It’s said that soap is to the body what laughter is to the soul. But, as it turns out, not so much for babies.
Adult skin is, by nature, acidic – healthy adults will have a skin pH of between 4.5 and 5.5. We are protected by an acidic layer called the ‘acid mantle’ that helps prevent infection and helps to keep our skin supple.
Babies however are born with pH neutral skin that, left to its own devices would drop down to the normal adult level after about a week, but this doesn’t mean the acid mantle has completely formed. Their skin is still delicate and prone to pH fluctuations, and is further aggravated by alkaline substances, like soap.
In a study carried out at the Skin Sciences Institute in the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation at the University of Cincinnati*, they discovered that exposing a baby’s skin to soap just once could increase the pH by up to 0.4.
This means that, while soap will indeed clean the skin, it also increases the pH, damaging the acid mantle. Repeated application of alkaline substances can eventually lead to many childhood skin issues like eczema, as the skin is having to work very hard to counteract the effects of the soap.
This is why it is so important to use a soap-free, pH balanced, hypoallergenic wash on your baby. Sadly this means that most baby washes on the market are just not suitable options (and this includes many natural and organic ones). Check the labels, as products that are soap free will definitely state it.
This was one of my reasons for choosing to partner with Cetaphil. Their new Baby Gentle Wash and Shampoo is 100% soap free, pH balanced and hypoallergenic – everything I was looking for. There are a couple of French pharmacy brands that also have great looking options, but I haven’t tried any of them yet, so can’t recommend by name just yet, but watch this space.
Next month I’ll be chatting about why moisturisation is so important for a baby’s skin.