the secret of oh-so-baby-soft skin

How do babies get that super soft skin? According to researchers at the Skin Sciences Institute of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, it may be due to vernix, the greasy, white substance made of fats, proteins, and water that coats infants in the womb. It develops when the fetus is about 27 weeks old, and is usually wiped off at birth. The researchers studied full-term infants, half of whom had vernix wiped off, and half of whom had not. They found the substance is a natural moisturizer, wound-healer, antioxidant and anti-infective, and that it helped keep the baby’s skin more hydrated and less scaly. The study’s main author, Marty Visscher, executive director of the institute, said in a press release, “These beneficial effects of vernix suggest that it should be left intact at birth.” The researchers, who are collaborating with pharmaceutical companies, hope to come up with a synthetic version that could be used in a variety of ways, including for premature babies born without vernix and as a dressing, cream or lotion.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 5/13/2003.
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