Functional and structural skin maturation starts at the moment of delivery and ends in the first year of life. In full-term newborns, this process begins immediately after birth, while in preterm newborns by 2-3 weeks after birth.
During this period, the skin of the infant requires special care as their skin is thin and fragile, and is more susceptible to infections due to poor skin barrier function. Also, it is highly permeable to cream, ointment etc. which may cause toxic or harmful effects. High risk of heat loss and more prone to chemical and thermal damage are other reasons, demanding special care from the parents.
Common skin problems in infants are diaper rash, baby acne or a tiny pimple on the face, eczema or itchy skin rash usually appears on a baby’s forehead, cheeks or scalp, dry skin, prickly heat rash, milia or tiny whiteheads on baby’s face.
Gentle cleansing, adequate hydration, and moisturization preventing friction and damage in body-folds, protection from irritants, and bright sunlight are the main principles of skin care in infants.
Proper skin cleansing helps to keep infant skin free of unwanted irritants, including saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, dirt, and microbes. Exposure to such factors for long periods, especially in the diaper region, can lead to discomfort, irritation, infection, and skin breakdown.
As infant skin continues to mature through the first years of life, it is important that skin care products are formulated appropriately. Ideally, products that are used on infants should not interfere with skin surface pH or disturb the skin barrier.