh. Harsh surfactants like soap and sulphates are unnecessary for delicate baby skin and can cause dryness or irritation. Choosing a product that is soap and sulphate free will ensure bub’s is washed as gently as possible. Perhaps choose a cleanser that is coconut or sugar based. Look for ingredients like disodium cocoamphodiacetate (coconut), cocamidopropyl betaine (coconut), guar gum and vegetable glycerine. Be sure to check with the manufacturer if they list lactic acid as an ingredient that it is planted based and not animal derived.Products with added moisturisers like organic vegetable oils will further assist with maintaining their skin’s hydration.
This is where you may find many animal oils, proteins and fats like tallow, stearic acid, amino acids, elastin , collagen and lanolin (from the oil glands of sheep). Other animal ingredients include: lactoperoxidase, an enzyme obtained from milk, is used as a preservative because it's effective at killing bacteria, urea (found in urine), royal jelly (the food bees feed to their larvae) and hydrolyzed silk (usually extracted from the boiled cocoons of silk worms) –so these are all a ‘no go’ zone.
Also steer clear of mineral oil based products which do not allow the skin to breathe and opt for naturally nourishing extracts like evening primrose oil, shea butter and cocoa butter. Vegetable and nut based oils are also suitable moisturisers, particularly for very dry babies and can also be used for infant massage. Best applied gently onto baby’s skin straight after bath,while the skin is slightly damp, will help ‘lock in’ the moisture and keep the skin hydrated for longer.
While in nappies, babies require extra protection for their skin in their nappy area.
This can be achieved by either applying a thick barrier lotion or balm and/or using a natural cornstarch powder after bath and at every nappy change to minimise friction against their skin and provide a barrier against the acidity of their urine and faeces.
Again, lanolin is often offered for this purpose and although a large percentage of the barrier creams on the market today may be ‘vegan friendly’ they may be petroleum or petrochemically based - so perhaps opt for a zinc based cream or try the natural cornstarch powder alternative.
Always check the label and ask your pharmacist or health care professional if you have any queries or concerns.
Maintaining the health of your baby’s skin from the outside can be easily incorporated into your child’s routine and then modified to their life stage. Teaching them and involving them more into the process as they grow, will eventually help them to successfully manage their basic hygiene themselves and helps them make more informed choices of their own. Your investment now will give their skin a great healthy start and ultimately prepare them for the skin challenges of adolescence and adulthood in the future.
So now you can get splashing! Anyone seen the rubber ducky?
Michelle Vogrinec is an Aussie mum of three, creator of GAIA Natural Baby and MD of GAIA Skin Naturals Australia. Passionate about total wellbeing achieved primarily via natural/organic health and living an ethical lifestyle, she actively supports numerous efforts to bring readily available cruelty-free products to the masses as an essential part of her personal ethos.
- Published: 30 June 2015
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