Cold weather brings itchy, dry skin. And frequently worsening of eczema in many children. What is a parent to do? Remember the three minute rule and grease up and help your children stay more comfortable this winter.
The Three Minute Rule
One of the worst things for the skin is water evaporation off the skin – think of how your chapped lips feel when you like them – good. But then the water evaporates and they feel even more chapped – bad. But if you trap that moisture into the lips with a thick cream product they continue to feel good. Same thing with the skin. With winter and indoor heating there is less humidity in the air evaporation and dry skin problems continue to increase.
Another way to put it, showers and baths don’t dry out the skin (they actually provide water), the water evaporating off the skin dries out the skin. Does this mean your kids shouldn’t shower or bathe very often? No, showering daily is fine as long as you follow the three minute rule. Our goal is trap that thin layer of moisture still present in the skin after drying off but before that dry/tight feeling sets in. So after you get out of the shower or bath but before before three minutes go by make sure you get some kind of greasy stuff all over the skin, or at least where you children are having dry skin problems. That means before opening the bathroom door, before putting on a diaper, brushing their teeth or combing their hair you need to grease them up.
What to use? Dermatologists make a big deal about the thickness of the product, more so than the brand. Always pick thicker products in winter, at night, and if skin is broken out. If your dry skin isn’t too bad then go ahead and try a lighter product.
Sometimes even thick lotions may not provide enough protection for children in the winter. And for children with eczema severe enough to need medical treatment consider using Vaseline petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, Eucerin original cream Vanicream. For older children who don’t like the feel of a thick product consider Aveeno Eczema Care, CeraVe cream, Cetaphil cream or other creams labeled specifically for eczema. And be generous with the amount – use enough that it is a bit hard to rub it all in. You should use enough that you can tell there is still product covering the skin several hours later. And if you find that greasing up once a day isn’t enough considering repeating the process.
Cleansers & Soaps
Be very picky about the cleanser you use on your children! Many cleansers remove what little oils are on the skin. When bathing don’t feel like you need to use soap all over your children’s skin – water alone is enough to rinse off most germs, dirt and sweat. Your children may not agree but it OK to say no to bubble baths!
For younger children use a small amount of cleanser on their bottoms only, and for older kids use cleanser on armpits and bottoms, but water for everything else. If this seems to gross and you are going to use cleanser anyway, just make sure to pick a mild cleanser without fragrance. For super sensitive skin try bars like Dove for sensitive skin of Vanicream. If you prefer liquids try body washes that don’t lather like CeraVe, Cetaphil, Aveeno Eczema or Aquaphor cleanser. For not so sensitive skin try a gentle foaming cleanser from any of the brands mentioned above. Make sure to use the cleanser at the end of the bath so children aren’t sitting in the soapy water.
Lastly – a word about winter hand washing. You must still remember the three minute rule. If your children wash their hands 20 times a day they need to grease up 20 times a day. For hands you may want to choose a thicker cream than the one you are using all over the body. Look for something labeled hand cream. When washing hands antibacterial soaps have no purpose for most children. So don’t use them unless a doctor has told you otherwise. There is no evidence antibacterial soaps decrease infections, they just dry out the skin and cause more cracking.
So get your kids ready for winter and grease up!