5 Ways to Heal Baby's Winter Skin
Winter in Texas is a little different than in most other states, but we still get a few weeks of chilly temperatures that can wreak havoc on our little one's skin. Our son loves being outside, even in freezing temperatures, so we've had to find ways to protect his skin in the cold. When he was born almost two years ago, we had a severe bout of cradle cap (sebhorreic dermatitis) that really bothered him all the way up until about nine months of age. Additionally, he started getting patches of eczema on his cheeks at about six months of age. Over the course of a year and half (he's almost two), we've tried all sorts of prescriptions, homemade remedies and natural products – and we finally have a skincare routine that gets a handle on skin irritation and eczema when it comes our way.
Here are 5 ways that have helped heal our baby's skin, and we hope they can work for you too:
Wash less. From first born to around nine months (when he still had eczema most days), we only bathed him once a week. If we played hard, then he would get an extra washing. Along with less washing, it's really important to ensure the water temperature is just right – this holds true for adults too, especially when washing your face. The water temperature should be a little cooler than lukewarm. Hot water is much too drying and also can be irritating.
Use breathable fabrics. We only purchase 100% cotton clothes for our son. We do have and have used fleece pajamas on really cold nights, but the jury is still out as to whether or not the fleece causes a rash breakout. Fortunately, our weather is typically very mild so we don't have to worry about him getting cold at night, and can stick with cotton, footed pjs. When in doubt, stick with cotton. The National Eczema Society has way more information about this. You can read about it here.
Regulate the temperature. This one has been a major game changer! I can always tell when he is getting warm, his little cheeks get super rosy and he just feels hot. After understanding these cues, I am way more diligent about dressing him appropriately. When he was in the single digit months I was always worried about him being too cold and would dress him up in pants, long sleeves and socks no matter what. These days I really pay attention to the daily forecast and use layers so that I can easily take some off or put some on. We also try to keep his room around 72 degrees Farenheit. You can read more about optimal room temperature for babies here.
Use the right products. Often times skin irritations and allergies are caused by laundry detergent, soap and other products that we use on a daily basis. A few years ago, in our pre-baby days, we decided to ditch commercial cleaners and personal hygiene products all together. We make our own laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner and swear by Dr. Bronner's soaps for bathing. I think that's why it was so challenging to figure out something that worked for our son's eczema. We already had cleaned out the muck, so finding a good routine took lots of trial and error. It can be intimidating to make your own products, but it truly is worth it. If you're not ready to take the plunge, here are a few eco-friendly laundry detergents that all received an “A” by the Environmental Working Group: Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent, Emma Eco Me Detergent and Planet Natural Detergent. What about dryer sheets? We tossed those too. Now we use wool balls, which are just as effective, reusable and are made with one ingredient.
Keep them moisturized. This is a biggie, and probably the one most people are doing to manage skin irritation and eczema. The problem is, are you using the right products? It can be so tricky to figure out what products are good for sensitive skin and which ones most definitely are not – even when a lot of those products say they are designed for eczema-prone and sensitive skin. Unfortunately, products like Cetaphil, Cerave and Vanicream, which are commonly recommended for skin issues, contain skin irritating ingredients or are occlusive and don't allow the skin to breath. If these products have worked for you, then fantastic, I'm not knocking them or passing judgement – they just didn't work for us! The other treatment that typically goes hand in hand with moisturizing is using a steroid cream. While short-term use of a low-grade steroid cream should not be immediate cause of alarm, we prefer to not use them at all. In our experience, they do knock out the eczema, but as soon as you discontinue using them, it comes right back. Bigger, badder and redder than ever. This just wasn't sustainable for us, and we didn't want to keep our guy on steroid creams for the indefinite future. Additionally, I've had bad experiences using steroid creams and after several years have finally managed to get my skin on the mend. Using steroid creams also can trigger other skin issues, such as perioral dermatitis. You can read more about perioral dermatitis here. So what pray tell do we recommend/what do we use to keep eczema and irritation at bay? Here are some things that we tried over the past year and a half, including what I call the cure-all miracle salve:
Shea butter: Pure shea butter is an amazing moisturizer, it's especially nice during winter. It comes from the seeds of the fruit of the shea tree, which is naturally rich in vitamins A, E and F. You can read more about shea butter here. We purchased a local shea butter and used it on his cheeks daily. While it did keep his skin moisturized, we didn't feel it made improved his eczema. It's still a great moisturizer to have on hand and can be used in a number of homemade beauty recipes.
Jojoba oil: Why not coconut oil, you ask? While I love using coconut oil to cook and in my homemade deodorant, it's always been very drying on my skin. Naturally, it also was drying on our babe's skin, so that was a no-go for us. I've been using jojoba oil for a few years in my own skincare routine, and it's become my go-to carrier oil for remedies involving essential oils (more about using essential oils safely with children and babies to come). Jojoba oil is technically a wax, and it's the most similar to the skin's own sebum than any other oils. In fact, it's so close to our skin's sebum, that it helps regulate oil production. Whether your skin is oily or dry, jojoba oil can help balance it out. Just like the shea butter, this oil did help keep his skin moisturized, but it didn't really help improve the eczema. I still think it's a great tool to have in your cabinet, and I love diluting lavender essential oil in it to rub on the bottom of his feet before bed.
Natural skin salve: Like most mamas (especially new mamas), I've spent my fair share on the Internet researching anything and everything that might help my son's eczema. I can't remember how I came across this salve, but I honestly can't imagine life without it. I recommend it to all of my friends and after they use it once, they become believers for life. Emily Skin Soothers is AMAZING. The products were developed by an acupuncturist and herbalist in response to his daughter's skin issues. They are several different variations to choose from, but our favorite is the Diaper Skin Soother Plus – yes, we use the "diaper" one on his face – and it's magic. What's inside? Organic sunflower oil, beeswax, frankincense, red peony root, dictamnus root and phellodendron amurense bark. While I'm typically not a proponent of using frankincense on children under five, I really trust this brand, and the results from using the salve speak volumes. We started applying it to his cheeks at every diaper change and within a couple of weeks, his eczema was gone. Now, anytime it flares up or he has irritation anywhere, we apply this stuff and after a few days it's gone!
As you can see, it can take a lot of trial and error to figure out the right routine when it comes to skincare, and each child will respond differently to certain treatments. I can tell you that being diligent and incorporating the five methods above has made an major impact on our little guy's skin. The good news about eczema, is that most kiddos will grow out of it by the time they reach two years of age. But if you're wanting to give your little some relief and ease your own mind, then I encourage you to give some of these methods a try.
Additionally, eczema and other skin conditions often can be caused by food allergies or intolerances. If you think this might the reason for your child's skin issues, then I encourage you to do some research and find a practitioner in your area who can help.
I hope this post helps some of you mamas out there, and remember, you're not alone!
Do you have a great skin care routine that keeps irritation and eczema at bay? Share it below.
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