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Cleaning and caring for your baby's skin Q&A

Baby bath rubber duck

For over 125 years, JOHNSON'S® has been dedicated to providing parents with safe and clinically proven mild baby products. They understand that when it comes to caring for your baby's skin, you want to know everything.

Mumsnetters had the chance to ask two experts their niggling questions about infant skincare: Kirstie Kernutt (JOHNSON’S® Professional Advisor) and Maxime Buffat (Director of EMEA Baby R&D at Johnson & Johnson). For over 125 years, JOHNSON’S® has been dedicated to providing parents with safe and clinically proven mild baby products. See what they had to say about caring for your baby’s skin.

Want answers on a specific topic? Take a look at the following:

WIN! One lucky Mumsnetter will win a bag of goodies containing a Virgin Experience Family Photoshoot Voucher worth £45, John Lewis vouchers worth £200 and the entire JOHNSON’S® TOP-TO-TOE range worth £12.45.

What's the benefit of moisturising your baby's skin?

Q: How beneficial is moisturising baby skin so young, when they're not really exposed to the elements? And I am always torn between what is best: JOHNSON'S® Baby Oil or Lotion? (MummaE)

Kirstie Kernutt: It is good to be aware that baby’s skin differs from adults, as it is thinner, loses moisture more quickly, and is more sensitive to the environment – making it more delicate and prone to dryness and irritation. If you live in a hard water area, this may also dry the skin. Use a good quality cleanser pH balanced for baby skin during bathing to help maintain the skin’s natural pH, thus protecting the delicate skin barrier.

Applying a suitable moisturiser or oil to your baby’s skin after bathing helps support a healthy skin barrier. Massage your baby by using oils low in oleic acid; these oils include mineral oil (baby oil). Olive oil contains high levels of oleic acid which has been shown to damage the skin barrier, which can then lead to dryness and irritation.

The choice to use either lotion or oil is mainly due to personal preference.

Q: Many websites promote moisturisers, such as baby oils and baby lotions, as must-haves. However, a chemist friend assured me that such products are entirely unnecessary, unless the baby has very dry skin. Can you please explain how they can benefit a baby with normal skin? (ImpetuousBride)

Your baby's skin barrier is their first line of defense from the outside world so it is important to look after it. Kirstie Kernutt: Your baby’s skin barrier is their first line of defense from the outside world so it is important to look after it. As it is more delicate, it needs more protection. Applying a suitable moisturiser or oil to your baby’s skin after bathing helps support a healthy skin barrier and has been shown to increase the water-holding qualities of the skin and thus prevent the skin from becoming dry. In addition, applying an oil or lotion as part of a gentle massage not only benefits your baby's skin, it is also a wonderful way to bond with your baby.

Is cleansing with water enough?

Q: Why are health professionals so against using baby products? (mrsdeedow)

Kirstie Kernutt: Health professionals often refer to the current NICE postnatal care guidelines when talking to parents about infant cleansing – and these advise that cleansing agents, lotions and medicated wipes should not be used on newborns for the first six to eight weeks. However, the JOHNSON’S® brand is currently working with healthcare professionals to provide evidence-based research to show that specially formulated baby products can be a suitable and safe alternative to water, and can even have some advantages.

Q: What's the most common myth you hear about babies' skin? (AngieFoster)

Kirstie Kernutt: One very common skincare myth is that water only is an effective way to cleanse baby skin. In fact, water does not remove fat soluble impurities – such as saliva, milk and faeces. Fat soluble impurities need to be removed by surfactants, which work by emulsifying the substance into fine droplets which can then be removed by water. Water alone may also dry the skin due to the chemical composition, as it may contain a high level of minerals such as calcium. Using a good quality cleanser pH balanced for baby skin during bathing helps to maintain the skin’s natural pH.

It contains the surfactants needed and is mild enough to still protect the delicate skin barrier.

Establishing a bath time routine with your baby

Q: I have heard that you shouldn't bath babies every day – is this true and, if so, how does this damage their skin? (JBH316)

Kirstie Kernutt: Bathing is only recommended two to three times a week for younger babies, slowly increasing the frequency as they get older to become part of a daily bedtime routine. In between baths, many parents will give their baby a top and tail wash. This is because infants don't get too dirty and so don't need full cleansing every day, but also because baby skin is thinner than adults and loses moisture more quickly.

Water as a cleanser doesn't remove the fat soluble impurities left behind under nappies and clothes, and if they remain, they may cause the delicate skin barrier to become irritated. Repeated use of water only, especially when hard or chlorinated, has been shown to cause moisture loss from the skin cells, which can leave the skin dry. Using a good quality cleanser pH balanced for baby skin during bathing helps to maintain the skin’s natural pH, thus protecting the delicate skin barrier.

