Winter Dry Skin

For parents, there is likely a collective groan at the thought of the winter routine – namely the daily dressing of coats, snow pants, mittens and hats just to go to school. But as we spend time tracking down matching mittens and the missing snow boot this winter, we also need to think about our skin care routine.

Adults are very familiar with the dry skin and chapped lips that typically occur in the colder months. And it can be a major problem for kids as well. Our skin is the largest organ in the body. Its job is to keep bad guys like bacteria and viruses out. Dry, itchy skin can lead to a cycle of itching and scratching. This can keep our kids from sleeping well, leading to hyperactivity and inattentiveness. It can also produce a skin barrier that doesn’t work well, occasionally producing infections in the skin. But there are things parents can do to help, including four simple habits (and they work for adults, too!):

  1. Moisturize immediately after bathing
  2. Use cream or ointment based moisturizers
  3. Stick to short, luke warm baths
  4. Avoid bubble baths

You probably know from your own experience that bathing or showering, particularly in winter, without moisturizing afterwards can really dry out your skin. Just as you put on lotion or moisturizer, you want to do the same for your kids – essentially, you want to “lock in” the moisture from the bath.  The best way to do this is to gently pat your child’s skin dry (instead of drying them off completely) and then apply a thick moisturizer right afterwards (within about 5 minutes of getting out of the bath).

In terms of what type of moisturizer to use – creams or ointments in a tub or jar are much more hydrating than lotions. You get more bang for your buck with them!  You want to look for a product in a round jar with a top that comes off. It will make a huge difference for your child’s skin.

Bathing with hot water is also super drying, even if it does feel good when the temps are freezing. But stick to lukewarm baths for that are no longer than 5-10 minutes.

And while I’m not trying to prevent kids from having any fun, bubble baths contain fragrances and irritants that can make kids more dry and itchier. Skip them in the winter months!

If your child is still itchy despite these changes, or has dry, scaly patches on his/her arms or legs, be sure to talk to your pediatrician. Your child might need medicine to help repair the skin so the routine maintenance can work more effectively.

One comment

  • Hello, Dr. Arkin!

    I really appreciate you talking about dry skin that occurs mostly during winter. I think it is important to address this issue especially for kids who have sensitive and different skin type/structure compared to adults. I definitely agree that itchy skin is very uncomfortable and can make kids restless. I just want to ask if emollients are safe for use by kids? Since their consistency is way thicker compared to normal moisturisers. Thank you!

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