Almost nothing prepares new moms for the monumental changes in lifestyle and priority that they face when taking care of a newborn. Not surprisingly, skincare is typically included in the many things that take a nosedive in priority. How do you keep up with skincare, and what about your newborn’s skin?
Life is not the same; new moms will tell you. It’s certainly not just skincare that takes a nosedive—everything less urgent than cleaning up vomit and poop is more or less ignored. Parenting in the first few years is often about ruthless cutting—namely, if it takes longer than a few minutes and it’s non-essential, it’s out. All the pre-parental vows are out the window.
You’ve quickly learned that time is of the essence. Many of you also discovered a new realization… that skincare was not that important in the hierarchy of priorities after all. When you have a newborn that demands your attention 24/7, you learn to let go of many things and realize that some things aren’t important as you thought them to be. Even with skincare, you learn that less can be more. Chances are that you won’t have the time or the energy to invest in complex routines. The good news is that by going back to the basics, skincare can be quick and effective; this is a lesson for dads as well, who balk at the idea of spending time every day on skincare.
Finally, skincare isn’t just for adults. There is a popular idea that babies are supposed to have perfect skin (smooth as a baby’s bottom), but this is actually untrue. Babies are still in the earliest stages of developing their immune defenses and are very prone to a variety of skin problems, and proper care is important. Be sure to educate yourself about caring for your baby’s skin.
If you can only hang on to one skincare habit, it’s sun protection. It’s the least complicated, and the most important. The routine doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply slap sunscreen onto the sun-exposed parts of your skin before going out. Even more simple, wear long sleeves, and cover up with a hat; it’s one of the simplest but also one of the most effective ways to protect your skin.
As for your newborn, most dermatologists don’t recommend applying sunscreens until they are around 6 months old. This doesn’t mean that they should be exposed to the sun, however. Make sure that they are properly clothed, and don’t leave them sun-exposed as their thin skin isn’t able to protect them well from UV light yet. Once your newborn becomes a toddler, make sun protection a lifelong habit for your child. In the first two decades of life, people are overwhelmingly more likely to be exposed to sunlight than at any other time. While the body has ways of hiding the damage in its teens and twenties, the damage is still accumulating in the body and will show up as wrinkles, blotches, and elastosis in the thirties and later. Your children will certainly thank you for their better quality skin later in life.
Moisturizers are sometimes cut out of the routine. Truthfully, if you’ve thought about cutting it out of your routine, you likely aren’t suffering from dry skin yet. Unfortunately, many new moms complain about dry skin, and hormonal imbalances can cause disruptions to your skin as well. With age too, the skin tends to become dry, so many factors might be at play if you notice that dry skin is suddenly becoming a problem. Keep some moisturizers in the bathroom. When you get a chance to shower (I know, sometimes even that opportunity can be scarce!) quickly apply the moisturizer while your body is still damp. After a quick pat down with a towel, your skin is ready to absorb the moisturizer, and seal in moisture efficiently.
Think babies can’t have dry skin? Think again. Baby skin is incredibly thin and doesn’t yet produce enough sebum (skin oil) to keep it properly moisturized. It’s important to protect your baby’s skin by moisturizing properly after a bath (which should be short–and use lukewarm water). Use baby lotion or oil that’s usually designed to be hypoallergenic, which reduces the chances that your baby’s skin will react poorly to it, even on days that you aren’t bathing. If you notice chronic dry skin and rashes, visit your pediatrician.
Cleansing is rarely cut outright, but many new parents often fall into a simplified routine during the first few months of a newborn when showering can become a rare luxury. As you’ll be with your baby almost 24/7, you will often end up adopting the same cleansing practices. Shower and bathe when your baby does, and use the same products (yes, baby liquid cleansers work for adults too) together. Remember that while many products are too harsh for your baby, the opposite is not true. Quite often, adults should be using the more sensitive baby products for their skin.
One of the less intuitive lessons for parents is that babies don’t need as much cleansing as parents often think. Twice or three times a week is plenty to give your baby a full bath. If the water in your area is hard, it can quickly dry out your baby’s thin skin, causing it to become dry. Simply wiping your baby down after a diaper change or their face with a moist cloth will take care of the more regular cleansing needs. Remember to use lukewarm water as your newborn’s skin is still thin. Try to avoid the harsh soaps, and use baby lotion or a liquid cleanser that is designed for a baby’s sensitive skin.