Q: Can you recommend a simple bathing/skincare routine, to help keep babies' skin as healthy as possible? (sarahw2)

Kirstie Kernutt: Bathing is only recommended two to three times per week for younger babies. Instead of rubbing, always pat your baby's skin dry with a soft clean towel.

Applying a suitable moisturiser or oil to your baby's skin after bathing helps support a healthy skin barrier. Using a good quality cleanser pH balanced for babies’ skin during bathing helps to neutralise the effects of the minerals in hard or chlorinated water and helps maintain the pH of baby skin, thus protecting the delicate skin barrier.

Applying a suitable moisturiser or oil to your baby’s skin after bathing helps support a healthy skin barrier. Massage your baby by using oils/lotion low in oleic acid; these oils include mineral oil.

Q: How often should I wash my toddler's hair? I've been washing it daily for about a year because I hate it looking greasy, but my friend washes her son's once or twice a week. (DaisyDando)

Kirstie Kernutt: How often you need to wash your child’s hair is influenced by how long/thick it is and is largely down to personal preference. As with adults, some people find they need to wash their hair every day whilst others can go a week between washes. If you do want to wash it every day, try a mild and pH balanced shampoo so it doesn’t burden the hair with residues.

Q: What age do you suggest a child could safely move on to using the same products as adults? (bugzie92)

Maxime Buffat: We would generally recommend using baby or toddler products until at least three years old – at this age, children’s skin and hair can still be more delicate than an adult’s and therefore need specially formulated gentle, mild products to protect against dryness and irritation. For older children, it may be best to avoid highly-perfumed adult products, particularly if they are prone to dryness and sensitivity or skin conditions. However, there is no one specific age recommended for you and your family to move onto other products.

Newborn wash

Caring for skin with allergies and medical conditions

Q: What products from JOHNSON'S® range are best to use on a baby who suffers from eczema? (Wolhunter)

Kirstie Kernutt: As JOHNSON'S® Baby products have not been specifically designed as a treatment for eczema/other skin conditions, I would recommend speaking to your GP or health visitor before you make any changes to your child’s skin care regime, to receive an appropriate diagnosis and product recommendations.

Q: What's the best way to treat cradle cap? (mave)

Kirstie Kernutt: Cradle cap is a common, harmless condition that does not normally itch or cause discomfort to your baby. It shows up most often in the first few months of your baby’s life and usually clears up on its own after a few weeks or months. It usually appears on the scalp, but you may also notice it around your baby’s ears, eyebrows, eyelids and sometimes the armpits and back of the knees.

You can usually help remove and reduce the build-up of scales by gently massaging the area(s) with baby oil or grapeseed oil. To do this, leave the oil to be absorbed for about 15 minutes before gently brushing and shampooing; be sure to rinse out all the oil and shampoo. You can also try washing your baby’s hair more frequently (up to once a day). It is important not to pick at the scales as this may cause an infection.

If the cradle cap appears inflamed or if there is any bleeding or there is no improvement within a few days of massaging with oil and regular shampooing, I would recommend speaking to your GP or health visitor so they may assess the symptoms and recommend any further treatment required.

Q: I get a bad reaction if I put anything on my skin that contains lavender – would my baby react this way too? Do JOHNSON'S® Bedtime Baby products contain any lavender ingredients? (ftovey7)

Maxime Buffat: The good news is that your lavender allergy will not automatically mean your baby will have the same reaction. However, as always, please check with your GP or healthcare professional where allergies are concerned.

Some of JOHNSON’S® Baby products do use extracts that feature calming lavender. The extract we use has been rigorously tested and is safe, but if you have a pre-existing lavender allergy you may want to avoid using them. Our only current baby product to contain actual lavender is JOHNSON’S® Bedtime Baby Shampoo and the bottle label is clearly marked ‘with a touch of lavender’, so it’s easy to spot. You can also check the ingredients list – look out for ingredients like ‘Lavandula Angustifolia Flower Extract’, which means the product contains lavender.

You could use products from our Bedtime range such as the bath, lotion, oil etc. as these contain neither lavender nor essential oils that mimic a lavender scent.

Q: Is it better to expose babies' skin to different things – such as perfumes etc. – starting gently and working up, so that they don't develop sensitivities to things? Or just avoid everything all together? (Jocelynne123)

Maxime Buffat: If you require specific healthcare advice for your baby please speak to your GP or healthcare professional. Scientists and doctors have been studying sensitivities for decades and what they have recently found is that avoidance of a specific thing (take peanuts, for example) may not be the best approach over time.

