Dry & sensitive skin in babies: an ayurvedic perspective

Dry & sensitive skin in babies - how you can help using herbs and natural oils
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My baby has dry & sensitive skin – how can I help her / him? – this is a question we often receive at Krya.

Dry & Sensitive skin: an alarmingly common problem in babies

One in 5 children in under the age of 5 years in India suffers from eczema , also called atopic dermatitis. It often occurs quite early ,before the baby is two years old. Eczema is different from cradle cap and can occur on any part of the skin, though it often occurs on the cheeks, joints of the arms and the legs. It is characterized by red, dry & sensitive skin that is often itchy and rough. This skin reacts quickly and aggressively to any change in cosmetic products, detergent brand, and sometimes even water hardness.

Dry & Sensitive skin in babies: 1 in 5 children experience this today

Allopathic treatments for dry & sensitive skin: where the cure is worse than the disease

Of grave concern to parents today are the common allopathic treatments given for infant eczema – which are topical steroid creams and in severe cases , oral anti-histamines. Steroid creams act on the skin by shutting down the immune cell in the skin and thereby hoping to reduce the skin inflammation caused by the eczema. This gives a temporary relief to the itching and redness produced in dry & sensitive skin. However, as the effect wears off, which is in 8 hours or so, the itching starts, sometimes with an increased vigor.

Dry & Sensitive skin in abbies: topical creams suggested to control the skin condition may aggravate the situation

However the steroid cream approach is terribly flawed and there is NO evidence that they provide any cure for the disease. On the other hand there is plenty of evidence for a number of alarming side-effects of steroid usage.

Depending on the strength and frequency of steroid usage , these are the side-effects – steroid addiction/dependence, skin thinning and atrophy, breakdown of skin barrier allowing easy entry of pathogens, unusual hair growth on skin, proliferation of visible skin blood cells (so skin appears flushed and red without any cause), discoloration of skin due to poor melanin production etc.

Parents should rightly be very very wary of using steroid creams on their child’s skin.

Factors that determine whether your baby can develop dry & sensitive skin:

Babies are prone to dry & sensitive skin condition through genetic factors – like the parents’s prakriti and the time, season and place of conception . A baby with this genetic pre-disposition develops the actual skin condition due to a number of factors that can trigger the eczema. It is a condition that many times settles down as baby grows up. But we can control and eliminate baby’s discomfort, by preventing a number of modern day factors that contribute to this skin condition.

Dry & sensitive skin in babies: skin condition is influenced by many internal factors

To understand this skin condition better, we must first remember that the human skin is the host to a fantastic micro-ecosystem of microbes called the microbiome. The typical skin microbiome can contain around 1 trillion microorganisms, both helpful and pathogenic. This delicately balanced microbiome is vital to the healthy functioning of the skin – there is a clear difference in the micro-biome of healthy skin and the micro-biome of a person suffering from eczema.

A person builds the skin microbiome ( and the many other microbiomes in the body like the gut flora) over time , starting from the colony inherited from the mother during birth. So c-section babies and formula-fed babies will have a less diverse and different micro-biome from the babies that were born via a normal delivery and were breast-fed exclusively in their first few months. However these are large factors over which many mothers have little control after the event, so what can be done now ?

Building baby’s skin health: steps for concerned parents

This is why we introduced the concept of the skin micro-biome and its vital importance in maintaining healthy skin. The baby’s microbiome is intelligently built by the skin over hundreds of happy accidental acts everyday like contact with the parent , food intake , touching clothes, toys , books, the very air in the home, playing in the sand. So the best approach for a parent is to create an atmosphere that supports the creation of a healthy micro-biome.

Avoid creating an excessively sterile environment

The first step here is to avoid creating an excessively sterile environment – like the usage of a/c for long periods. Another common factor in a new baby household is the excessive use of anti-bacterial wipes and anti-bacterial hand-wash to prevent infections. An excessively sterile environment tends to reward disease causing micro organisms and encourages the growth of super bugs – a case in point is the super bug growth in hospitals across the world.

Dry & Sensitive skin in babies: avoid creating an excessively sterile environment

While the worry is understandable, these chemical sanitizing products are broad-spectrum and kill all bacteria – both good and bad. This creates a hyper-sterile environment, preventing the growth of a healthy microbiome and stunts the baby’s progress in building general immunity by interacting with the environment.

Avoid using bacteria killing and pH altering foaming synthetic soaps and petrochemical cosmetic lotions and creams :

All foaming baby soaps and body washes are harsh on baby’s skin and are broad-spectrum , killing all the bacteria on the skin. They also alter the skin’s pH , disturbing the delicate balance of the microbiome. Read more about what goes into a typical baby soap in our previous post. 

