In winter, cold temperatures, wind and dry air indoors can put our skin, and especially our children’s skin, under tremendous strain.
Children’s skin is more delicate than that of adults: it has the same structure and number of layers but the outermost layer (the stratum corneum) is thinner. This makes it more susceptible to external agents.
As a result, in winter children can be prone to dry skin, especially on their cheeks and hands, the areas most exposed to external aggressors.
The cold air, wind and the atmosphere in our homes, which can often be too hot and dry, can cause the skin to lose more moisture than usual. This increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL) can lead to:
- small cuts.
How can we protect our children’s skin?
The first thing you can do to help stop your child’s skin becoming dry is protect their most exposed areas with a hat and gloves, preferably in cotton, when they go out.
Unlike synthetic fabrics, cotton lets the skin breathe and this stops it becoming even more irritated.
While it is important to protect your children from cold, harsh temperatures, it is just as important not to overdress them, as this can make them sweat, further irritating their skin and causing it to itch and flare up.
Dress your child in layers which they can remove and add, as they go from one environment to another.
Wool can also irritate, so never put it next to your child’s skin.
For healthy skin, it is essential to avoid sudden and dramatic changes in temperature between indoors and outdoors, keeping the temperature in your home at around 20°, with humidity of about 50%.
The importance of emollients
The most important piece of advice we can give you, though, is to apply an emollient cream several times a day, especially before going out, to create a protective layer over your child’s skin. This film not only protects the skin from external aggressors but also reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from the skin, which can often cause dryness.
Keep an eye on the area around the mouth too, as it can become irritated by saliva and mucus from a runny nose.
Your bath time routine is also important during the winter months. When your child is old enough, a quick shower is better than a bath. And, irrespective of what you choose, it is a good idea to bathe less.
Always use a mild product which cleanses by affinity, which means the oily substances in the cleanser draw out dirt from the skin.
Prevention and protection for atopic dermatitis
If your child suffers from atopic dermatitis, winter can be a very stressful time for his skin. An emollient cream containing epidermal lipids (ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids) is a real must to make him feel more comfortable.
Recent studies show emollient creams go a stage further than merely protecting the skin. If applied regularly from birth, they can help prevent the onset of atopic dermatitis or, at the very least, reduce its severity in children at high risk of developing it, if it runs in the family.