Bathing and cleansing in newborns from day 1 to first year of life: recommendations from a European round table meeting

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2009 Jul;23(7):751-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2009.03140.x.


Background: Development of the skin barrier continues up to 12 months after birth; therefore, care must be taken when cleansing and bathing infants' skin. Available guidelines for skin care in newborns are, however, limited. In 2007, the 1st European Round Table meeting on 'Best Practice for Infant Cleansing' was held, at which a panel of expert dermatologists and paediatricians from across Europe aimed to provide a consensus on infant bathing and cleansing.

Outcomes: Based on discussions at the meeting and a comprehensive literature review, the panel developed a series of recommendations relating to several aspects of infant skin care, including initial and routine bathing, safety while bathing, and post-bathing procedures. The panel also focused on the use of liquid cleansers in bathing, particularly relating to the benefits of liquid cleansers over water alone, and the criteria that should be used when choosing an appropriate liquid cleanser for infants. Alkaline soaps have numerous disadvantages compared with liquid cleansers, with effects on skin pH and lipid content, as well as causing skin drying and irritation. Liquid cleansers used in newborns should have documented evidence of their mildness on skin and eyes, and those containing an emollient may have further benefits. Finally, the panel discussed seasonal differences in skin care, and issues relating to infants at high risk of atopic dermatitis. The panel further discussed the need of clinical studies to investigate the impact of liquid cleansers on skin physiology parameters on newborns' and infants' skin.

Conclusions: Bathing is generally superior to washing, provided basic safety procedures are followed, and has psychological benefits for the infant and parents. When bathing infants with a liquid cleanser, a mild one not altering the normal pH of the skin surface or causing irritation to skin or eyes should be chosen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Baths*
  • Europe
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care*
  • Infant, Newborn