University of Manchester

University of Manchester

New research suggests parents should think twice before using olive or sunflower oil on newborn skin.

These oils may damage the barrier which prevents water loss and blocks allergens and infections, according to new research out of The University of Manchester. There has been an increase in eczema over the last few decades: from 5% of children aged 2-15 in the 1940s to around 30% today, and using olive or sunflower oil may play a role.

“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 newborn baby skin should be avoided,” says Alison Cooke, a lecturer in midwifery The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, in a press release.

Learn more from Alison Cooke on the new study results.

In the new study of 115 newborns, babies were divided into three groups – olive oil, sunflower oil, and no oil. At the end of a 28-day trial period where babies in the oil groups were treated with a few drops on their skin twice a day, the lipid lamellae structure in the skin of each baby was investigated. In both oil groups, the development of the skin barrier function was delayed compared to the no oil group.

The skin of the babies who were given the oils tended to be better hydrated. However, the researchers believe that since the implications of the effect on the lipid layer weren’t fully understood, this was not enough of a benefit to outweigh possible harm.