When your baby is born, their skin is one of the most precious, softest things on Earth. But as they get a little older, you may notice that their skin may start to have dry, cracked, or even flaky spots. But why do babies get dry skin and what can you do to help give them some relief? We wanted to provide you with a handy guide that discussed what to look for, how to tell if its more than just dry skin, and how you can treat and prevent this in the future.
If you’re ready, let’s get started.
Your child’s skin
Before we can get into the reasons why and how you can help them with their dry skin, let’s take a look at their little bodies’ largest organ, their skin itself.
When your little one is born, they are covered with a whitish coating known as vernix caseosa. This cream-like substance has been coating and protecting their skin since they were a fetus. After delivery, the vernix is wiped off by a doctor and for the first time, your baby’s skin is exposed to the world around it for the first time outside of the uterus.
Because this protective layer is removed, the top layer of their skin will dry up and shed within a few days after birth. Because of this, skin dryness can be common for many newborns. While it has been stated by experts that newborns don’t need any moisturization or lotion on their skin during the first month of their lives. If you consult with your child’s pediatrician about the best path to take, they may recommend applying a moisturizer or lotion.
As they grow older though, if they have dry skin, it can develop as a response to either internal or external reasons.
What causes my baby’s dry skin?
Xeroderma, otherwise known as dry skin is typically caused by your baby’s skin loses its natural moisture. This can lead to their sensitive skin cracking and peeling the uppermost layer of their skin, known as the epidermis. Like with your skin, there can be many different factors that can affect your baby’s epidermis. These include:
The Weather – The weather can play havoc with many things in life, especially your child’s skin. Extreme cold or heat can make the relative humidity drop which can make their skin lose moisture and dry out much quicker than normal.
Surrounding Temperature – More and more these days, homes have central heating and cooling units built onto the house. While these can be convenient for you as a homeowner, if the thermostat is set to a very high or low temperature, the air in the house can start losing moisture and that can dry out your little one’s skin.
Long Baths – Giving your baby a bath is definitely a learning process for first-time parents. There can be many things that you need to learn, but letting their bath last too long can wash away naturally occurring protective skin oils that are secreted by sebaceous glands in their body. Chemically-treated or chlorinated water can also damage and dry their skin out.
Harsh Soap – If you go to the grocery store and head down the soap aisle, you will see variations developed specifically for a baby’s skin. Regular body soaps that are designed for your body can be harsh on your baby’s sensitive skin, causing it to dry out.
What are the symptoms of dry skin on a baby?
When you suspect that your child might start having dry skin, there can be certain things that you want to look out for. Below is a list of skin conditions you may notice if they have dry skin:
- White scales on their skin that peel at the edges
- A rough and scaly texture to their skin
- When you rub their skin, there is a flakiness, like dandruff
- They have dry, red patches on their skin
- There may be fine or deep cracks on their skin, and those deeper cracks may bleed once in a while.
- Their skin looks tight and overstretched overall.
Symptoms of dry skin can normally be spotted quite easily by parents and tend to be a common ailment of young children’s skin. But like many other things that can affect your child, there can be certain symptoms that would necessitate immediate medical attention.
When should my baby see a doctor?
There can be a fine line, like many issues that your new baby can go through early in their lives that can be handled at home without seeing their pediatrician. However, if a symptom that they have is serious enough, then immediate medical attention, either from their pediatrician or a hospital is required.
When it comes to your baby’s dry skin, typically any normal symptom of dry skin can be taken care of at home. If you see any of these symptoms though, you will want to seek medical attention right away:
- If they have cracked skin that is bleeding
- If your baby is uncomfortable from intense itching of their dry skin
- A yellowish appearance or pus on the patch of dry skin
- If their skin has become swollen from their dry skin
- If they have a fever while having dry skin
- If their dry skin is causing them to have outbreaks of colic
These conditions can be disorienting and be confusing the first time you see them. The question becomes whether the condition that they have is simply dry skin or another condition altogether?
Could it be something other than dry skin?
While common dry skin is a likely occurrence for many newborn children, some skin conditions go beyond the common dry skin. Their skin dryness can result from one of the skin conditions or diseases listed below:
Eczema – An allergic skin condition, medically known as dermatitis, is characterized by rashes that appear on cheeks and forehead mostly that can be very itchy. A leading symptom of eczema, dry skin rash along with red patches, scaliness, severe itchiness, and cracking of their skin.
Pityriasis alba – A type of eczema that only affects your child’s torso, arms, and face. Characteristically displayed as dry and scaly lesions which may become red over time./
Psoriasis – An autoimmune disease, psoriasis occurs when your child’s immune system attacks healthy skin cells. With symptoms similar to eczema, psoriasis is not a type of allergic reaction. Symptoms include dry, cracked skin that may bleed
Cradle Cap – Otherwise known as seborrheic dermatitis, this typically occurs on your baby’s head. Caused by an overproduction of skin sebum, which can effectively glue together dead skin cells. This creates greasy or dry flakes of skin that expose red patches when peeled away. Common with cradle cap is multiple layers of dry skin on their scalp.
