Hope you brought your lab coat to this Very Important Science Lesson. (Just kidding.) You don’t need to be a fancy Gro-To formulator to understand pH levels! But you do need to know that pH stands for potential hydrogen, and that it refers to acidity levels in substances and surfaces (like skin).
There’s a pH scale that ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 considered ‘neutral’. (The lower numbers are more acidic, and the bigger numbers are alkaline.) A regular grown-up will likely have a skin pH of between 4 and 6, thanks to their ‘acid mantle’. (A natural, thin, protective film that covers the skin and helps protect against bacteria, chemicals, pollutants and other irritants. Go, acid mantle!)
Not surprisingly though, infant skin is a little different. Newborns have a relatively high pH level (much closer to neutral), which declines as they grow and their skin starts to adapt to the environment around them. Because their skin is three times thinner than adult skin, and lacks adequate barrier protection, any product with high pH levels will dry out baby skin, and can lead to irritation or even infection. Ick. No thanks.
Maintaining your baby’s pH levels
Washing brand new, squishy little bodies with a gentle cleanser is a great place to start. There’s usually no need to bathe new babies every day (they’re not rolling in mud like some toddlers we know, so two to three times a week should do the trick). But when it is time for a dip in the tub, it’s best to steer clear of soap, which can scrub away or neutralise the acid mantle, raising a baby’s pH. Instead use a cleanser that’s soap-free and pH balanced (about 5.5 or very close to is ideal). (Like this one we made. Hey, fancy that!)
Follow up bathtime with a GIANT TOWEL BURRITO! But before that, a creamy moisturiser to help lock in moisture and protect against dryness. Grab your nourishing lotion or oil, and cover their squishy little body, from cute head to tiny toes. If your baby’s skin looks especially dry and flaky, you might want to target those areas twice a day. Make it extra relaxing and soothing by incorporating a gentle baby massage. (It’s a great way to calm everyone the heck down before bed. Also great for toots.)