Baby skin has the same number of layers as adult skin but each layer is considerably thinner. Overall baby skin is just one-fifth of the thickness of adult skin!
The outermost layer is much thinner and the cells are less tightly packed than in adult skin. The sweat and sebaceous glands are also less active than in adults.
As a result, the barrier function of skin is limited:
- Baby skin is less resistant than adult skin and especially sensitive to chemical, physical and microbial influences. Substances that come into contact with baby skin are absorbed more easily and penetrate into deeper skin layers.
- Baby skin is prone to drying out.
- Baby skin is more sensitive to UV rays than adult skin.
Sensitivity to UV is further enhanced by low pigmentation in baby skin.
Atopic Dermatitis (also known as Atopic Eczema) is one of the most common skin diseases of childhood and affects between 10 and 20% of children globally. In a third of these cases the disease fades out during childhood but, for others, it can continue into adulthood.
A non-contagious but distressing and sometimes painful condition, Atopic Dermatitis typically goes through 2 phases. An inactive phase, where skin is very dry, irritable and flaky and needs to be moisturised on a daily basis and an active phase (or ‘flare-up’) where skin needs to be treated with topical medications to calm inflammation and alleviate itching.
Once affected, there are a number of reasons why symptoms get worse or flare-ups occur. Sufferers are known to have a deficiency of important lipids and natural moisturizing factors (“NMFs” such as hyaluronic acid, urea, ceramides and glycerine). As a result their skin’s barrier function is weakened, moisture loss is increased and they are prone to dryness. A compromised barrier function means that harmful substances like allergens and irritants can penetrate and skin becomes infected more easily. Sufferers are also known to have an irregular immune function (known as atopy), which makes their skin more reactive to the environment and susceptible to inflammation.
Problems are often caused when the child scratches an itch and disturbs their already fragile skin barrier. This causes bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus to multiply and infect the skin. The infection causes inflammation, which causes itching which further worsens the condition: a vicious process known as the Atopic Skin Cycle.
Young skin needs particular care:
- Use mild cleansers: Alkaline soaps are aggressive on skin. They remove lipids ( natural oils) leading to dryness.
- Limit bath time: Reduce the time spent in the bath and use warm, rather than hot water. Very small babies do not need to be bathed every day.
- Care: Regular moisturising will help to keep young skin hydrated and healthy.
- Use products that are fragrance free.
- UV Protection: Young skin needs particular protection from harmful UV rays. Use sunscreen products that have titanium dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide