Editor's note: This review of the differences between adult and infant skin provides chemists who are new to the baby care arena with an understanding of special formulating considerations for this market segment.
The skin’s primary function is to provide a protective barrier that maintains internal hydration and electrolytes while preventing entry of exogenous substances such as bacteria, allergens, particulates, pollution, etc. The outer- most layers of the skin, the stratum corneum (SC), are often described as a bricks (cells)-and-mortar (lipid) structure. Scientist and clinicians believe that this structure creates a tortuous path through the “mortar” that inhibits the flow of water from the skin and contaminants into the skin. Cleansing infants is critical for both infant and family hygiene. Microbial colonization occurs shortly after birth, and a baby’s proclivity to be in contact with many substances is well-known.
Cleansing removes unwanted surface material and can prevent infection, ingestion, and transmission of microbes and matter on the surface of the baby skin. In addition to the hygiene benefits, bathing also provides an important opportunity for tactile contact between the baby and caregiver, and promotes bonding. As is true with any cleansing and particularly important in baby cleansing, the benefit of hygiene needs to be balanced with the preservation of the skin barrier. In order to maximize skin health, the appropriate balance between effective yet mild skin cleansing must be attained. Washing the skin with water alone provides insufficient cleansing and removal of unwanted material, such as fecal enzymes and urine components; therefore it is recommended to wash babies with a mild baby cleanser instead of only water.3