Dry & Sensitive skin in babies: avoid using soaps and synthetic foaming bodywash to cleanse baby's skin

Another common skincare mistake perpetrated by the baby cosmetic brands is the use of mineral oil based lotions and creams, after baby’s bath. This is flawed on 2 levels – one is the use of harmful petrochemical derived ingredients which cannot nourish the skin and also clog the fine channels.

The second error is the application of a oil or cream after the bath. This clogs the pores of skin and does not allow the Srotas of the skin to perform properly.  Hence when baby has dry and sensitive skin, using a petrochemical moisturiser will give skin temporary relief. With the passage of time, heat will build in skin surface and trigger higher itchiness and skin irritation causing baby a lot of discomfort.

Dry & Sensitive skin - clogging moisturisers can aggravate heat in baby's skin

The correct procedure as per Ayurveda is to massage the baby FIRST with a  good herb-infused vegetable oil and then give baby a bath with a herb & grain based cleanser. The pre-bath oil massage keeps skin soft, moisturized and supple.

These intelligent ,rakshogana herbs in the bath powder ( unlike a soap) cleanse baby’s skin gently, do NOT alter the pH, repair minor skin blemishes, kill pathogens and yet allows the healthy bacteria to function -thereby providing the ideal atmosphere for the skin microbiome to develop. You can read more about what goes into the Krya baby ubtans in our previous post here.

Dry & Sensitive skin in babies: intelligent rakshoghna herbs used in baby ubtans cleanse skin intelligently and protect it

The choice of pre-massage oil is very critical for baby’s skin health. Many parents mistakenly believe that pure coconut oil is the right oil to be applied to relieve dry and sensitive skin. Read more about why we DO NOT recommend this practice here. 

The microbiome of a baby is an important subject. we have an ongoing miniseries on the subject, of which the first part can be found here.

For a detailed step-by-step description of an ideal Ayurvedic baby care routine and how to maintain a healthy baby nursery , please read our previous blog post on this subject.  :

To sum up:

There are many internal causes for a baby developing dry & sensitive skin. We will explore some of these in our upcoming posts. However, this sudden rise in skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis and other special skin conditions among babies whose parents have perfectly healthy skin is due to other, external, avoidable factors.

Our microbiome colony is what gives us immunity, good gut health, the ability to digest food and extract nutrients and keeps our skin healthy. It is presented to us as a gift from our maternal line – many of us may have remnants of microbiota which are thousands of years old, passed on from mother to mother, and finally to us.

Unfortunately, this generation old microbiota is in short supply for our babies today – mostly due to the fear driven, poor choices we are making as parents.

We hope this post helped you understand the link between dry & sensitive skin in babies and the effect of some of our cleaning and cosmetic choices. Our upcoming posts will delve more into the establishment of a healthy microbiome in baby and explore more on the subject of sensitive skin condition in baby.

Krya baby products for dry and sensitive skin in Baby:

  • Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
  • Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
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Krya formulation Tuesdays: Krya baby ubtans

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

The problem with synthetic baby products:

As we are fond of saying, just because it smells mild, has the words “gentle or soothing” on it and promises not to cause tears, does not mean it is actually mild or even remotely good for your child.

A Missouri based jury passed a verdict last year asking Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of 72 million dollars to the family of Jacqueline Fox, whose death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use (of over 30 years) of Johnsons baby powder and Shower to shower talcum powder.

A study by the campaign for Safe Cosmetics examined baby and children’s products for the presence of 2 probable human carcinogens – 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. Both of these are not put in intentionally by manufacturers, but are toxic by products that are formed because of the presence of other chemicals in these products. The research study showed that over 61% of the baby products surveyed (across leading brands), contained these 2 chemicals in more than trace quantities.

1.notorious baby skicare

1,4 dioxane is a common contaminant by product when sulphates like SLeS (Sodium Laureth sulphate), polyethylene, polyethylene glycol , ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG are present in products. A quick read of the back of label of many baby products would find many of these chemicals listed in your baby’s “gentle shampoo” or “mild bodywash”.

 

What the 5000 year old science of Ayurveda has to say on looking after babies and their skin:

Ayurveda is considered a divine science in India, handed down directly from the Gods to Man. Ayurveda has 8 branches of which “Kaumara bhrityam” or Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child care forms an important branch.

2.ayurvedic abby care

The texts have an extremely advanced understanding of infant health care and have written down the risks of disease that can be transmitted from nursing mother to infant and the reverse as well. In fact, to maintain the health of the infant, the hygiene and cleanliness to be followed to maintain the health of the breasts is also outlined. This is because there is a very clear knowledge of infection transmission through the breast milk route.

 

Ayurveda recognises that what is applied at an external level on the skin also has the twin capacity of treating the blood underneath – in fact an important aspect of treating blood based disorders is the external application of herb on the skin. This not only reaches the blood but is also said to influence the lymph secretions and the “rasa dhatu”.

