When winter hits, we need to keep our kids' skin protected just as much as our own — and that takes a little more work than just layering them up whenever we leave the house (after all, you'll have to unwrap them eventually). Plus, plenty of kids have specific skin issues like eczema that may require more attention and care when it's cold out. "During the winter months, outside elements and cooler temperatures are especially rough on young skin and can aggravate skin conditions such as eczema flare-ups, diaper rash and ‘dribble rash’ for teething babies," says dermatologist Dr. Rachel Pritzker.
These winter skin care tips for kids will help you keep your little one's skin soft and healthy — even during tundraworthy weather.
"Fragrance-free” on product labels — specifically laundry detergent and moisturizers — is key. New Jersey allergist and immunologist Tina Zecca recommends avoiding preservatives too. Preservative ingredients such as formaldehyde and propylene glycol can trigger skin allergies, she warns.
For kids and adults alike, if we bathe too frequently, our skin can dry out — and this can disrupt the skin barrier and let allergens in. Bear in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bathing babies no more than three times a week for the first year. With older kids, note that hot, long showers can dry out skin by removing protective natural skin or oils, says board-certified dermatologist and pediatrician Tsippora Shainhouse. Keep your bath and shower water warm, not hot (a maximum temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit for anyone) and limit the duration to less than 10 minutes. "Use a moisturizing soap — try Dove Sensitive Skin or a glycerin bar — and only wash the 'dirty' areas — neck, feet, armpits, upper back, groin/diaper area — if the rest are clean," she adds.
After bathing your child, pat them dry with a towel and apply a moisturizing lotion or cream within the first three minutes of getting out of the water to help the skin retain some of the water from the shower and prevent extra drying. If your child doesn't like the sensation of a thick cream, Shainhouse suggests using a lighter hydrating lotion, such as Cetaphil eczema care lotion, which contains skin-repairing ceramides. She also recommends applying a thick moisturizer, such as Aveeno ointment, to exposed areas of a child's skin, like the nose, cheeks, wrists and hands, before going outdoors. "Ingredients like oatmeal and glycerin will attract water to the skin, while occlusive ingredients like dimethicone and petroleum will hold and seal the water in," she says.
Even when it's cold, UV rays are present; they pass through clouds and reflect off snow. Shainhouse recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more to exposed skin on a child's face every morning before heading outdoors. "This is especially important if you and your kids will be playing outside for prolonged periods or if you are skiing [or] snowboarding," she adds. "Higher altitudes mean you are closer to the sun and more likely to sunburn. Remember to apply a coat of sunscreen before heading out to the slopes and reapply after lunch."
If your child has eczema, don't autopilot to your local pharmacy for a common moisturizer when it flares. "Some OTC moisturizers can do more harm than good for compromised skin," warns Zecca. "OTC products with a high pH or potentially allergenic ingredients can actually irritate skin and make it itchier." Instead, ask your doctor about prescription barrier-repair products like EpiCeram, which has free fatty acids and other essential lipids in the right ratio to repair the lower layers of the skin and a controlled release to penetrate deep into the skin over time. Its pH also mimics the skin's natural pH, so it won't burn or irritate.
Pritzker urges parents to avoid using excessive amounts of soap — and of course avoid bathing eczema-prone skin daily. She recommends using WaterWipes instead, "to remove any visible dirt instead of a full bath... The irony of eczema is that you do not want to over-wash it, but occasionally remove dirt and oils."
And finally, "due to the drier air during the winter, kids with eczema or a propensity for dry skin should be using a cream-based moisturizer at least once a day," says board-certified dermatologist Ted Lain. "If the rash does not improve, I would highly recommend seeking care from a dermatologist. Treating these conditions in their mild to moderate stages is much easier than trying to control them when flaring badly."
Electric heat can be very drying to indoor air, which can in turn cause itchy, dry skin and even a dry throat and nosebleeds. Shainhouse suggests using a humidifier in the bedroom through the night to add moisture to the air. If your child is prone to nosebleeds due to dryness, apply a thin layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor inside their nose before bedtime.
Follow these winter skin care tips for kids, and your tot's skin won't suffer — even when the weather outside is, well, weather. Take that, winter.
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