To kick off this month of awareness about eczema I wanted to talk about a wonderful waxy substance that you may or may not have heard of called Vernix Caseosa. Thanks to for some of the words.

Vernix begins to form on the unborn baby at about 20 weeks gestation, partially to prevent baby’s skin from being affected by waste products in amniotic fluid after marinating month after month in the stuff. 

Vernix itself contains about 80% water. But in addition Vernix contains lots of beneficial components. Scientists have identified lipids, amino acids, proteins, antibacterial, and antimicrobial compounds including:

  • wax and sterol esters
  • ceramides
  • squalene
  • cholesterol
  • triglycerides
  • phospholipids
  • and amino acids, asparagine and glutamine

About 61% of the proteins found in this white substance, can only be found in vernix. And humans are the only ones that produce it, making it truly unique.

Vernix helps protect baby's skin from infection and unwanted pathogens. It's a skin cleanser and antioxidant warding off viruses, bacteria and fungus.

Vernix, with its thick, waxy coating, helps to insulate the baby. Infants who have it immediately washed off have a significantly higher rate of heat loss. Although there is some disagreement as to how much of a role the vernix plays in keeping newborns warm, it is a factor.

Birth can be a traumatic time but Vernix acts like a lubricant as the baby travels down the birth canal.

Babies have differing amounts of Vernix.

  • Babies born via C-section have more as the vernix hasn’t been rubbed off during delivery through the vaginal canal
  • Babies born after 27 weeks, but earlier than full gestation also retain more
  • Babies born pre-27 wks, full-term babies, and those born after 40 weeks will have less.

For mum there are also benefits from Vernix. 

Because it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial in nature, it can help prevent infection of the vaginal canal as the baby passes through. It also has superior wound healing properties, and has even been shown to help perineal tears heal better. (If you get a perineal tear one of the best things you can do is soak yourself in a bath containing 15 ml of Calendula or Marigold Tincture. Calendula has a wonderful soothing and healing effect on skin cuts and tears). 

Some nurses, brought up in our very germaphobic culture insist on washing baby's vernix off straight after birth. But many experts are urging mums to leave the vernix on to absorb naturally. If possible it's even better to wait for 5 or 6 days to give baby his/her first bath (with Salvx Cleansing Shower Oil of course!) so that the vernix has been fully absorbed by the skin.

So there you are. It's a bit sticky and messy but Vernix Caseosa is nature's moisturiser and barrier all in one ad is good for baby and good for mum!