For Aromatherapy Awareness Week I am sharing the reasons I recommend not using essential oils for baby and instead advise fragrance free products for their first three months and preferably longer.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, derived from plants, individually or blended in combinations for therapeutic benefits. It works both through the effect of smell and via the inhalation and absorption of chemical constituents contained within them.
While we might love the beautiful aromas of these and recognise their value in helping with certain ailments there are some good reasons for not using essential oils for baby skin.
Do Not Disturb – One very useful feature of some essential oils are their antibacterial properties, however for babies exposure to certain bacteria is essential for normal immune system development so it is best not to interfere with this process.
Scents and Sensitivity – When a baby is born their skin is much thinner and more delicate than an adults and is therefore vulnerable to damage and the development of skin problems. As they are more prone to irritation and contact sensitivity anything which can aggravate, such as fragrance, is best avoided. Beyond those initial three – six months, essential oils can be therapeutically beneficial if used appropriately (only a few essential oils are suitable for use on babies and these need to be used in very small dilutions). Some babies however, continue to have sensitive skin which can be aggravated by the chemical components of essential oils. If your child suffers from eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis or there is a family history, exercise caution. Do a patch test on the skin before using scented products or err on the side of caution and stick with fragrance free.
Keep it Calm – Fragrances are usually there to appeal to the adult but for babies strong smells can be too stimulating and overwhelming. Some baby products marketed to encourage calming may therefore have the opposite effect. Especially when using a product designed for all over use, such as baby massage oil, a combination of products or a product intended for use on the face, fragrance free is the best choice.
Stay Fresh – The most suitable base oils for baby skin are high in linoleic fatty acids and can be prone to rancidity if not stored carefully and protected with the addition of an appropriate antioxidant. Oils should be smelled before use to ensure they are still fresh and ready for use. Essential oils and fragrance can mask the natural scent of base oils, meaning you are not alerted to any deterioration.
Baby Bonding – Finally, why cover a baby’s natural scent? Odour is an important reciprocal element of bonding in the early months, so it is important for them as well as you. What a baby really loves to smell is their parent and not a plant essence and there is no nicer smell in my opinion than a baby. Unless, of course, it’s time to change their nappy!
If you would prefer to use unscented for your baby the Nom Nom Baby Range is made without added fragrance, either artificial or from essential oils.
Jayne Russell has over twenty years of experience as a pre’ and postnatal massage and nutritional therapist and is the founder of Nom Nom – award winning, certified organic pregnancy and baby skincare. Sign up for your free skincare guide “10 Steps to Super Healthy Baby Skin” at nomnomskincare.com