Ichthyosis – A rare condition, ichthyosis occurs when old skin cells don’t fall off your child’s skin, which leads to an accumulation of flaky, scale-like dead skin all over the body. The scales are extremely dry and peel off when rubbed. Generally caused by a genetic mutation, it typically makes its first display during infancy.
Keratosis pilaris – Keratin, a protein found in your baby’s skin, hair, and nails, is produced in excess and that surplus production blocks the ducts of your little one’s sebaceous glands which causes tiny bumps on their skin, which resemble pinheads. Mostly seen in your child’s arms, legs, and buttocks, rough and dry skin is a feature characteristic of this condition. Even though its appearance can be cause for alarm, keratosis pilaris is harmless and will not affect your child’s health
There can be a lot of different conditions that could cause or affect your child’s dry skin. But once you know what it is, how can you treat it so their skin isn’t so irritated?
How do I treat my baby’s dry skin?
Your baby’s dry skin can be itchy, irritating, and in some cases, painful. That’s why any parent would want to try just about everything that they can to help offer their child some relief. Just as the number of conditions that can cause dry skin are numerous, how to treat their dry skin can have quite a few options as well, which we have presented below:
Topical ointment – Typically found at any drug or grocery store, these ointments can provide your child relief from conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and cradle cap. These types of topical creams and ointments can focus on targeting the precise issue that they may have with dry skin.
Moisturizing Lotion – Depending on the level of dry skin that your baby may have, your child’s pediatrician may prescribe a moisturizing lotion to help offer them some relief for their dry skin.
Liquid Bandages – Parents can use liquid bandages on their child’s dry skin when it has become severely dry and starts cracking. They don’t need a prescription to buy this for their child, but there are some steps that you will want to take prior to application:
- Make sure that your child’s skin is thoroughly washed and dried before applying.
- Included in the packaging of the liquid bandages is a brush-like applicator. Using this, apply a layer of the liquid on the affected skin.
- Allow the first layer to dry completely, and then apply the second layer of the liquid bandage
- Forming a transparent coating, the bandage protects your little one’s skin from cracking further, allowing it to heal. The liquid is waterproof once applied and lasts for a week. Once their skin below the bandage has healed, the bandage, now solidified, will peel off on its own.
While having a way to treat your child’s dry skin can be very helpful, many parents would rather do what they can to prevent it from ever occurring. What steps can be taken to prevent your baby from having dry skin?
How can I prevent my baby’s dry skin?
It can be a simple task to prevent and manage your baby’s dry skin. By following some suggestions, listed below, you can help your baby’s skin stay soft and hydrated every day.
Limit Bath Time – Too much time in the bathtub can be a bad thing for your little one’s skin. Whenever they take a bath, especially in hot water, it can wash away natural skin oils, which can leave their tender skin bare and more likely to dry out. Try limiting bath time to no more than ten minutes and use warm, not hot water for your baby’s bath.
If they love playing in the water, like most do, let them play in shallow water prior to their bath so that the water doesn’t wash away any oils in the skin.
Avoid Harsh Soap – Most soaps that are made for your skin are not designed to be used on the delicate skin that your child has. Look for soaps made specifically for their young skin free of harsh or harmful chemicals. If you choose a baby bathing gel or liquid soap, look for one that has moisturizers in it, as they are much milder on their skin. If you choose a bar of soap, look for ones that have added moisturizers, such as oils and avoid any fragranced or alcohol containing soaps that can dry their skin quickly.
Use Lotion After Their Bath – Once their bath is over, you want to moisturize your little one’s entire body right away. The fat in the moisturizer you use will put a thin film on your baby’s skin, which prevents further loss of moisture and also replenishes their skin. Moisturizers are still one of the best ways to prevent and heal their dry skin.
Natural Fabric Clothing – Clothes made from natural materials, such as cotton, are gentle on their skin as they are non-abrasive and allow their skin to breathe. If they are currently not wearing cotton clothes and have dry skin, you might want to switch to clothes of that material.
Baby Laundry Detergent – The detergent that you use on your clothes should never be used for your child’s clothes. The chemicals in your laundry detergent can dry your little one’s skin out. Look for a detergent designed specifically for their clothes that won’t irritate or dry out their skin.
Use a Humidifier – Dry air is no friend to your baby’s skin. It can dry it out considerably. A humidifier can add moisture to the air, keeping the risk of dry air at a minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a humidifier, but to make sure that it is one of the cool mist variety.
Hydration in the summer – Warm summer temperatures can dry your child’s skin out. The hotter temperatures can come with low humidity. When the day gets to be this way, keep your little one hydrated with breast milk and water. Never give soda or fruit juice if your child is old enough. The sugar will dehydrate them even faster.
With the right steps and proper precautions, your baby’s risk or dry skin can be minimized to a great degree. However, if your little one already has dry skin, following the suggestions that we provided you with here can help offer them some relief.