Once the early days of warm water and a washcloth have passed, you'll want to seek out products that have been specially formulated for children, since adult formulas contain ingredients that can be hard on your little one's sensitive skin. When you can, choose natural or organic products, and keep things as simple as possible.

Beyond basic care, some babies have skin issues that need special attention. Most of the more common skin ailments, like cradle cap and eczema, can be addressed with simple, nonprescription products.

Remember, even though bathing your baby is a necessity, it's also a great opportunity for you to have fun together. So get ready to embrace bubbles, squirters, and cute little hooded towels—this might just turn out to be one of your favorite parts of parenting!

your basic choices

These products will keep your child looking fresh and smelling sweet, while keeping skin soft and healthy.

foam wash
This is a gentle formula, just for newborns, that is usually soap-free and that can be used to gently cleanse both hair and body.

two-in-one wash
Like foam wash, this product does double duty as both shampoo and body wash, but it comes in formulas for both newborns and older babies.

soap and body wash
Whether you use bar soap or body wash is your choice, but you'll want something a little more effective as your child becomes more active.

shampoos and conditioners
These are just like the products you use, only gentler. For those who live in cold climates, leave-in conditioners can help dry hair and scalps.

hair products
As baby's hair grows longer and fuller, a good de-tangler can save you from snarls; a light hair gel for kids will make baby-fine hair do your bidding.

bubble bath and bath milk
Every kid loves bubble bath, and while you shouldn't use it every day, you'll definitely want to keep some on hand. Bath milk is a gentle, suds-free option that's made for sensitive or dry skin.

moisturizers
If your baby has dry skin, there are lots of options available. On the lightest end of the spectrum is a moisturizing spray that's easy to rub in. In the middle are lotions and easily spreadable milk formulas. If you need a heavier moisturizer, try a cream or oil.

diaper cream
There are basically two types of diaper cream: those that protect against diaper rash (often known as barrier creams) and those intended to treat a rash. Either way, these creams come in a range of consistencies, from sheer balms to thicker creams to pastes. These may or may not include a zinc oxide barrier to protect your child against moisture for longer durations.

sunscreens
Children under the age of one need extra sun protection because of their thin and sensitive skin. Kid-formula sunscreens come in both lotions and light sprays, and a sunscreen stick is a quick and easy way to protect your baby's face.

general guidance

Sensitive care is especially important for babies, but it's a good habit to continue even for toddlers. Here are some terms to look for and what they mean.

gentle: fewer chemicals and less alcohol

hypo-allergenic: formulated against allergic reactions

all-natural: contains no synthetic ingredients

organic: made from certified organic ingredients

Most pediatricians agree that you should avoid products containing mineral oil, petroleum, and lanolin when possible. Parents should also be cautious of fragranced products. While many are hypoallergenic, perfumes affect babies differently, so fragrance-free is a safe default.

Products come in every price range. Some stores offer bulk discounts with case purchases or as part of a loyalty program during your first years of parenthood, when consumption of products is particularly high.

features to look for

  • Tearless. Try as you might to avoid it, soap and shampoo will eventually get in your baby's eyes, so look for tearless formulas that won't sting.
  • Special formulas. If your child has eczema or extra-sensitive skin, look for formulas that are made to help—some are now available without a prescription.

usage tips

  • Most babies will have some form of dry skin not long after birth as their skin adjusts to the outside world. Lotions may or may not help, but if the condition persists, talk to your pediatrician.
  • Some formulas are concentrated, so only a little is required. Read your product instructions carefully.
  • Don't fret if your baby gets acne during the first couple of months. With patience, time, and gentle, warm-water cleaning, it will disappear as quickly as it appeared.

accessories

  • Hand-wipes. These are useful to have around to clean your hands after you've applied sunscreen.
  • Belly-button swabs. Plain cotton swabs or pre-dipped alcohol swabs help with the daily care of a healing umbilical chord.

additional information

sunscreen tips for baby

Do babies wear sunscreen? You bet! Studies have shown that sun damage occurring early in childhood increases the potential risk of skin cancer later in life. And children under the age of one need extra sun protection because of their thin and sensitive skin, even if you're only going for a short stroll.

In addition to staying out of the midday sun and dressing your baby in protective clothing, the best way to protect your child is with a pure physical sunscreen. As opposed to chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV radiation on the skin and then disperse the energy into harmless rays, physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin, reflecting, scattering, and blocking UVA and UVB radiation.

Only physical sunscreens (or combination sunscreens, which offer both physical and chemical blocks) have broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, which means they give you the best protection available. Physical sunscreens are also less irritating, since they don't get absorbed into the top layer of skin.

Chemical and physical sunscreens contain different ingredients, and the best way to tell you're getting a physical sunscreen is to look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the label. If you do use a chemical sunscreen, apply it half an hour before going outside so it has a chance to absorb, and make sure it's PABA-free.

Whichever you choose, shoot for an SPF of at least 30. Anything less doesn't offer enough protection, and anything more doesn't really make that big of a difference, as long as you're applying it as directed. Be generous with the sunscreen, and don't overlook smaller areas like ears, nose, and back of neck. If you're using a spray-on sunscreen, spray up close to make sure it doesn't dissipate before making it to the skin.

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