“Soft skin like a baby” is a common simile used to compliment amazing skin. However, mothers know that it is not so easy to maintain the baby’s skin. In the initial years of his life, your baby might face many skin problems like dry skin, rashes, baby acne or baby eczema. There are many factors leading to these problems, including hereditary. But one thing that is most often the culprit of skin problems in babies is the pH imbalance. Before we discuss this further, we need to understand what pH is?
baby with soap

What Is pH?

pH stands for potential hydrogen and indicates how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Lower pH indicates that the substance is acidic in nature and higher pH indicates that the substance is alkaline in nature. pH scale ranges from 0-14, with acids low and bases high on scale. The pH balance of baby’s skin is about 5.5.

How Are pH Levels And Skin Related?

Just like any “chemical” substance, our body has a pH level too. Water has a pH of 7, this is neutral. Since our internal fluids are mostly made up of water, they all have a pH 7 or something near it. Similarly, our skin has a pH level too. Technically, it is not the skin that has the pH, but the sweat and sebaceous glands on the skin that gives it an acidic nature. It is important to maintain the pH level of the skin so as to avoid various skin problems.

Special Characteristics of Baby Skin

A baby’s skin is different from that of an adult and special care has to be taken to avoid any skin problems. Baby’s skin is thinner, more prone to dryness and is very sensitive. Some of the special characteristics of a baby’s skin are:

  • Relative to the weight, the surface area of a baby’s skin is larger than in adults
  • The dermis is three times thinner than in adults
  • The hydrolipidic film which is mainly consists of sweat, sebum and water is thinner in babies than in adults. The role of this film is to protect the skin against bacteria, acting as a barrier. Thinner hydrolipidic film makes the baby’s skin is more sensitive
  • The pH only begins to develop after a baby is born and goes down as the baby grows making the skin more acidic. This characteristic defines that the baby’s skin is more prone to infections and irritations

baby bathing

What Is The pH Level Of Baby Skin?

The ideal pH level of a baby’s skin (or even our skin) is 5.5. As it is a lower value than the pH of water (7), it is fair to infer that our skin is acidic in nature. It is so because an acidic skin is more equipped to fight the spread of bacteria or fungi. It is absolutely important to maintain this 5.5 level of pH. Even a small variation from 5.5 can give rise to a lot of skin problems, especially in babies who have more sensitive skin.
For instance, there is an enzyme that lives on a baby’s skin that is responsible for thinning out the old skin so that the new skin can grow. However, this enzyme is pH sensitive. This means that if the pH is higher than 5.5, then it will thin the skin much more than required. A thinner skin would be more prone to irritation, rashes and eczema.

How Do Baby Soaps Impact The pH Level Of Baby Skin?

Soaps and body lotions need to match the pH level of baby’s skin. The commercially manufactured soaps that we adults use have a pH factor of 9. Even most of the “mild” cleansers have a pH factor close to 7. None of these suits baby’s skin. For baby skin, we need a soap that has the pH factor 5.5. So it is important you pick a baby soap that can maintain the pH level of the baby’s skin and not disrupt it, thereby leading to skin problems.

Which Baby Soap Should You Pick?

With the huge amount of noise that the advertisements make, claiming their products have antibacterial, antibiotic or natural ingredients, it is extremely confusing to pick a soap that suits your baby’s skin. But the following tips might help:

  • Read the label clearly. Look for the pH value of the soap. 5.5 is the ideal value you are looking for
  • Look for presence of harsh chemicals and parabens in the soap. Do not buy them if they are present
  • Opt for body wash gels instead of soaps, as soaps usually tend to have a higher pH because of the way it is manufactured
  • Avoid all lotions or creams which are petroleum-based as their pH is equal to or greater than 7
  • Extend the scrutiny to body lotions, moisturizers and creams you use for the baby, not just the soaps
  • If the soap smell very good, do not buy it. The fragrance is due to chemicals added and we do not want that to come in contact with baby skin
  • Make sure you do not “over-bath” the child in an effort to cleanse him thoroughly. You might end up drying out the skin, which again leads to skin problems
  • More the natural ingredients in the soap, the better it is. Look for natural oils (e.g. olive oil or almond oil) and vitamins in the soap
  • It is also a good idea to moisturize your baby’s skin with a baby-friendly cream right after bath

A baby’s skin is very sensitive so maintaining a proper pH balance will help in treating and preventing major skin problems.