This winter, grab your coats, scarves, gloves—and moisturizer.
Winter can be a great time to spend outdoors with family and friends, but the first cold snap of the year also marks the beginning of dry skin issues for many, including kids. We asked University of Minnesota Health Pediatric Dermatologist Kristen Hook, MD, to share some key steps parents can take to make sure they help protect their kids this winter.
“Each child’s skin is different and if your child is showing signs of dry skin, you should be a bit more proactive,” Hook said. “In Minnesota, we have cold, dry winters. Because of weather conditions, some kids may actually develop atopic dermatitis—or eczema—a skin condition that requires more medicated treatment.”
Without further ado, here are six things you should know about winter skin care.
On chilly winter days, nothing beats a steaming hot bath or shower, but you should try to resist the temptation. Hot water can actually dry out skin, Hook said. Instead, consider soaking in a lukewarm bath for five to 10 minutes to better hydrate your skin. Also, once you’ve finished bathing, be sure to pat your skin dry with a towel—especially if you or your child has sensitive skin.
Non-soap cleansers are a great option for people with sensitive skin. Soaps contain surfactants, which are what makes them bubble. “Non-soap cleansers are called ‘Syndets’ and don’t contain the same surfactants that soaps do, so they don’t dry the skin out and disrupt skin barriers like regular soap cleansers do,” Hook said. Non-soap cleansers also have a lower pH level and are gentler on the skin, Hook added.
The idea of bathing in bleach may raise eyebrows. Surprisingly, regular household bleach is both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. By adding a quarter cup of bleach to a full bathtub and bathing daily or every other day for at least five minutes, your child can reduce the bacterial load on their skin, healing minor skin infections and rashes. “It’s very diluted—less concentrated than what’s found in a swimming pool—and studies have found no adverse effects,” Hook said.
A bright, sunny day can be a blessing for your Vitamin D intake in cold December—but it can also be a curse for dry skin. If you’re hitting the slopes or spending a clear winter day hiking, don’t forget to apply sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or greater and people with sensitive skin should use a sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that blocks the sun’s rays without being absorbed into the skin.