Dry winter weather can be brutal on the skin, especially in infants and young children who have thin, delicate skin thats prone to losing moisture and getting irritated. Pediatrician Amy Lynn Stockhausen suggests a few ways to prevent itchy dry skin in wintertime, beginning with watching the clock at bath time:
Short baths are best. Baths are better than showers at helping to keep dry skin hydrated. But baths that are too long can have the opposite effect. The AAP suggests limiting bath time to less than 10 minutes.
Dont let the bath water get too hot:
Stay cool. Keep the water temperature lukewarm. Hot water may dry out the skin and also activates nerve endings, which become more sensitive, increasing the urge to scratch at the skin.
Most pediatricians recommend using fragrance-free soaps that dont have anti-bacterial chemicals. Whichever soap you choose, go easy on it:
Avoid bubble baths & foamy, scented soaps. Not only do children tend to spend longer amounts on time in the water with bubbles, the products often contain detergents that can strip skin of natural oils and make it more prone to dryness. In addition, fragrances and other chemicals in these products can irritate skin.
Afterwards, dont remove the skins natural and protective oils:
Dry off without drying out. When done bathing, pat dry with a soft cotton towel. Do not rub as it strips more oils from the skin surface and irritates sensitive skin and nerve endings as well. Immediately after bathing, apply a good moisturizer head-to-toe.
Dr. Stockhausen offers a suggestion to help keep skin hydrated by locking in the moisture immediately after toweling off:
Apply to damp skin. Since they seal in moisture, its best to use moisturizers right after showering or bathing while skin is still damp and moist. Misting the skin with a little water before using a moisturizer is a good way to hydrate the skin when its not bath time. Use a moisturizer at least twice a day, even when skin is not irritated. Consistent, daily use can lower the chance of rashes and itches developing.
Heating homes during winter with forced air heating systems, steam radiators, or fireplaces in living areas can really dry out indoor air. Adjusting indoor humidity can help keep the skin from losing too much moisture:
Climate control. Consider taking steps to add moisture to your environment. Forced-air heating in winter creates dry air and low humidity in the home. In turn, dry air creates dry skin. A whole house humidifier can help your overall environment remain around 40% humidity. If thats not an option, a console or cool-mist room humidifier can be another option to add moisture to the air.
Learn more about avoiding dry winter skin from Amy Lynn Stockhausen, M.D. here.