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PM Pediatrics
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Dr. Christina Johns
Senior Medical Advisor, PM Pediatrics

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Your Epidermis is Showing!

I would describe my 11 year old son’s sense of style and personal hygiene awareness as somewhere between “nonexistent” and “what were you thinking? ” so you can imagine my surprise when he wanted to discuss the application of “skin cream” to his own skin after bathing today (which he did under duress).  When I asked him why he picked this particular Monday morning to focus on sprucing himself up, he said: “Well, Mom, skin gets dry in the cold weather and that’s not good.” Out of the mouths of babes!
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He’s right, in fact.  Cold weather brings out the dry air, which robs our precious skin of its hydration.  This happens to kids, too, and  although we don’t generally advocate doing much to “help” already-perfect young skin, there are a few solid tips that can really help out skin in the
winter and avoid all that itch and rash.  In the extreme, people with eczema have a really hard time during the winter months—the dry air can cause dramatic inflammatory flares that result in terrible itching, fiery red rashes and potentially serious skin infections.  So let’s go through my tried-and-true skin support scheme that I’ve pilfered off of a few Dermatology colleagues.

First, and I try not to say this too loudly in front of my son, super frequent bathing is NOT good.

Soaps actually sap the skin from the natural oils it needs to maintain a healthy barrier between the inside of the body and the outside.  So, unless your child got into something and is super dirty, every other day baths are really the MAX frequency that I recommend.

The bath water should be warm, not too hot, and I’m not talking about the obvious reason (which is because it could burn your child!), I mean that as the water temperature increases it is more likely to cause histamine release, which in and of itself will cause itching.

Take it easy on the soap during the cold months, but these two brands are the big winners for avoiding dry skin.

Take it easy on the soap during the cold months, but these two brands are the big winners for avoiding dry skin.

 

Try to use as little amount of soap as possible, and I’m picky about which one too.  I don’t typically endorse brand name products but in the dry skin department I gotta call it like I see it, which means either Dove or Lever 2000 unscented.  All those perfumes and dyes in products tend to be drying, so it’s good to keep the ingredients as simple as possible.

Cheap and thick does the trick!

This goes for skin creams, too.  Feel free to try any one you want, but again my Dermatology brain trust really likes plain ol’ petroleum jelly. Yes, as in Vaseline (or any other variation – I like generic).  Cheap and thick and does the trick. After bathing every other day using mild soap and not hot water, pat the skin dry (don’t rub) and then apply the petroleum jelly ALL OVER. LIBERALLY.  Reapplication may be as frequent as you desire. For the teens and tweens: Petroleum jelly can totally be used on your face, but if you’ve got problems with acne, you can try switching to a gentle facial cleanser like Cetaphil, or something generic with comparable ingredients, to minimize moisture loss.

Petroleum jelly: a staple in my house during those Winter months.

Petroleum jelly: a staple in my house during those Winter months.

 

Other helpful moisturizers you can find around your own house: 

• Oatmeal. Plain only – no cinnamon raisin! Wink-Emoji-PNG Pour a pack into the bathtub. You can also buy an “oatmeal bath pack” at the store.

• Coconut oil. Many people swear by this, but dermatologists often say that petroleum jelly is the better, cheaper, option.

• Water. Increase your water intake to keep your skin hydrated!

 

 

So this is a pretty simple & inexpensive skin care regimen, but I’ve seen it work in nearly all types of skin, and it’s safe for all ages.  Since my son does not have any skin problems, I let him pick what he’d like to apply to his skin this morning.  This time he did not opt for the petroleum jelly but instead chose a “lemon and sage” cream.  Cracked me up as I imagined what he smelled like walking into his classroom.  As the air gets colder and drier we will revert to petroleum jelly for sure, but for today, fresh and citrus-y it is!

 

Keep reading: Perspectives on LGBTQ Bullying.

 

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