At JOHNSON’S®, each formula undergoes a rigorous set of tests and evaluations. This includes testing fragrances as well as looking for risks of allergy, redness or irritation. You might not see this on the label but that’s what the JOHNSON’S® brand is committed to.

A baby’s skin will continue to develop over time, so using products from companies who understand the science behind babies’ delicate skin may help avoid any worries you have about sensitivities developing. Any products you choose to use on your baby should be specially formulated for babies, using milder cleansers and the minimum of carefully selected ingredients to provide safe and effective care.

Q: It's very trendy to use coconut oil on skin – I use it on mine – but is it safe for my baby boy? Are there any dangers or has any testing been done? (Iggychorlton)

Any products you choose to use on your baby should be specially formulated for babies, using milder cleansers and the minimum of carefully selected ingredients to provide safe and effective care. Maxime Buffat: Coconut oil and coconut oil extracts are widely used in personal care products. It is non-toxic, with no evidence of irritation or allergy, making it ideally suited for consumers with sensitive or delicate skin, including babies. Please be aware, however, that the quality of coconut oils can vary widely. Look for high-quality, cosmetic-grade coconut oils for you and your little one to ensure they do not contain anything that could potentially be bad for your health. Bathing newborn

Myth busting on the JOHNSON'S® range

Q: Is your skin-care range paraben free? I have also heard that petroleum is used in your products? (Rose280187)

Maxime Buffat: We removed parabens from our baby personal care products a few years ago. Sometimes people confuse petroleum and petrolatum- even though they are very different – and we don’t use petroleum. Petrolatum remains an extremely effective barrier protectant which can be used on dry patches and/or the nappy area to help strengthen the skin barrier, which we know is not fully developed in babies.

Q: There has been some scare about your products being linked to cancer. Can you shed more light on this matter please? (fazkin)

Maxime Buffat: As consumers, ourselves, we understand why questions about cancer can be scary. Please know all our products contain only ingredients that have been accepted as safe. We know health means everything and we are dedicated to using the highest quality, gentle ingredients to care for you and your family. Our ingredients have been repeatedly tested and shown to be safe to use by numerous independent agencies and government authorities throughout the world. And if they weren’t, we wouldn’t use them.

Q: How are your products tested? (AnimalAddict)

Maxime Buffat: Our product testing process is one of the most stringent in the world, ensuring the safety and quality of every baby and beauty personal care product we make. This process never stops – we continually re-evaluate ingredients based on the latest research and your feedback. You can find out more about this process here.

Q: What is your policy re animal testing and use of ingredients that may have previously been tested on animals? (purplepandas)

Maxime Buffat: Johnson & Johnson Ltd does not test cosmetic products or individual ingredients on animals and follows the requirements of the current European Union (EU) animal testing ban. We discontinued animal experiments on cosmetic and personal care products in the EU more than 15 years ago and European law required the discontinuation of animal experiments for finished cosmetic products as of September 2004.

Q: I have heard conflicting views about the safety of using talcum powder on a baby. What do you advise? (beany5)

Maxime Buffat: 30 years of studies by medical experts around the world, science, research and clinical evidence continues to support the safety of cosmetic talc. The talc in our baby powder has been consistently accepted as safe to use by regulatory authorities around the world and meets the highest in quality standards. Like all our products, our baby powder contains only ingredients that are fully evaluated by scientific and medical experts to ensure they are safe to use. You can find out further information about talc here.

What's the benefit of choosing JOHNSON'S® baby products

Q: What benefits do your products provide over the cheaper, unbranded products? (TantricTantrum)

Maxime Buffat: This is a good question. The answer is that we’ve worked for more than 125 years to maintain families’ trust in us, continually reviewing our product ingredients against the latest research and consumer feedback. The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies has helped advance 80% of all publications and peer-reviewed scientific literature on babies’ skin, for example – that’s how seriously we take baby care. Our safety assurance process meets or exceeds industry and regulatory standards for baby and beauty personal care products. As such, we believe our process is among the most rigorous in the world.

Q: What's the magic ingredient in No More Tears®? (FrenchieMum2Be)

Maxime Buffat: We can exclusively reveal that there is no magic ingredient. Rather, No More Tears® is a set of safety standards that mark the quality and gentleness of our product – the result of decades of research, knowledge and understanding.

We have been pioneering the science behind the No More Tears® product formulations since 1949, which are specially designed to be gentle to the eyes. This is really important because a baby’s blink reflex is not fully developed yet. Each product that carries the No More Tears® seal has passed rigorous and comprehensive evaluations to ensure its mildness. That’s the secret!

johnsons top to toe range

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