The use of olive or sunflower oil on newborn babies’ skin damages the skin barrier, researchers from the University of Manchester recently reported. This latest study adds to the conflicting information about caring for newborn skin and how to manage conditions like atopic dermatitis.
Study author and midwife Alison Cooke, Ph.D., M.Res., R.M., B.Midwif.(Hons), of The University of Manchester, UK, and colleagues tested the effects of the two oils on 115 newborn infants. They divided the babies into three groups: olive oil, sunflower oil, and no oil.
“When compared to no oil, both topical olive oil and topical sunflower oil, used twice daily for 28 days, impeded the development of the skin barrier function from birth,” Dr. Cooke tells Dermatology Times. “Although this was a pilot randomized controlled trial, in order to avoid any potential harm, the study findings suggest that these oils should not be recommended to new parents to use on their baby’s skin until further research is conducted to support his practice,” she adds.
This finding appears to conflict with the little research there is on sunflower oil. While there is no UK national guidance on neonatal skincare, according to Dr. Cooke, there is evidence from studies carried out in South Asia that sunflower oil has an anti-microbial effect, which could benefit premature babies in developing countries.