 

This deep understanding of the connection between the skin and the body leads us to a very important conclusion: it is unsafe and potentially harmful to apply synthetic substances on a child’s skin. Many of the herb and oil applications advised by Ayurveda on a child’s skin are not just safe and nourishing for the skin, but are also advised to increase a child’s immunity, prevent infections and aid healthy bone and joint development.

3.ayurvedic oil massage benefit

 

The tenets of Ayurvedic baby care:

Ayurveda recommends 5 tenets to care for your baby.

  1. Taila Abhyanga – massage using an appropriate medicated oil
  2. Udvartana and Snana – Cleansing of skin using an appropriate herb and lentil mixture followed by a bath using warm water or warm medicated water
  3. Purification of the nursery and surroundings using prayer, meditation and chanting
  4. Washing the baby’s linen and clothing using a prescribed mixture of herbs
  5. Fumigation of the nursery and baby’s clothing and linen using a prescribed mixture of herbs.

 

In today’s Formulation Tuesday, we will look at how we formulate the products meant for baby’s Udvartana and Snana (bath) (the 2nd tenet in Ayurvedic baby care) as per Ayurvedic principles.

 

The Ayurvedic principles behind skin cleansing for Snana (bath):

Snana in Ayurveda is usually supposed to be done after Taila Abhyanga. This is especially important for babies. Abhyanga Snana is advised to be done daily for a baby starting from the first week of birth. In fact the first bath given to a baby soon after birth is itself an Abhyanga Snana preferably with Bala tailam.

When Snana follows Taila Abhyanga, the baby’s skin requires no external post bath moisturiser.

4.taila bahyanga

To cleanse baby’s skin, Ayurveda recommends using a specific set of grains and certain herbs. The choice of materials does not vary too much, and usually sees only a seasonal variation to accommodate high heat or high cold weather conditions.

 

The base set of cleansing grains are edible lentils and cereals, with Mugda (Mung / Green gram) forming the largest part of the cleansing base. Just like Mugda is a preferred lentil internally because of its dosha balancing and internal cooling and easy to digest properties, externally, it cleanses skin gently without irritating in any way.

5. Mugda

 

Compare the use of edible Green gram to cleanse baby’s skin to the highly toxic , dangerous and skin irritating SLS / SLeS which is a major part of any cosmetic baby cleansing product – where is there any comparison between these 2 completely different mindsets ??!!

 

After the cleansing base, Ayurveda recommends adding specific skin improving herbs. As baby’s skin is still in the growth and formation phase, these herbs help improve the skin’s resistance to harmful micro-organisms, cleanse the subtle channels in skin (srotas) well, and maintain the skin’s acid mantle and barrier function.

 

In addition, Ayurveda recommends adding vata reducing and warmth improving herbs to baby’s Snana bath powder. Young infants are especially prone to mucous accumulation and kapha based illnesses like colds. Also, because of their rapid growth, they may also have unexpressed aches and pains as they learn to crawl or walk. Adding warmth giving and vata reducing herbs, helps control excess kapha atleast to some extent, and also soothes the baby and reduces minor aches and pains.

6.warmth adding

 

Besides these, depending upon gender, Ayurveda also recommends adding body hair growth reducing and complexion enhancing herbs to the Snana powder.

 

These are the general principles. We will now see how we formulate Krya’s baby ubtans for baby boys and girls based on the above.

 

The Krya baby ubtans: for baby girls and boys

If there is one universal favourite among all our products across production, customer fulfilment, and marketing and R&D, it would have to be the Krya baby ubtans. The Krya range of baby ubtans is also a very strong consumer favourite.

It is often gifted by regular Krya consumers to their family or friends as soon as a new baby makes her (or his) way into the world.

The Krya baby cleansing products have 3 types: the ubtan for baby girl and boy which have a slightly different set of herbs used as per gender. We also have a unisex baby bodywash – this is for folks with twins that span both genders, or for people who want something slightly non traditional.

7.krya baby ubtans

Our baby ubtan formulations differ quite significantly from our ubtans meant for older children and adults. The differences lie in the number of ingredients that go into each product and the granularity of the product.

Our ubtans for adults sometimes contain upto 30 – 35 different herbs, grains and lentils. However, for infants, we restrict the number of ingredients that go into each formulation. We pick herbs and grains that are specifically mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts for the use of small infants. Atleast 90% of the ingredients we use continue through every single batch – so the seasonal fluctuation in our baby formulations are much lesser compared to our adult formulations.

The granularity of our baby ubtan formulations is also extremely fine – finer than even our face wash products. This ensures that the paste you apply on baby’s skin is very soft and soothing and does not irritate skin in any way.

