Managing your Child’s Winter Skin Issues

Seasonal weather changes can wreak havoc on your little one’s skin. As temperatures drop and the wind whips up, skin can lose water and natural oils more quickly than normal. At this time of year, children are prone to developing winter dry skin or even rashes, with red, raw skin that can feel uncomfortable and irritated if not treated. Winter weather can be particularly harsh on infants’ sensitive skin, especially if they are already combating conditions like eczema.

Dry skin occurs when the skin doesn’t retain enough moisture and becomes dehydrated. The easiest way to solve this is to lock as much moisture into the skin as possible. Fortunately, there are a few tried and tested home remedies that can help parents do just that.

Bathe often. The first step is to bathe your child daily or every other day in warm (not hot), water. Use gentle cleansers without fragrance, and be assured that even if a cleanser does not produce a thick lather it still cleans the skin. Avoid popular washes that use a “baby scent,” as these types of perfumes can be irritating to children with sensitive skin.

Moisturize regularly. Whether your infant has eczema or simply dry skin, moisturizing often will help lock water into the skin and keep it hydrated. As soon as you take your child out of the bath, pat dry and immediately apply moisturizer all over. Try to apply moisturizer at least two times a day: once after bathing, and again before your child gets dressed in the morning.

Ointment, cream, or lotion? In general, the thicker the moisturizer, the more effective it will be. Ointments like petroleum jelly and thick white creams are more effective at locking in moisture than thin lotions. Parents are advised to avoid lotions altogether, as they often contain added preservatives and alcohols, which can be irritating and harmful. Again, avoid fragrances or perfumes, even if labeled with the words “baby,” “natural,” or “organic.”

Don’t forget lip balm. If your child has dry skin, they may also have chapped lips. Chapped lips are often neglected – even by people who practice a regular skincare regime. Choose a lip balm that can be applied easily and that your child will use. Keep it with you throughout the day so you can apply as needed. For the most sensitive skin, plain petroleum jelly with no flavorings or colors added will work best.

A consistent, gentle skin care routine can help your child’s skin weather even the coldest winter! Seasonal dry skin is usually not a serious health issue; however, it can contribute to eczema in some children. If you have questions or concerns, your primary care doctor can give advice about medications, start prescription treatment, or may refer you to a pediatric dermatologist for further treatment.

Stephanie Jacks, MD, is Social Media and Website Committee Chair for the Society for Pediatric Dermatology. She is Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and attending physician at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. Dr. Jacks is board certified in dermatology and pediatric dermatology.