A right baby cleanser can make bathing an enjoyable bonding routine for you and your baby. Read on to understand your baby’s skin and how to choose cleanser products.

Skin care product selections should be based on the child’s age, the season of the year and the state of baby’s skin. Cleansers are used to remove dirt, sweat, sebum and oils from the body. However, it may be noted, use of poor quality cleanser can be a trigger for skin tightness, dryness, erythema, eczema, irritation and itchiness of skin.


Understand your baby skin – In the context of a cleanser       

A baby’s skin pH is always higher than the adult skin pH. A full term baby skin pH is neutral and ranges between 6.3 to 7.5. Skin pH drops and becomes acidicpH (5) in the first two weeks, similar to the skin surface pH of adults (Telofski et al, 2012). Maintaining the skin pH is very important. Poor choice of products can change the skin pH leading to disturbance on the skin barrier structure and functioning. The result, leaving your baby skin vulnerable to toxins, allergens and microbial attacks. Maintaining the acidic pH nature of the skin is important for skin shedding, maintenance of permeability barrier and the structure of the top layer of the skin (stratum corneum) (Cork et al, 2006).

Acidic pH also assists the skin by promoting the growth of diverse harmless or beneficial microorganisms that colonise the human skin surface (Grice and Segre, 2011). Beneficial microorganisms on skin is gradually acquired from birth, and is thought to be critical for the effectiveness of the skin’s immune response against disease-causing bacteria, and possibly for the development of a healthy skin barrier and systemic immune system (Capone et al, 2010). Therefore, it is important that the application of any skin care product should not cause any significant shift in the skin pH.


Types of cleansers and how good are they for your baby skin?

Cleansers contains one or more surfactant which carries out the cleaning action. The type and amount of surfactant in a cleanser has a bearing on its drying and irritancy potential (Mukhopadhyay, 2011).

Soap bars and syndents are the main categories that are currently available in the market. Often these products are marketed with many adjectives such as sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, moisturising cleanser, soap free etc. The meaning of these adjectives for a consumer will be a different topic and will be discussed in future. In this article, let’s understand some basic tips on how to identify a good cleanser.


Soap, how good are they for your baby’s skin?

Soap is a powerful degreaser that emulsifies (dissolves) fat and removes lipids present on the skin. Loss of these lipids cause dryness to the skin. Most of the soaps are alkaline in nature with a pH ranging between 9 -12. Studies show washing your skin with soap can increase the pH of the skin by 3 units for more than 90 minutes (Cork et al., 2006).

Super-fatted soaps is a subcategory of soaps which is an improvised version of the conventional soap. These soaps contain humectants (eg. glycerine, sorbitol) and or lipids (triglycerides, lanolin, paraffin, stearic acid, or mineral oils) to minimise the dry skin effects. Soaps are usually kept in open and can be inhabited with microbes and other environmental impurities.

Based on the above facts, it can be said that a soap may not be one of the best choice for your baby skin.



These are non-soap based synthetic detergents and have a pH in the range of mostly neutral or acidic (pH 7 or less). Formulation of syndent is very much different than that of soap. Syndents contain high amounts of fatty acids (eg. Coconut fatty acid) and are found to be less irritating compared to the soap.


Composition of a good cleanser product

A good cleanser should contain the following attributes:

  • pH of the product close to skin’s acidic pH of 5
  • Mild surfactant for your cleansing needs
  • Presence of a good emollients to replenish or compensate the removed skin lipids during the cleansing process.
  • Fragrance free
  • Preservative free or use of safe preservatives


Things that your cleanser should not do to your baby skin

A cleanser for your baby should not

  • destroy its natural acidity
  • damage the protective hydrolipid coating,
  • dry the skin or
  • induce any changes in the balance of the bacterial microflora of the skin 


Tips for safe cleaning routine

  1. Use cleansers only when you need to remove dirt, sweat, sebum and oils from the skin.
  2. An ideal soap, body wash or cleanser should have pH between 4.5 -6.5.


Potential effects due to poor choice of products

Atopic dermatitis or eczema, irritant contact dermatitis, ichthyosis, rashes and increase in acne are some of the effects that may occur.



Telofski S, Morello AP, Mack Correa MC, et al. (2012). The infant skin barrier: can we preserve, protect, and enhance the barrier? Dermatol Res Pract 2012: 198789.

Cork MJ, Robinson DA, Vasilopoulos Y, et al. (2006). New perspectives on epidermal barrier dysfunction in atopic dermatitis: gene-environment interactions. J Allergy Clin Immunol 118: 3-21.

Grice EA, Segre JA. (2011). The skin microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol 9: 244-53.

Mukhopadhyay, P (2011). Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian J Dermatol. 2011 Jan-Feb; 56(1): 2–6.