When it comes to skincare, it’s often something we neglect for ourselves as adults until well into our later years of life – typically when we start noticing lines and wrinkles for the first time and get ourselves in a panic.
All of that can feel a million miles from skincare for babies, especially when we associate baby skin with perfection. But the truth is, babies and young children have more vulnerable skin that needs greater protection than we often give it. There are numerous conditions from, eczema to baby acne that effect people most commonly in the first year of their life.
A face cream for your little one can sound like an unnecessary luxury, but it's more essential than many of the other products we’re usually quick to give our kids.
Baby’s skin is different to adult’s skin, and it needs looking after differently
For a start, baby and young children’s skin is naturally less moisturising than adult skin.
Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) are fewer in babies and young children (only raising to adult levels once they reach 5 years old) so providing natural moisturising support through creams and lotions is important.
Also babies are far more prone to atopic dermatitis – or what we call eczema – and this is an important reason to be diligent in doing two things:
Avoid over bathing your baby
Too many baths, even with the mildest, most natural cleansers will dry out your baby’s skin. Natural Moisturising Factors are water soluble and spending too long in the water effectively dissolves them. So giving daily baths to your little ones can actually dehydrate your baby’s skin.
Use moisturisers daily, including face creams
Kid’s skin is thinner (approx. 3-5 times thinner) than mature skin and has a more delicate hydrolipidic film which means there are less layers of skin protecting your little one from the outside world. Learn more here. Adding a regular moisturiser to their skin provides extra support to that skin barrier.
Why do babies need face creams?
Skin on the face is even thinner and more delicate than on the rest of the body.
Skin on your body is thicker and has a slower cell turnover rate. That means using gentle exfoliation on our bodies, as well as skin-softening emollients is important to keep skin from drying out – a particular challenge with babies and young children.
Faces need separate attention to protect those thin and delicate layers of skin that are already challenged. Particularly in winter, more exposed facial skin on young children is prone to skin damage and so there is all the more reason to give additional moisturising support to your little one’s face.
Baby lotion vs baby cream: What’s the difference and why does it matter?
We’ve been talking about using face creams, but what does that term really mean? You can buy moisturising lotions or creams for babies and there’s often very little explanation of what the difference is and why that matter
Baby face cream is thicker than lotion
A moisturising cream typically means that the product has a reduced water content and higher oil content. This can mean it’s a more intensely hydrating product that won’t easily evaporate. This can be preferable for your baby’s face, especially in winter months as it provides longer-lasting protection from the elements. That’s often why sun cream is ‘greasy’ as well, it’s an oil-based barrier that will give longer-lasting skin protection than something water-based that will evaporate more quickly.
Baby lotion has a higher water content than baby cream
Lotions crucially are distinct from creams because they have a higher water content. That can make them easier to apply with a smoother texture that’s more easily spread around. Those qualities can make lotion particularly useful for the skin on your child’s body. Quick application over a wide area can be really useful when you’re persuading a toddler to stand still for more than 5 seconds. It can also be very useful under clothes, with less of a sticky residue left hanging about to make clothing uncomfortable. Faster absorption is fine for bodies that are also less exposed to the elements than faces and hands for example.
…so what is a moisturiser?
Moisturiser is just a catch all branding term. Both lotions and creams are moisturisers. Check the diagram above to fully understand the different types of moisturisers that is suitable for your child.
How to choose a good face cream for babies and children
There are a lot of face cream options for babies and children.
Like all products for little ones who have un-matured skin, it’s best to avoid harsh chemicals or preservatives that are more easily absorbed by their skin while they’re young. Formulas that have a higher degree of water often also include more preservatives and absorption aides, so erring towards a more oil-based formula is a good option.
Look for a face cream with a non-greasy formulation. It’s unlikely you’ll need to apply an ointment or straight petroleum jelly to the skin on your baby’s face, so this won’t be a major issue. But there are promises from many brands of ‘non-greasy’ formulations that don’t always stack up. Lotions tend to be water-based and so less greasy, but they also tend to contain more preservatives as water-based moisturisers go out of date more quickly with bacteria building. There is somewhat of a trade-off then between non-greasy formulas and more preservative and additive rich lotions. We suggest opting for the greasier, heavier skin protecting barrier oils in the winter and something lighter – like a natural lotion – for the summer.
Look for a face cream that’s easy to apply. Here we again have a bit of a trade-off between lotions and creams as water-based lotions will be easier to apply and absorb. When choosing a face cream for your baby, embrace the fact it will be harder to use than a body lotion, and appreciate that it is at least a much small area. Using a combination of a lotion for the body and a face cream might be the way to go to get the best results without too much fussing.
4 best facial creams for babies and children
Best affordable facial cream
Face creams aren’t always affordable, but a little goes a long way, so while the initial price might seem high, these are long lasting products. Baby dove offers the best value baby moisturising cream and while not specifically a face cream, it will work perfectly with a higher intensity, oil-based formula than their much smoother lotion product which works great for your baby’s body.
Best planet-based face cream
Waleda Baby Natural Calendula Face Cream uses the Waleda signature oranic calendula extract to protect and nourish. It’s quick to absorb and a super natural choice for your baby or child.
Best long-lasting face cream
No one wants to be applying face cream again and again, so this all in one solution that lasts hours from Amazon’s own brand – Mama Bear – is a great option for quick and easy coverage that you can count on.
Easiest face cream to apply
Mustela Hydra Bebe is super easy to apply and can even be given to a toddler or young child to rub into their own skin. A natural and smooth formula that’s long lasting.