pH and Common Baby Skin Conditions

Nearly every baby will experience some form of rash in the first year – ranging from baby acne to eczema and diaper rash. While there are varying causes of these problems, some known and many unknown, one thing we know for sure is that a skin problem is nearly always associated with an imbalance in the skin’s pH level.

pH refers to the acid-base scale, with water and most internal body fluids being at or near a pH of 7. Acids are low on the scale and bases are high on the scale. The ideal pH balance of baby skin is about 5.5.

Managing Baby Skin Problems

We have pharmaceutical steroids, antibiotics, anti-yeast treatments and a whole variety of aggressive approaches to manage skin problems, but one of the most simple and effective tactics is also one of the most overlooked. With skyrocketing rates of eczema and other baby skin problems, it is time to pay closer attention to maintaining a healthy pH level on baby’s skin. Even a small shift in skin pH can create a dramatic change in skin functionality.

For example, There is a type of enzyme (the protease SCCE) in the skin structure that effectively alters skin thickness. Fundamentally, these enzymes help thin out older skin cells so new ones can grow. The enzymes are pH sensitive and will cause over-thinning when the skin pH rises above the ideal level. The effect is quite significant – if the skin pH rises only 2 points on the 14 point scale – from 5.5 to 7.5 – the increase in activity of the thinning enzymes is 50%. When those enzymes are working overtime, the skin barrier is weakened and more susceptible to the penetration of allergens and irritants, which can trigger eczema flair-ups.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Eczema

Further, more than half of baby Eczema cases are a specific kind of eczema called Intrinsic Atopic Eczema. This type of eczema is not associated with allergies or raised antibody levels in the body. Unlike its counterpart, Extrinsic eczema, Intrinsic eczema may be wholly preventable by maintaining a proper pH and moisture level on the skin surface. That means that with proper pH balancing skincare and minor lifestyle adjustments over half of the children suffering with eczema could be easily helped without pharmaceutical interventions.

Skin pH levels are directly correlated with skin permeability, sensitivity and resilience. To maintain a healthy skin barrier, use pH balanced skin cleansers, avoid over bathing, and use lotions, ointments and moisturizers that are free from harsh chemicals, fragrances, parabens and petroleum byproducts.

Keeping Baby’s Skin pH Perfect

The most common way to interfere with baby’s skin pH is the use of inappropriate cleansers and coating it with petroleum based lotions. Castile soaps have a pH near 9 and most cleansers have a pH near 7. Baby’s skin pH should be acidic at about 5.5 and so should her skin care products.

In addition to proper cleansing, protect vulnerable or irritated skin with defensive, occlusive products that will support skin development and proper moisture balance while sealing out wetness and germs. Use healthy, natural lotions, creams and ointments frequently to best protect your baby’s skin. Beyond skincare, use a humidifier in baby’s room, reduce or avoid exposure to sun and wind and avoid overheating baby, which can cause excessive sweating.

Properly maintaining a healthy skin pH will go a long way in treating and preventing typical skin problems like baby acne, eczema, dry skin and diaper rash.

Published on: May 11, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Kim Walls
Kim Walls, M.S., is the mother of two young boys and a serial entrepreneur. Kim has recently launched a new website - to educate expecting parents about the value of skin-to-skin contact in the newborn period.
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My grandson is 8 months as if yesterday and he was diagnosed with hand-mouth-foot virus. He broke out in a rash all over his body.

His doctor had to give him steroid to help because it was so bad. Now he has white splotches all over his face and body. What would be a good cream to use