Skin Dryness

Children’s Winter Skin Care Tips from Dr. Dyan Hes of Gramercy Pediatrics

January 15, 2016

-by Dyan Hes, MD

As I sit here in my very warm office, I cannot help but re-apply lip balm every 10 minutes and lotion my hands just as often.  The cold dry air in New York City can be brutal on our skin and the forced dry heat just puts the finishing touches to make your skin dry,brittle and itchy.  I cannot stress enough to my patients about keeping their skin and lips well cared for.  Since my kids have sensitive skin, we started their moisturizing routine at birth.  I recommend that parents apply a hypoallergenic baby lotion to infants twice a day.  As your kids get older, you can move to a standard hypoallergenic lotion. One bad habit that is very prevalent is that parents bathe their baby daily, as part of a “bedtime routine”.  Washing your child daily dries the skin out even more, by washing off your skin’s natural oils. Unless your infant is filthy, bathing should happen every other day.  If you need to bathe more often, keep the baths brief and use a sensitive baby wash. Just keep in mind that organic does not mean that it is always good for a baby’s skin. Ingredients like lavender, tangerine oil or coconut oil may be irritating to some babies and cause rashes.

For children of all ages, it is best to moisturize damp skin when you come out of the bath or shower.  This seals the moisture into your skin. I also recommend that parents with very dry apartments use cool mist humidifiers in their home.  If you happen to have hot radiators in your home, you can place a pot of water on the radiator. Adding vanilla to the water gives the apartment a great scent.  This added moisture in the air really helps hydrate your skin.

New York City families have to brave the elements daily…whether walking to school, work or the subway. When going outside, I am a big fan of petroleum jelly, Aquaphor or other barrier ointment or creams for the face.  Just be careful not to put any creams by your child’s eyes.  That’s why petroleum jelly is so easy…it’s safe to put it all over. If you have a teenager or child with acne, make sure that you buy a non-comedogenic (pore clogging) face lotion.

I ritually lather my kids lips in lip balm and at night we put petroleum jelly on our lips too. These habits are all good to start in infancy and continue through childhood.  As the mother of a preteen boy, I have to remind him to apply lotion all the time, but I find that buying a pump dispenser makes it easier for kids to apply lotion on their own. These skin care habits can help prevent dry, itchy winter skin and keep atopic dermatitis under control. Of course, if your child has persistent itchy skin or a rash that is bothersome, make sure you consult your physician.  Good luck and stay warm this winter!


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