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    What we know today about applying oils to newborn skin


    Eczema links

    There as been a dramatic increase in eczema over the last few decades, which has been linked with changes to skincare practices for babies, according to Dr. Cooke.

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    “There have been suggestions from various professional circles that the substantial increase in prevalence of atopic eczema cannot be attributed to genetic predisposition alone, and is more likely due to environmental factors, which include the increased availability and use of topical oils,” Dr. Cooke says. “The two oils tested in our study had a negative effect on the skin barrier function. As a damaged skin barrier is a characteristic of atopic eczema, we hypothesize whether there is a link between the use of topical oils from birth and the development of atopic eczema. We suggest that this should be investigated in further research.”

    Dermatologists say the link between such topical oils for newborns and eczema is far from proven.

    The data linking an increased incidence of atopic dermatitis is much stronger for parameters included in the hygiene hypothesis than types of emollients used in infancy, according to Elaine C. Siegfried, M.D., professor of pediatrics and dermatology, Saint Louis University, Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, in St. Louis, Mo. The hygiene hypothesis suggests the decreasing incidence of early exposure to microbial pathogens in Western countries and, more recently, in developing countries is at the root of the increasing incidence of autoimmune and allergic diseases. 2

    READ: Contact dermatitis and common culprits

    Yasmine Kirkorian, M.D.It’s true, there has been a dramatic increase in pediatric eczema (atopic dermatitis, AD) worldwide, according to Yasmine Kirkorian, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics, Children's National Health System, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C. 3

    “This increase cannot be explained by genetics, alone; therefore, researchers have searched for environmental triggers,” she explains. “Evidence is mounting that skin barrier disruption occurs prior to the onset of clinical signs of AD. Therefore it is reasonable to imagine that skincare regimens that disrupt the newborn skin barrier might trigger AD,” Dr. Kirkorian says.

    “Although this is a plausible theory, there is no evidence that newborn or childhood skincare is linked to the rise in AD. On the other hand, there is exciting data from a small randomized-controlled trial that applying emollients to neonates may prevent AD in children at high risk for development of this condition,”4  Dr. Kirkorian says. “There is a larger [randomized controlled trial] currently recruiting in the UK, which we hope will provide more definitive answers on the role of emollients in the primary prevention of eczema in high risk children.”5

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    Organic oils impact the microbiome, particularly the yeast microbiome, like Malassezia, which is the most common yeast on the skin, Dr. Siegfried says.

    “And when you have overgrowth of Malassezia, it can be associated with adverse outcomes. … olive oil is particularly nourishing for Malassezia. And overgrowth of Malassezia has been associated with skin inflammation in a variety of conditions: tinea versicolor neonatal acne, seborrheic dermatitis and even atopic dermatitis. But that has been less well studied,” she explains.

    NEXT: Guideline gap

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is president of Words Come Alive, based in Boca Raton, Florida.

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    • LisaEris
      I grew to the beliefs of my parents that olive oil and sun flower oil are good for the skin. Recently, I also heard that oil does more harm than any good to skin of newborn babies. Though, current studies is conflicting, I also agree, that it is better to encourage new parents to prevent applying both to newborn babies because it might cause dryness on the sensitive skin of your babies.

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