Proper skin care is of high importance in preterm babies as they are oftentimes born with immaturities of the outer, most protective skin layer, called the stratum corneum. Inadequate care may lead to infections, skin irritations, and injury, thus further compromising infants' well-being.1
Due to their skin's delicate and fragile nature, the use of natural oils in preterm babies has been gaining popularity and interest in the medical world. The oils extracted from almonds and sunflowers are particularly interesting choices due to their nutritional richness, cost-effectiveness, and wide availability.
The aim of this clinical trial was to study the effects of sunflower seed oil and almond oil on skin conditions in preterm infants.
This randomized clinical trial was a collaborative effect of four scientists from various Turkish research institutions. It took place in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Dr. Sadi Konuk Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. Its findings were published in the 2020 edition of the Advances in Skin & Wound Care journal.
There were 90 preterm infants at the gestational age between 32 and 37 weeks recruited for the study. Once they were randomly assigned to one of three groups, they received four daily massages with sunflower oil, four daily massages with almond oil, or no massage (the control group).
The oils were massaged onto the whole body for two to three minutes, except for the head and face. The trial lasted for five days.
Researchers evaluated infants' skin condition using Neonatal Skin Condition Scores (NSCSs) as well as stratum corneum hydration using the Skin Moisture Meter before and after massages.
Researchers observed significant improvements in stratum corneum hydration in the sunflower oil and almond oil massage groups, but not the control group.
In terms of skin conditions, infants receiving oil massages had better NSCSs, particularly skin dryness, redness, and breakdown, in comparison to those in the control group.
What Does this Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that almond oil and sunflower seed oil may have beneficial effects on preterm infants' skin. They add to the discoveries of previous studies showing that these oils have moisturizing and skin healing effects in babies.
Researchers encourage further trials to better investigate the benefits of using natural oils for treating skin conditions and promoting skin integrity in babies and individuals of other age groups.
Other herbs whose nutrient-rich oils can be used for skin massage include jojoba, coconut, and avocado.
- Advances in Skin & Wound Care, The Effect of Sunflower Seed and Almond Oil on Preterm Infant Skin: A Randomized Controlled Trial, 2020
- Health Services Insights. (2019). Predicting Neonatal Skin Injury: The First Step to Reducing Skin Injuries in Neonates. Retrieve November 26, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6572893/