Children’s skin is incredibly sensitive. You’ve probably noticed it takes almost nothing to cause a reaction. Environmental exposure, hot water, everyday soaps or even a diaper left on just a little bit too long can cause your child’s smooth, perfect skin to break out into dry, rough patches or red, itchy skin.
Dry, itchy skin is uncomfortable and distressing for little ones. Persistent itching can also lead to sleep disturbances resulting in irritability and difficulties in school for older children. But every itch, as we all know too well, wants to be scratched. And that’s exactly what children can’t stop themselves from doing. It may bring temporary relief, but scratching breaks dry skin causing it to weep. This later feels raw and painful and also opens the body up to infection by bacteria.
What causes your child’s skin to become dry and itchy?
Skin is the body’s first line of defense. Healthy skin forms a protective barrier that seals in moisture and helps keep out irritants, allergens and bacteria. A healthy skin barrier is densely packed with lipids including ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. It is the ratio of these lipids that are critical in maintaining skin hydration. Another important component of the skin barrier is filaggrin, which helps regulate healthy moisture levels in the skin. Filaggrin is a matrix protein that gives a skin cell its strength, but also transitions into amino acids that eventually form the natural moisturizing factor.
There are many factors that can cause dry, itchy skin. External causes may include exposure to wind, heat and cold or irritating topical products with high pH levels. Internal causes may include overall health, genetics, family history, medical conditions such as asthma or allergies and sensitive skin conditions.
When the skin becomes unable to retain enough moisture, it starts to form dry patches. These dry patches can become itchy causing your child to scratch the area. Scratching makes the condition worse and the skin becomes inflamed and reddened, aggravating the itch. Common areas of dry, itchy skin occur on the elbows, knees, cheeks, neck and diaper area.
What can you do to help?
Hydrating the skin will help relieve the dryness and itching. A daily skin care regimen can keep skin hydrated, reduce flare-ups and keep your child’s skin soft and moist.
- Cleanse and moisturize with mild, pH-balanced and fragrance-free products formulated for dry, itchy skin
- Look for products containing skin-benefiting ingredients like ceramides and shea butter to replenish lipids, allantoin to relieve itch and arginine or sodium PCA (filaggrin proteins) to improve skin barrier.
- Moisturize 2-3 times daily, especially after bath-time, or as often as needed to soothe the dry, itchy skin and restore their barrier lipids
Minimize their exposure to triggers that may aggravate their skin:
- Avoid products with perfume, fragrance, colourants and high pH soap
- Don’t expose your child’s skin to very hot or very cold water
- Keep children’s fingernails cut short to minimize damage from scratching
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