How often to shower or bathe is an individual preference. Some do it every day or even twice a day while others make it a more scarce ritual. The definition of clean has earlier been synonymous with sterile. Yet this idea has been heavily challenged the last few years by new knowledge about the microbes living on your skin. We now know that over-cleansing will disturb your skin flora. It is, however, not only the frequency of showers that matters..
Let's start from the start. The moment a baby is leaving the womb and entering the world the skin is covered in a white waxy coating called the vernix. This used to be cleansed off straight away by the midwives while weighing and measuring before giving the baby to the mother. We now know that the vernix is there for a reason. It helps in protecting the baby from outside pathogens, moisturizes the baby's delicate skin and aids in the healing of wounds. Letting the vernix be soaked by the skin and then wait up to a week after that with the first bath is a great start for the skin. If you feel the need to get rid of milk after mealtime, try using a cloth with just oil or oil and some lukewarm water and gently dab away the milk.
While it may be easy to avoid over-cleansing a baby, there will come a time (around food introduction and playing in the sandbox) when you may feel more regular baths are necessary. Then there are things you can do to nourish and preserve the skin flora.
For one (but not the only) the frequency and lengths of showers or baths can affect the skin. You may have noticed that the skin can become dry when showering too often. The dryness is a symptom of microbiome imbalance. If bathing less than once a day is not an option for you or your child there are other things you can focus on instead. For example the temperature of the water. Try to avoid using hot water in order not to rinse off too much of the skin's sebum. Rinsing away the sebum creates imbalances in your natural oil production.
Exfoliation is another debated topic. It is true that you do want to get rid of dead skin cells. A healthy and balanced microbiome, however, does this for you. There are bacterias that actually eat dead skin cells. We recommend not exfoliating your children's skin. For yourself we would go with a super gentle exfoliation no more than once a week and carefully moisturize after.
Moisturizing is an underestimated act of health. We used to believe this was for the comfort of the skin or as a beauty treatment. Moisturizing is however really important to maintain an environment where microbes can thrive and to strengthen the skin barrier.
The skin has an invisible acidic mantle with the purpose to maintain a pH around 5. The pH is essential for the life of microbes. Therefore, this is something you should keep an eye on when choosing what products to put on your skin. More than an unfavorable pH level, skincare products can contain harsh ingredients affecting your microbiome. A few substances to look out for are; Parabens, Sulfates, Alcohols, Propylene glycol and EDTA.
There are many varieties of soap, and although some of them may be beautifully handcrafted containing only natural ingredients, all soaps do have the effect that they cleanse away bacterias - both good and bad ones. In some cases this is desirable. The positive must be weighed against the negative. We practice using soap on our hands and only when necessary.
So what should you cleanse and moisturize with?
We recommend using lukewarm water (or if you dare a cold shower) and oil. Oil helps in dissolving dirt and in our cleansing oil we use castor oil that has the ability to penetrate the pores and bind to any residuals, leaving the skin clean and moist. We actually prefer oils (yet slightly different ones) to moisturize with as well. This is due to the fact that oils do not disturb the acidic mantle and do not need any preservatives. They are also great at mimicking our natural sebum. There are however good lotions as well. A lotion can be great to add on top of oil when battling the driest and problematic skin.
As always, one step at a time. Trying to change your routines overnight never seems to be a successful long term strategy. The skin often needs some time to get used to your new products or regime. So try one of the things above that appeals to you and start from there.