Evidence-based guidelines to promote best newborn outcomes
Evidence-based guidelines to promote best newborn outcomes

Can soap be used on a baby's skin?

Baby skin is quite different from adult skin, and it is important for nurses and other health care professionals to understand these differences. Soap can alter newborn skin pH, causing skin breakdown and irritation. For example,the Neonatal Skin Care: Evidence-based Clinical Practice Guideline, 3rd Edition recommends the following considerations for cleansers:

  • Choose cleansers that are the least irritating to the skin, do not disrupt the skin surface's normal pH, or cause stinging or irritation of the eyes.
  • Select mild cleansers that have a neutral or mildly acidic pH range of 5.5-7.0.
  • Choose cleansers with preservatives that have demonstrated safety and tolerability for newborns. Preservatives prevent the overgrowth of microorganisms that can occur with normal use, but some preservatives can cause skin irritation or contact dermatitis from time to time.
  • Ideally cleansers should not cause skin irritation, disrupt the normal pH of the skin surface, or cause stinging or irritation of the eye
  • Select mild liquid cleansers or cleansing bars that have a neutral or mildly acidic pH (5.5-7.0) or those that have been shown to have minimal impact on the baby's skin surface pH

Choose cleansers with preservatives that have demonstrated safety and tolerability for newborns. Preservatives are usually needed to prevent the overgrowth of microorganisms that may occur with normal use, but preservatives may result in skin irritation or contact dermatitis. The Neonatal Skin Care Guideline shares a great deal of information on the use of soap. Read the bathing section, beginning on page 12.

AWHONN's evidence-based guidelines can help you determine which products are most suitable for developing newborn skin.

This video with David Mays, PharmD, MBA-Director of Global Scientific Engagement, Skin Care, for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.—will bring the role of cleansing into perspective and clarify the attributes that make a cleanser ideal.

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