March 15, 2010

Baby Skin Care and Hair Care Guide

baby skin and hair care products information

The general rule with bathing your child is that less is more. In the early days, warm water and a wash cloth is really all you need. When you do start bathing, you’ll want products specially formulated for children — and not just for their bright, fun packaging; adult formulas contain ingredients that can be hard on your little one’s sensitive skin. When you can, choose natural or organic and keep it as simple as possible.

Beyond basic care, some babies have skin issues that need special care. Most of the more common skin ailments like cradle cap and eczema can be addressed with simple, non-prescription products.

Remember, even though bathtime is a necessity, it’s also a great opportunity for you to have fun with your baby. So get ready to embrace bubbles and squirters and cute little hooded towels — this might just be one of your favorite parts of parenting!

Skin & Hair Care Products Outline:

  1. Your Basic Choices
    1. foam wash
    2. 2-in-1 wash
    3. soap and body wash
    4. shampoos and conditioners
    5. hair products
    6. bubble bath and bath milk
    7. moisturizers
    8. diaper cream
    9. sunscreens
  2. General Guidance
  3. Features to Look for
  4. Usage Tips
  5. Accessories
  6. Additional Information
    1. Sunscreen tips for babies

your basic choices

Here are the products to choose from that will keep your child looking fresh and smelling sweet, plus keep their skin soft and healthy:

foam wash
A gentle formula just for newborns — usually soap-free — that can be used to gently cleanse both hair and body.

2-in-1 wash
Like foam wash, they do double duty as both shampoo and body wash, but they come in formulas for both newborns and older babies.

soap and body wash
Whether you use bar soap or a body wash is your choice, but you’ll want something a little more effective as your child becomes more active.

shampoos and conditioners
Just like what you use, but a little more sensitive for your child’s sensitive skin. For those who live in cold climates, leave-in conditioners can help dry hair and scalps.

hair products
As their hair gets longer and fuller, a good de-tangler can save you from snarls, and a light hair gel for kids will make baby-fine hair do your bidding.

bubble bath and bath milk
Every kid loves bubble baths, and while you shouldn’t use it every day, you’ll definitely want to keep some on hand. Bath milk is a gentle, suds-less option that’s made for sensitive or dry skin.

If you’re battling dry skin, there are lots of options available. On the lightest end of the spectrum is a moisturizing spray that’s easy to rub in. In the middle are lotions and easily spreadable milk formulas. If you need a heavier moisturizer, try a cream or oil.

diaper cream
There are basically two types: those that protect against diaper rash (often known as “barrier creams”) and those intended to treat a rash. Either way, they come in a range of consistencies, from sheer balms to thicker creams to pastes. These may or may not include a zinc oxide barrier to protect your child against moisture for longer durations.

Children under the age of one need extra sun protection because of their thin and sensitive skin. Kid-formula sunscreens come in both lotions and light sprays, and a sunscreen stick is a quick and easy way to protect your baby’s face.

general guidance

Sensitive care is especially important for babies, but it’s a habit that’s good to continue even for toddlers. Here are some things to look for and what they mean:

  • gentle: fewer chemicals, and avoid alcohols
  • hypo-allergenic: formulated against allergic reactions
  • all-natural: contains no synthetic ingredients
  • organic: made from certified organic ingredients

Most pediatricians agree that you should avoid products containing mineral oil, petroleum and lanolin when possible. Parents should also be cautious of fragranced products. While many are hypoallergenic, perfumes affect different babies differently, so fragrance-free is a safe default.

Products come in every price range. Some stores offer bulk discounts with case purchases or as part of a loyalty program during your first years of parenthood where consumption of products is particularly high.

features to look for

  • Tearless. Try as you might to avoid it, soap and shampoo will eventually get in your baby’s eyes, so look for tearless formulas that won’t sting.
  • Special formulas. If your child has eczema or extra sensitive skin, look for formulas that are made to help — some are now available without a prescription.

usage tips

  • Most babies will have some form of dry skin not long after birth as their skin adjusts to the outside world. Lotions may or may not help, but if the condition persists, talk to your pediatrician.
  • Some formulas are concentrated, so only a little is required. Read your product instructions carefully.
  • Don’t fret if your baby gets acne during the first couple of months. With patience, time and gentle, warm-water cleaning, it will disappear as quickly as it appeared.


  • Hand wipes. These are handy to have around to clean your hands after you’ve applied sunscreen.
  • Belly button swabs. Plain cotton swabs or pre-dipped alcohol swabs help with the daily care of a healing umbilical chord.

Additional Information

sunscreen tips for baby
Do babies wear sunscreen? You bet! Studies have shown that sun damage occurring early in childhood increases the potential risk of skin cancer later in life. And children under the age of one need extra sun protection because of their thin and sensitive skin, even if you’re only going for a short stroll.

In addition to staying out of the midday sun and dressing them in protective clothing, the best way to protect your child is with a pure physical sunscreen. As opposed to chemical sunscreens — which absorb UV radiation on the skin then disperse the energy into harmless rays — physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin, reflecting, scattering and blocking UVA and UVB radiation.

Only physical sunscreens (or combination sunscreens, which offer both physical and chemical blocks) have broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, which means they give you the best protection available. Physical sunscreens are also less irritating, since they don’t get absorbed into the top layer of skin.

Chemical and physical sunscreens contain different ingredients, and the best way to tell you’re getting a physical sunscreen is to look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the label. If you do use a chemical sunscreen, apply it half an hour before going outside so it has a chance to absorb and make sure it’s PABA-free.

Whichever you choose, shoot for an SPF of at least 30. Anything less doesn’t offer enough protection, and anything more doesn’t really make that big of a difference, as long as you’re applying it as directed. Be generous with the sunscreen, and don’t overlook smaller areas like ears, nose and back of neck. And if you’re using a spray-on sunscreen, spray up close to make sure it doesn’t dissipate before making it to the skin.

This baby gear guide was written by Ali Wing, baby product expert, author of giggle guide to baby gear and founder of giggle.  Follow Ali on Twitter and the Giggle Fan Page on Facebook.