The functions of the skin remain essentially the same at all phases of life, including: barrier, photoprotection, thermoregulation, immune surveillance, hormonal synthesis, insensible fluid loss prevention and sensory perception.
However, there are several important structural differences between the skin of babies, children and adults. Baby skin is thinner, structurally different and not fully developed compared to adults. This places them at a higher risk of barrier disruption, toxicity, contact irritation or development of allergy.
As with many other organ systems in infants, skin development in children continues during the early years of life, and with certain skin structures such as the sebaceous glands, does not reach full adult function until adolescence.
Thinner & prone to dryness
Infant stratum corneum was found to be 30% and infant epidermis 20% thinner than in adults. Baby skin has the same number of layers as adult skin but each layer is considerably thinner. Infant corneocytes cells were found to be 20% smaller than adults indicating a more rapid cell turnover in infants.
The outer layer of their epidermis is thinner and the cells are less tightly packed than adults. Their sebaceous and sweat glands are less active so the hydrolipid film (an emulsion of fats and water that covers the skin surface) and the acid mantle (the is mildly acidic water part of the hydrolipid film) are still underdeveloped.
Infant skin is found to have higher water content and is able to absorb more water and lose excess water faster than adult skin. Infant skin has significantly lower amounts of natural moisturizing factor. This makes it more prone to drying out.
Less active melanocyte cells, low pigmentation, thinner stratum corneum, and smaller skin cells all place infants and young children at enhanced risk of skin damage from UV light exposure.
Infant skin is less resistant and sensitive to chemical, physical and microbial influences. Substances that come in to contact with baby skin are more easily absorbed and penetrate deeper.
They have a high surface area-to-volume ratio, immature drug metabolism systems, and decreased fat stores. This increases the area for absorption while decreasing the volume of distribution of a drug or toxin. Once a toxin is absorbed, infants lack a fully developed detoxification system.
Extra personal care
Only essential, non-toxic, physiological products should be used on infant and children's skin. Care should be taken to minimise bath time to less than 15 minutes, minimise soap use and to keep their skin cool and dry. Only gentle, clean, personal and laundry care products should be used.
Use a gentle, pH balanced cleanser such as our All-Cleanser on the diaper areas only and wash it off after cleansing.
Bathing frequency should account for the child's’ age, the weather, and environmental exposure. For very young infants, bathing every 2–3 days is adequate along with cleansing as needed through-out the day for the diaper area, face, hands, and neck folds.
Older children may need daily bathing if they have been playing outside, wearing sunscreen, or very active in public areas. During winter months, less frequent bathing may help to reduce dry skin from lower humidity from dry indoor heating .
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