Baby’s skin is different as the cells undergo a transition from an aqueous (wet) environment in a mother’s womb to a dry environment. Baby’s skin continues to develop and change through the first years of life. Their cells are smaller and the skin layers are thinner. This makes their skin more permeable and more prone to dryness as compared to adult’s skin.
It’s not just the dimensions of baby skin that differentiates it from adults. Baby’s skin contains less Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs), less lipids and less melanin (giving skin its colour). The lower amounts of NMFs contributes to their faster rate of water loss. So although infant skin absorbs moisture faster than adult skin due to its permeability, at the same time, it loses water at a faster rate as well.
In comparison with adult’s skin pH, baby’s skin has a higher pH during the first few months after birth. This indicates that baby skin is has underdeveloped skin barrier compared to adults. Research shows baby’s skin has an average of pH6.34 immediately after birth. With proper cleansing and care, their skin goes through an acidification process and slowly moves towards a mildly acidic pH within the first few months.
This process is important because it is the start of their very own acid mantle development which helps to ward off harmful bacteria colonization and reduce chance of developing common skin conditions i.e. eczema.
For these reasons, baby skin is more fragile than adult skin. If not properly cared for, their skin becomes susceptible to dryness and have greater chance of developing skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, nappy rash, cradle cap, eczema or even skin infections.