Baby Your Skin

By Nora Zelevansky / July 29, 2014
Photo courtesy of Erbaviva

Photo courtesy of Erbaviva

Weight gain aside (and that’s a good thing!), pregnancy offers quite a few beauty boosts: shinier hair, glowing skin and stronger nails.

But it’s a different story once that bundle of joy arrives.

I was recently lucky enough to have my first child and—while I’d heard stories about possible post-delivery side effects from hormonal breakouts to brittle nails—I quickly became aware of some less-expected issues.

As new parents, my husband Andrew and I wash our hands and apply sanitizer constantly, stripping the skin of natural oils. I’m pretty meticulous about applying lotion at bedtime—it’s my ritual—but, by the end of Month One, Andrew’s knuckles were literally so dry that they cracked. Even mine looked rougher than usual.

At the suggestion of a doula friend, we’d been using coconut oil on our daughter’s bottom to stave off chafing and irritation. One day, while Andrew was changing the baby’s diaper, it occurred to me: Why not apply coconut oil to our hands, as well? We were already inadvertently slathering it on our palms. Plus, it’s hydrating and antibacterial. Thus began our healing process.

As it turns out, many of the products we use on our babies are great for us, too. (The exception would be when treating more adult concerns like acne or aging. Then, beneficial ingredients like salicylic acid, vitamin C, peptides or even antioxidants would be notably absent.) “Almost all baby products would work well for adults, especially for sensitive skin,” says Ilya Reyter, MD, dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. “Baby products are typically formulated with fewer ingredients that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.”

Of course, no product will restore adult skin to baby soft—that’s impossible. Sometimes I look in the mirror with my daughter and think, “How could anyone have skin that smooth?” But the right lotions and potions, already on hand for infants, can certainly help stave off some skin issues for baby and mama alike.

SENSITIVITY Truly effective moisturizers for sensitive skin can be found in your changing-table drawers. Jamie Bond of Summer Sky Organics founded her line after her son, Carter, was diagnosed with a rare genetic skin disorder. Soothing Balm for very dry, sensitive skin was their inaugural product and has apparently been appropriated by some mothers as an eye cream. That’s just the beginning: “The Baby Nourishing Oil also doubles as a hydrating, fragrance-free moisturizer for mamas,” says Bond. Their Baby All Over Balm—with shea butter, calendula, coconut and marshmallow root—is also frequently co-opted as a moisturizer and some customers have found that the Baby Tush Powder makes a good dry shampoo!

Of course baby eczema and rashes are a widespread, common issue for babies and mothers. That’s where Skinfix comes in: The company’s CEO Amy Gordinier-Regan recognizes the dual-usefulness of their infant Gentle Eczema Balm based on her personal experience as a mother: “I found that I constantly had dry, cracked knees when I had babies because I was crawling around on the floor after them or kneeling down to play with them. I developed dermatitis on my knees, which was stubborn and uncomfortable. I wish I had our Gentle Eczema Balm or Body Repair Balm then.” The product is not only natural, but does not contain soy or nut ingredients, so it’s safe for breastfeeding mothers and babies, too.

Osmia Organics, an aromatherapy-based line, offers a Mama & Baby gift set. Created with bath time in mind, the package includes their Oh So Soap and Unscented Body Oil. The body oil is great for moisturizing the belly during and after pregnancy, as well as for the baby’s body and scalp. Talk about multipurpose: “Our production manager, Monika, loves to wash her baby’s hair with Oh So Soap as a baby shampoo,” says Founder and CEO Sarah Villafranco, MD.

JUNIOR AROMATHERAPY For babies over six months, Villafranco also recommends using the Night Body Oil (great moisturizer for moms!) with soporific ingredients like lavender, chamomile and wild atlas cedar for a pre-bedtime massage. “I often suggest that mothers create an olfactory association with bedtime for their babies: A soothing bath, followed by a soft massage with Night Body Oil, will train a baby to label that as a ‘sleepy smell’,” she says.

Erbaviva’s Co-Founder Robin Brown has aromatherapy in mind too. The Baby Washbag Pouch, filled with organic oatmeal, lavender and milk, is meant to have a soothing aroma at bath time for baby and mother. But it’s the company’s Organic Baby Butter for moisturizing infant skin that perhaps gets appropriated most often by breastfeeding mothers. “Most of the discomfort associated with sore nipples comes from chapped, cracked skin,” says Brown. “Erbaviva Organic Baby Butter is crafted with cocoa butter and beeswax, which provides moisture and protection for even the most sensitive areas. It’s also USDA organic, so baby will not be exposed to any toxins while breastfeeding.”

skincare14_baby your skin_02SUN PROTECTION Wandering the neighborhood with a stroller or carrier means extra exposure to sun. That’s when baby sunscreens come in. “Baby sunscreens typically use minerals (zinc and titanium) as the active ingredients rather than chemical agents, which are frequently used in adult sunscreens. The mineral sunscreens are very effective and less prone to cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin,” says Reyter. The one downside: “Baby sunscreens, while more effective and less allergenic, are usually less elegant, and can be harder to rub in,” he explains.

None of us want to walk around with opaque splotches on our faces, looking like a 1980s lifeguard. Fortunately, natural luxury baby product line Noodle & Boo makes a Play-Day Sunscreen SPF-50 that offers a more refined experience than the usual baby block; it even absorbs well. “While our line was designed with our smallest customers in mind, when we develop new products, we always want the experience to be enjoyable for both mom and baby,” explains Founder Christine Burger, who conceived the line with her own children’s sensitive skin in mind.

ALL-PURPOSE In summer and fall, when babies and mothers spend tons of time outside, Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Founder and CEO Melinda Olson, recommends Angel Baby Bottom Balm for all sorts of irritants. “[It] was originally formulated to safely soothe diaper rash, but ends up being a go-to boo-boo balm for everything, from bug bites to rashes to minor burns and scrapes.”

And that’s something both mother and baby can appreciate.

Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky is the author of upcoming novel, Will You Won't You Want Me?, and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.
Nora Zelevansky

Latest posts by Nora Zelevansky (see all)