Bet on syndets

WHEN MY DAUGHTER was a newborn, I was sold on using kitchen staples as soap. Spoons of whole moong flour, yellow moong dal flour and channa dal flour were sifted carefully, mixed in water to form a thick paste and applied to her skin during bath time.

Everything went well till she turned eight months old and got her first rash. I allowed her to recover and, after 15 days, tried the mixture again. She got another rash; thankfully, it did not cause her any other visible form of distress.

On paper, homemade pastes or powders for infant care seem a better choice than products with chemicals. Flour mixed with milk/water/malai is good for your baby's tender skin. Rice flour in particular is good as rice is widely considered a low allergenic cereal. But grit, chalk or powdered hay often find their way into lentils and cereals. All of these could irritate your baby's skin.

If you are convinced about the quality of the products you are using, then a rash could be because your child is atopic—hereditary predisposition to allergies.

Also, the immaturity of babies’ skin (thinner, less resistant) and the lack of the natural acid mantle (present in adults) create the potential for a number of skin problems, including atopic eczema, infant Candida, cradle cap, baby acne and napkin dermatitis. In case eczema or napkin dermatitis persist, please take your child to the doctor.

At the time of birth, babies have a pH factor of 6.5. This reduces to 5.5 once the various regulating mechanisms (like temperature and oil glands) kick in and metabolites and flora begin to build up on the skin. This process could take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.

Meanwhile, a good cleansing option for babies, or even adults with sensitive skin, is syndets (synthetic detergents). They are gentle on the skin as their pH factor ranges between 5.5 and 6—close to that of human skin. Check with your doctor or chemist for a range of syndets—bars and bathing gels—for your child.

Remember not all babies are atopic or born with dry/sensitive skin. Adopt a trial-and-error method before foregoing your family's secret beauty regime!

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