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Olive, Sunflower Oils are not Good for a Baby’s Skin, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 14, 2015 12:45 PM EST

Oils are often considered to be good moisturizers for the skin. However, according to a new study, researchers found that olive and sunflower oils, in particular, can actually be detrimental when used on infants.

For this study, the researchers from The University of Manchester set out to examine the effects of using olive and sunflower oils on babies' skin because these oils are often recommended by midwives as treatment for dry skin. A group of midwives at Saint Mary's Hospital helped recruit 115 newborns for the pilot study. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) supported the research.

The newborns were divided into three groups: olive oil, sunflower oil and no oil. The babies from the oil groups were treated with a few drops two times a day for 28 days. The team then examined the babies' lipid lamellae structure in the skin and found that babies in the oil groups had slower development in their skin barrier function, which meant that they were not as protected as the babies from the no oil group when it came to exposures to allergens and risk of infections.

"If the skin barrier function is a wall with bricks made of cells, then the lipid lamellae is the mortar that holds it together. If it isn't developed enough then cracks appear which let water out and foreign bodies through," lead researcher Alison Cooke explained reported by Medical Xpress. "Oil prevents this mortar from developing as quickly and this could be linked to the development of conditions such as eczema."

The researchers noted that the babies in the oil groups did end up having more hydrated skin. They are not, however, recommending parents to use these oils to treat dehydrated skin in their healthy infants.

Although the researchers did not find a cause-and-effect relationship between using the oils and eczema, they stated that their findings could be helpful for future research. Cases of eczema have increased from around five percent during the 1940s to about 30 percent today.

"We need to do more research on this issue with different oils and also study possible links to eczema, but what is clear is that the current advice given to parents is not based on any evidence and until this is forthcoming the use of these two oils on new born baby skin should be avoided," Cooke stated.

For more information on the research, the study can be assessed here.

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