Eczema made worse by too much cleanliness

According to a survey in Mother and Baby magazine, childhood eczema may be made worse by too much cleanliness. Nearly 60% of young children are now bathed at least once a day, 20% are bathed 'every other day' and just 19% the recommended 'two or three times a week'. Only 1% are bathed 'once a week'. And babies spend an average of 15 minutes in the bath.

Mothers are advised to use plain water on their babies but only 23% actually bathed their babies in plain water. But although 55% of mothers say they 'don't use ordinary soap on their baby’ and 69% don't use 'heavily perfumed products', a major ingredient of most soaps and bath products manufactured for babies and young children is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which is often blamed for inflaming sensitive skin conditions, including eczema.

SLS is a surfactant and also an industrial grade detergent (garages use it to clean engine oil from their floors). In effect, it works by stripping the natural oil from the skin, often leaving it rough and dry.
Mums also regularly use 'antiseptic wipes' on their young children's hands and faces - 60% 'once or twice a day', 25% 'three or four times a day' and 15% 'more than five times a day'. And 15% of mums say they also 'regularly' wipe their baby or child's face and hands with a cloth which has been dipped in 'washing up liquid'.

And 70% of mums admit they 'worry when their child gets dirty' - 10% 'worry greatly'.

In addition, 20% of babies are taken swimming 'every week' and 42% go swimming 'at least once a month’; only 36% of babies or young child 'wear sunscreen' when out in the sun and only 4% of mums use 'an emollient' on their child's skin.

Courtesy of Mother and Baby magazine.

December 2007

Click here for more research on the management of eczema

For links to skin and personal care products click here.