Guest post by Aly Barland, MD, a dermatologist at UCHealth Dermatology Clinic in Longmont, Colorado. Dr. Barland chose this field because she finds helping patients care for their skin and take preventative measures to reduce the risk of skin cancer, as well as controlling more chronic conditions, is a very rewarding practice.
Winter is showing its face with leaves crunching under our feet and snow starting to fall. The cold air tends to bring low humidity and we often see the effect on our little ones, especially those who have sensitive skin.
In dermatology we tend to see an increase in the number of patients of all ages experiencing dry, itchy or cracked skin. Some individuals are prone to dry skin or eczema which is only worsened as winter rolls around. Heaters that we use in our homes can contribute to this drying of the skin as well.
Eczema is a skin condition that often begins in infancy or childhood but can start in older kids or even adults as well, though less commonly. In patients with eczema the skin does not perform its function as a protective barrier quite as it should and as a result is not able to effectively keep in moisture. This may lead to dry skin which can be itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes kids can be so itchy that they scratch their skin until it becomes an open sore, which can put them at risk for infection.
There are a few easy ways to prevent some of these skin issues as the season changes to help make your winter more enjoyable. Unfortunately, eczema is not a condition that we consider curable, although it may come and go during an individual’s lifetime and kids often outgrow this problem. The recommendations that we use as dermatologists for patients struggling with eczema can also be useful in preparing our kids’ sensitive skin for winter.
Moisture is Key
The most important thing for skin care during the winter is moisturizing. Not all moisturizers are created equal. Products with any scent or fragrance tend to have more chemicals and ingredients and thus a higher risk of developing an allergic reaction in the skin. Gentle cleansers are also important to use rather than harsh soaps as they are less irritating to the skin and less likely to strip important oils that are necessary for our skin to remain healthy, happy and hydrated. It is okay for kiddos to bathe daily or every other day and the most beneficial time to moisturize is directly after bath time. This helps to trap in a little extra moisture for the skin.
The product lines we often recommend are those that are unscented and with minimal chemicals. Some of these brands are Vanicream, Cerave and Cetaphil. For little ones still in diapers, this area is even more prone to irritation so using unscented wipes and keeping the skin clean and moisturized is extra important during the winter months.
Sunscreen - all day, every day
One final important skin care tip for this time of year, for both kids and adults, is to wear sunscreen. It may feel cold, but the sun is out all year round and the skin should be protected from prolonged sun exposure. Sunburns and skin damage are still possible during the winter. For any skin concerns that are not addressed with these preventative tips visit your local dermatologist and we will be happy to help!