8. fine sift

 

Grains and herbs which go into the Krya baby ubtans:

Cleansing base:

As is recommended in Ayurveda, Mugda (green gram) forms the main cleansing base in the Krya baby ubtans. The Mugda we use is organically grown from desi (native) seeds. To this, we added a small amount of our medicated Mugda (Mugda processed in a special herb decoction meant to improve skin complexion, blood circulation and lustre). We also add a small amount of organically grown, indigenous red rice – this is an extremely good skin cleanser and polisher and helps maintain the delicate skin barrier of a baby’s skin.

9.medicated lentil

 

Herbs which improve skin’s barrier function and immune response:

Krya’s baby ubtans use herbs specially recommended in Ayurveda and traditional medicine to improve skin’s barrier function, and actively keep away harmful micro-organisms form baby’s skin. Some of these herbs include Ram Tulasi, Krishna Tulasi, Neem, Bael, Amla and Tree Turmeric. These herbs also help prevent skin rashes, prickly heat and other pitta based conditions on skin. They are also excellent Srota cleansers – and help remove toxins and hidden dirt from baby’s skin, gently yet effectively.

10.vilwa

 

We choose these herbs in the right balanced proportion – to ensure the doshas are balanced and maintained post cleansing without loss of heat.

 

Herbs which improves skin’s lustre and circulation:

As we have mentioned, Ayurvedic skin care for baby is also designed to give baby’s skin the right foundation to develop properly. Therefore herbs which help improve blood circulation within the skin, help eliminate toxins properly and improves skin’s natural complexion are also used in the Krya baby ubtans.

 

Manjishta and Mulethi (Indian liquorice) are 2 such important herbs we use. Both are excellent skin rasayana herbs in Ayurveda and help maintain the rakta dhatu properly and ensure that skin tone is even and lustrous. Tree turmeric which we mentioned in the previous section is also a similarly important herb.

11.manjistha and mulethi

Zeodary (sati) is an important wild herb that is used in the Krya baby ubtans. It is a very strong skin lustre improving herb and also adds a subtle camphoraceous and warming fragrance to the Krya baby ubtans. Similarly Amla (Indian gooseberry), a very valued Ayurvedic herb, goes into the Krya baby ubtans. Amla is an important source of Vitamin C, and is a very important skin polisher and booster of natural lustre and radiance.

 

Warming and vata dosha reducing herbs:

As we have mentioned above, warming and vata reducing herbs are a key part of any Baby Snana ubtan formulation. These herbs are added to ensure the baby does not catch a cold after oil application and Snana, and also to improve baby’s overall immunity towards mucous formation.

These herbs are also effective at reducing muscle soreness and aches and pains that baby may develop due to the use of their limbs.

The Krya baby ubtans use warming and vata balancing herbs like Vacha (Acorus calamus), Indian borage (Karpooravalli / Ajwain ki patta). Both are effective in reducing excess water retention in the body, and help with balancing Vata dosha which is cold and cramping.

12.indian borage

Vacha is very soothing when applied all over the stomach and is often sued externally to soothe cramps and colic pains.

 

Deodorizing herbs

Everyone wants a sweet smelling baby at the end of a bath to play with. What better than naturally sweet smelling Ayurvedic herbs that are also great for the skin for your baby’s bath? Krya’s ubtans use organically grown or wild cultivated flowers like Rose, Chamomile and Lotus petals – these flowers come packed with beautifully aromatic natural oils and skin softening and conditioning nutrients, which are not just great to smell but truly good for skin.

13.rose

Our careful manufacturing process ensures the delicate floral aroma is retained through our process by ensuring slow drying and low speed grinding to retain the natural oils in the petals.

 

Special herbs for baby girls:

Finally, to complement all these herbs, the Krya ubtan for baby girls additionally uses 2-3 varieties of turmeric: we use Aromatic turmeric, South Indian turmeric and Himalayan Turmeric. These 3 varieties of turmeric add a beautiful golden glow to the Krya baby girl ubtan and add a warm, camphoraceous fragrance as well. Ayurveda recommends using this to even out complexion and slow and thin down the growth of body hair for baby girls. Together, these 3 varieties of turmeric also boost skin’s functioning and improve skin’s immune response.

14. turmeric

 

To sum up:

On Formulation Tuesdays, we generally focus a lot on how we make the formulations we discuss for that day, and our philosophy behind the herbs, oils and manufacturing process followed.

I hope this background was useful to you and you were able to understand, appreciate and resonate with the differences between how Ayurveda cares for your baby’s skin (vs. synthetic cosmetic products which simply claim to be gentle or soothing). Our ongoing Formulation Tuesday series is designed to improve transparency and give you a greater understanding into how we think about, design and manufacture our products. We believe that greater transparency promotes better choices and helps you make better decisions on what you apply on yourself, your child or use in your home.

 

If you have any questions on our products, the philosophy behind our products, or a specific question on skin and hair, please do get in touch with us.

Krya’s baby range can be explored here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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