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How are your baby’s hair, skin and nails developing?

Your baby’s skin, hair and nails begin to form in the first trimester of pregnancy and continue to develop in the womb and after birth. Your baby’s skin color changes during the first few months of life and is typically fully developed around 6 months. You can support the healthy development of your baby’s skin by eating a balanced diet, taking prenatal vitamins, making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, and enjoying safe sunlight every day.

Your baby’s soft, smooth skin is the largest organ in his body. During pregnancy, your baby’s skin develops in the amniotic fluid in your womb. This is a warm and comfortable home for them.

After birth, your baby’s skin undergoes subtle changes that help it adapt to the new world around them. A baby’s skin develops very early in the womb.

Read on to learn more about baby skin, hair and nails, and the best ways to encourage their healthy development during pregnancy.

Skin development of the baby in the womb

At just 5 weeks pregnant, your tiny embryo consists of three layers. The top layer, called the ectoderm, will develop into the baby’s outermost layer of skin (epidermis), the central and peripheral nervous system, eyes, and inner ears.

At first, your baby’s skin is so thin and translucent that you can see the blood vessels underneath. At 13 weeks baby skin is still thin, but at 16 weeks it becomes thicker. At 18 weeks pregnant, the formation of skin layers is complete. As your baby approaches birth, the skin becomes thicker and more matte, but still delicate and very soft.

Around the 19th week of pregnancy, your baby has developed vernix, an oily, cheese-like coating that covers his skin. It protects the baby’s delicate skin from constant exposure to amniotic fluid. Without the vernix, your baby will be exposed to waste and other irritants that can cause the skin to erode, crack and harden.

Many babies are born with patches of vernix stuck to their skin. Instead of washing right away, most experts now recommend waiting up to 24 hours after birth to bathe a baby, for the vernix to absorb into the skin and provide additional protection against germs, dehydration and temperature changes. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, experts recommend waiting at least six hours.

At 23 weeks, the baby’s palms and soles develop protrusions. These ridges will then turn into baby’s unique fingerprints and footprints.

At 24 weeks, the baby’s skin wrinkles. It is also translucent and appears pink or red due to visible blood vessels. As the term ends at week 27, babies continue to take in more oil, which helps their skin look smoother.

At 35 weeks, the baby’s skin becomes smooth as at birth. They’re getting even chubbier now – just in time to meet you making them extra cute.

When do babies get their skin color?

Beginning around weeks 6 to 8 of pregnancy, cells that will later produce melanin, the substance that creates skin color, first appear on your baby’s skin. The more melanin is produced (a process regulated by genes), the darker your baby’s skin, eyes and hair will usually be.

When a baby is born, their skin is a deep red to purple color. When they breathe the air, the color turns red and this usually disappears within the first day. As a newborn’s circulatory system adjusts to the outside world, his hands and feet may initially appear blue. Newborns may also have milia (small white bumps on the nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead) and vernix, lanugo, infant acne, and miscellaneous.

Babies of dark-skinned parents may appear noticeably lighter than their parents at birth and may have darker skin later on. Melanin production increases, darkening your baby’s skin and providing some degree of protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays – a protection your baby doesn’t need in the womb. Your baby’s permanent skin tone will likely be fully developed around 6 months.

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