Adult skin vs. baby skin
Basic differences between baby and adult skin
Your baby has wonderfully soft, smooth skin. That skin has important differences from normal adult skin—differences that could increase your baby’s susceptibility to diaper rash.
- The epidermis, or outer layer of your baby’s skin, is 20-30% thinner in babies and therefore less resilient than adult skin.
- Infant skin both absorbs and loses moisture more quickly than adult skin.
- External irritants penetrate infant skin more easily, as the barrier is not yet fully developed.
- Friction from diapers may make it easier for your baby’s skin to become irritated.
Why a baby’s skin is more fragile
Although a baby’s skin has many similarities to normal adult skin, there are also important differences. Both the structural and functional characteristics of a baby’s skin are different than those of normal adult skin. That is why a baby’s skin requires different care and develops different skin care problems.
The anatomical differences between infant and normal adult skin relate primarily to differences in the surfaces of the skin, the development of skin layers, the distribution and size of certain glands, the organization of nerves and vessels, and differences in hair growth.
Here are some of the functional characteristics that may make your baby’s skin especially vulnerable to diaper rash:
- In babies, the dermis—the layer of the skin that protects the body from mechanical stress and temperature change—is much thinner than in normal adults. This makes baby’s skin less resilient.
- Infant skin can be more susceptible to infection. Infant skin has not yet fully developed the defenses to protect itself from certain bacteria, and babies do not have fully effective immune systems to fight off infection.
- Babies have reduced sweating capability, compared to normal adults. This affects their ability to reduce body temperature through sweating. In addition to affecting body processes, this decreased ability to sweat may contribute to rashes.
- A baby’s skin is especially susceptible to external irritants. This may be related to the relatively higher lipid content of a baby’s skin, which makes it easier for fat-soluble substances (which may be irritants) to pass through the skin. Friction that occurs between clothing and skin, diaper and skin, or two areas of skin breaks down the skin and may make it easier for irritating substances to penetrate a baby’s skin.