Most new moms are obsessed with their babies’ skin. We all work hard to keep our little cherubs clean, soft, and safe from the sun. But skin is also an important part of the body’s immune system. According to nutritionist and Episencial founder Kim Walls, there are specific measures you can take to boost your baby’s skin immunity—to help ward off basic illnesses like colds and flu. (Who knew?) “The skin is designed to eliminate stuff the body does not need, like dirt, germs, bacteria and waste,” explains Walls. “It also produces natural antimicrobial and antibacterial chemicals that defend against germs and bacteria on its surface.”

Got it. So what, exactly, can we do to boost our babies’ skin immunity?

Avoid products with parabens, petroleum, fragrances, and harsh preservatives. Remember that even products marketed for babies often have potentially toxic chemicals, so read your labels carefully.

Choose breatheable fabrics—cotton, silk, wool—for your baby’s clothing and bedding. Synthetic fabrics can increase the penetration of potentially harmful pollutants by increasing heat at the skin’s surface.

Avoid chlorinated water. Chlorine absorbed through the skin can degrade the immune system. It also alters and destroys the essential fatty acids needed to keep skin moisturized. The skin’s uptake of chlorine is dramatically increased by the heat of a bath or shower. If possible, get a house-wide filter for your water. 

Minimize air pollution. Both indoor and outdoor air pollutants—from  transportation, industrial emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), even pollen—can be very damaging to skin and its immune functions. Get a HEPA filter for the rooms where you spend the most time (especially the nursery), and fill your home with at least 10 plants that actively eliminate skin-damaging air pollution.