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 Christina Boull, MD, FAAD, to share some key steps parents can take to make sure they help protect their kids this winter.
“While each child’s skin is different, most can benefit from a few simple techniques to help manage and prevent dry winter skin,” Boull said. “Children with atopic dermatitis—also known as eczema—are especially prone to developing dry, scaly skin during Minnesota winters and may need more intensive treatment with prescription medications.”
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, Boull 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. But surfactants also strip the moisture from skin. “Non-soap cleansers are gentler on the skin. Even though they don’t produce foam, they still do a good job of removing dirt and bacteria,” Boull said. Bubble baths are especially drying, and so they should be avoided for children with sensitive skin.
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 the same concentration of bleach as is found in a swimming pool, so it’s very safe—even if your child gets water in the mouth or eyes,” Boull 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.