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Skin Care Practices for Newborns and Infants: Review of the Clinical Evidence for Best Practices


Address correspondence to Ulrike Blume-Peytavi, M.D., Clinical Research Center for Hair and Skin Science, Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany, or e-mail:


Abstract:  In recent years, there have been continuing efforts to understand the effects of baby skin care routines and products on the healthy development of baby skin. Such efforts aim ultimately to determine the best infant skin care practices. The pediatric and dermatologic communities have not reached consensus on what constitutes an appropriate cleansing practice. In the United States, guidelines for neonatal skin care have been developed, propagated, and implemented. The accumulated knowledge has promoted evidence-based clinical practices and, therefore, may help to improve clinical outcomes, although these guidelines primarily cover the care of preterm newborns and the treatment of those with other health problems. High-level, long-term clinical evidence of the effective and safe cleansing of healthy, full-term newborns and infants is scarce. This review presents a comprehensive analysis of the scientific literature on baby skin development, cleansing practices, and related products (for healthy newborns and babies) since 1970. The evidence drawn from the reviewed literature can be summarized as follows: Bathing immersed in water seems generally superior to washing alone. Bathing or washing with synthetic detergents (syndets) or mild liquid baby cleansers seems comparable with or even superior to water alone. Nevertheless, larger randomized clinical trials with age-defined cohorts of babies as well as more-defined parameters are required to identify optimal practices and products for skin cleansing of healthy infants. These parameters may include standardized skin function parameters such as transepidermal water loss, stratum corneum hydration, skin surface pH, and sebum production. Clinical skin scores such as the Neonatal Skin Condition Score may be employed as outcome measures.