Parents are putting their children at risk of skin complaints such as eczema, by using natural oils on their little ones.
Babies should not be massaged with oils as they could cause long-term damage to the skin, experts warn, reports Daily Mail.
Experts say parents are putting children at risk of developing eczema and other skin complaints by rubbing them with olive or sunflower oil because they believe the natural products are safe.
Baby massage has become hugely popular among parents who find that gently stroking their child is soothing and helps them bond. It has also been said to help stimulate babies’ brains and improve their digestion.
Researchers from the University of Manchester have found that even natural oils used for baby massage can damage the protective barrier in babies’ fragile skin.
They warned that many other baby skincare products in shops had only passed cosmetic tests and there was no clinical evidence proving they were safe.
Dr Alison Cooke told the Royal College of Midwives conference she was ‘astounded’ when her study showed ‘strong evidence’ oil had an adverse effect on the development of skin barrier. She said: ‘I thought, ‘What about the baby massage classes? They use these oils all the time. What are we going to do?’
The oils break down into fatty acids which damage the skin’s structure, allowing irritants to enter and too much water to escape. This can lead to dryness, cracks and conditions such as eczema.
She added: ‘To avoid harm to babies, until further research is available, those two topical oils – olive oil and sunflower oil – should not be recommended for treatment of dry skin or for baby massage.’
While there was no clear evidence any product was safe, she said dermatologists recommended using 50/50 cream – a mix of liquid and soft paraffin – instead.
For her research, a team followed 115 newborn babies who were divided into three groups. Parents from each group were asked to massage their baby’s leg, arm and stomach daily with either four drops of olive oil, sunflower oil or nothing for 28 days.
The babies’ skin was then analysed and both groups which had been treated with oils showed delayed development of the protective skin barrier. Researchers will now follow the babies to see whether there is a link between this problem and eczema. Babies’ skin is more fragile and permeable than adult skin and it can take up to two years for the barrier to develop fully.
The academics also carried out a separate review of all published studies on baby skincare. They found there was little evidence that any products were beneficial to babies.
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