Study: Massaging with olive oil can lead to eczema in babies

A new research reveals that natural oils can also damage your baby's sensitive skin.

One of the best bonding activities that you can enjoy with your newborn is massage. Using oils like olive oil to massage your little one is quite common. But is olive oil good for baby massage? Perhaps not, Mum. Here’s what experts found out about the effects of olive oil on your little one’s skin. 

Is olive oil good for baby massage? Experts have their doubts

Experts from the University of Manchester have shared that parents should avoid using natural oils for baby massage. They say that this can cause long-term damage to your baby’s skin. Using natural oils for massage increases the risks of eczema and other skin problems according to researchers.

is olive oil good for baby massage

Is olive oil good for baby massage? | Image: file image

These oils break down into fatty acids, damaging the skin. The skin also tends to lose water fast. And when irritants come in contact with skin, it leads to dryness, cracks, and of course, eczema. 

Childhood eczema affects as many as one in three kids. Back in 1940’s this ratio was as low as one in every 20 kids. Experts are considering environmental hazards as a major factor in the increased incidence of eczema. But parents’ use of skincare products for their little ones is also an important reason. 

Researchers further mentioned that your baby’s skin is fragile, and using such products — whether natural or artificial — can damage the protective barrier of the skin. 

Is olive oil good for baby massage? An experiment answers this question

Dr Alison Cooke headed a team that conducted research about this. The researchers put 115 newborn babies into three separate groups. Parents in these three groups were then asked to either massage their little ones using olive oil, sunflower oil or not massage at all for a period of 28 days.

is olive oil good for baby massage

Is olive oil good for baby massage? Research says it may lead to eczema. | Image: file image

Upon analysing the skin of babies from each of the groups, researchers found that two groups who had used oils for massage showed a delay in the development of the protective skin barrier. This barrier takes up to two years to develop completely. The team is now conducting research to find out whether there is any connection between this finding and eczema. 

Speaking about other products, the team also went through all published studies on baby skincare. They concluded that there’s hardly any proof that such products are useful to the babies. 

Dr Cooke shares the experiment’s findings

is olive oil good for baby massage

Is olive oil good for baby massage? Massage classes use these oils all the time | Image: file image

Dr Alison Cooke addressed the Royal College of Midwives conference. She shares: “I thought, ‘What about the baby massage classes? They use these oils all the time. What are we going to do?’ To avoid harm to babies, until further research is available, those two topical oils – olive oil and sunflower oil – should not be recommended for treatment of dry skin or for baby massage.”

According to her, dermatologists suggested that using a cream that has liquid and soft paraffin in equal proportions is a better option. Even official guidelines provided by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) mentions that baby skin should not be exposed to skincare products. 

Tips to deal with your baby’s eczema

A few factors that can worsen your baby’s eczema are dry skin, irritants, stress, heat and sweat, and allergens. So, how can you care for your baby’s eczema?

is olive oil good for baby massage

Tips to deal with eczema | Image: file image

  • Moisturisers with ceramides are a good option, and you can get them over the counter too. Other than these, a cream without fragrance — an ointment like petroleum jelly or any good quality moisturiser — can help in retaining your baby’s natural moisture.
  • Lukewarm water baths hydrate and cool the skin. They can also be of help in soothing itchy skin. Ensure that the water is a good temperature. Avoid hot water. Also limit bathing time to roughly 10 minutes. 
  • Make sure that you are using mild, unscented soaps for your baby’s bathing and laundry. Limit the use of soap only to those areas of their body that are dirty. It is more to just rinse off other areas. Dry the skin by patting and avoid rubbing.
  • Dress your baby comfortably. Keep the weather in mind. Wash your baby’s new clothes before you begin using them. 

Source: The University of Manchester, Web MD

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