Could keeping your baby squeaky clean cause skin problems?
A new study suggests too many baths — coupled with not enough moisturizing — could had adverse effects on young children.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers say full-body emollient therapy and fewer baths for newborn children can prevent the disease eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.
Eczema tends to appear on the face and scalp of babies and in elbows and backs of knees in older children. According to the study, the use of emollients daily drastically reduced the average incidence of the disease. Prescribed ointments can moderate the itching and redness but there is no cure for the disease. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of children get eczema, rising up from only 3 percent in 1960.
Scientists say that the number of baths given to babies is too high, and advise people to bathe their babies no more than two or three times weekly. A recent report found that baby wash and shampoo products were used at least five times per week per household.
“People are bathing their babies too much,” said Dr. Eric Simpson, who conducted the study with a team of researchers, “If you expose skin to water and let it air dry, that leads to dryness—like the bottom of a river bed that cracks open when it dries.”
Baby soaps and shampoos, especially fragranced ones that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, are factors in the development of the disease.
In a trial conducted in the U.S. and United Kingdom, 124 newborn children who were at high risk of atopic dermatitis were studied for months. Some parents were ordered to apply full-body emollient therapy on their babies at least once a day after three weeks of birth, while other parents were ordered not to use emollients.
According to the study, emollients, like fragrance-free moisturizers and ointments, provide a safe and effective method of skin barrier improvement because they retain the skin with a source of exogenous lipids, which strengthens the skin’s barrier properties.