How to Deal with Dry Skin in Baby

Rough and dry skin or cracked patches are very unpleasant on a baby’s skin. The baby’s skin is thinner than an adult’s and also very sensitive. It also produces less natural oil than an adult. This means that their skin can very easily get dry if it is not well moisturized. It gets worse in winter because of the extreme weather conditions.

Therefore, it is important for parents to learn how to work against baby dry skin to ensure their baby is comfortable. There are several ways to protect the baby’s sensitive skin from drying and to soothe it in case it dries out.  

What Causes Dry Skin in Babies?

To understand what causes dry skin in babies, you first need to understand what makes up an infant’s skin. When babies are born, they have a whitish coating (vernix caseosa) that coats and protects the skin from the time it was a fetus. After birth, this coating is wiped off by a doctor and this exposes the skin to elements in the air for the first time outside the womb.

This causes the top layer of the baby’s skin to dry up and shed a few days post birth. If the skin is not moisturized adequately, it can cause skin dryness, which can be uncomfortable for the newborn. Dry skin in babies occurs as a result of lost moisture by the baby’s skin. This can cause peeling and cracking of the top layer.

Factors that can cause dryness include:

  1. Weather changes– extreme changes in the weather can cause a drop in relative humidity. This causes the skin to lose moisture and dry out really fast.
  2. Environmental temperature – if your home’s heating system is set very high or too low, the air inside your house eventually becomes dry and this can dry the baby’s skin.
  3. Taking long baths– bathing your baby for an extended period can also lead to dryness. This is because the skin loses its natural protective oil. Also, bathing the child in chlorinated water can cause dryness.
  4. Using harsh soaps– using soaps not suited for the baby’s skin can cause dryness as they are too harsh on their skin.

Apart from the above causes of baby dry skin, it is also possible that your baby had developed dry skin as a result of a skin condition.

  1. Eczema– also referred to as dermatitis, this is an allergy based skin condition. It is characterized by an itchy rash that occurs on the forehead and cheeks. When your baby develops a dry rush, it could an early indicator of eczema. Other symptoms include red patches, itchiness, and scales on the skin as well as skin cracks.
  2. Pityriasis Alba– this is a type of eczema characterized by patches and rashes on the forehead, arms, and face.
  3. Cradle cap– this normally affects the baby’s head. It occurs as a result of overproduction of natural skin oil which holds together dead skin cells and prevents them from shedding. The baby will develop dry flakes or greasy ones. When they eventually peel out, they expose the baby’s inner skin leaving red patches. Babies with cradle cap usually have layers of dead skin on their scalp.     
  4. Ichthyosis– though it is a rare skin condition it can occur in newborn babies. This condition prevents old skin from shedding odd which causes the skin to become flaky throughout the body. These dry skin flakes fall off when they are rubbed. It is a condition caused by mutation of genes.

Treating Dry Skin in Babies and When to See A Doctor  

Now that you know what causes baby dry skin, there are ways you can use to treat dry skin in your infant.

  1. Using Topical Ointments  

These can include creams for treating eczema, cradle cap, and psoriasis. They help to moisturize the skin and prevent dryness. This helps to prevent itching and alleviates the symptoms.

  1. Use Moisturizing Lotions

You need to find a lotion that is ideal for the baby’s sensitive skin. A pediatric dermatologist is best placed to advice on the best moisturizing lotion for the condition.

  1. Liquid Bandages

This is a treatment method administered to infants with severe cracked and bleeding skin. These bandages work just like regular bandages and are available over the counter in pharmacies.

  • Before using the bandages, make sure to wash and dry the baby’s skin
  • You will find a liquid ointment and a brush-like applicator in the liquid bandage pack.  The applicator is used to apply the liquid to the skin.
  • Apply the first layer of the liquid and allow it to dry before applying the second layer.

This liquid helps form a transparent coating that protects the baby’s skin from cracking. This bandage is waterproof and can last for up to a week. Once the covered skin is healed, the liquid bandage will peel off. 

When to See a Doctor

When you notice that the skin dryness is accompanied by other conditions, you need to seek medical aid for the baby. Rush the baby to the doctor when you notice the following conditions:

  • Excessive bleeding from the exposed and cracked skin
  • Too much itching that makes the baby uncomfortable
  • Discharge or pus and yellowness of the affected skin area
  • Skin swelling
  • Fever accompanying the skin dryness
  • Colic outbreaks characterized by dry skin

How to Prevent Dry Skin in Infants 

As much as you can manage baby dry skin, preventing it from occurring is better.

  1. Limit bath times– avoid leaving the baby in the tub for too long, especially when using hot water. This is because staying for too long in a bath washes away the natural oil which leaves the skin dry.
  2. Avoid using harsh soaps– only use soaps specifically made for the baby’s skin.
  3. Moisturize the baby’s skin after baths– ensure you do this immediately they are out of the bath.
  4. Dress the baby is natural fabric clothes– fabrics like cotton are gentle on the baby’s skin. Cotton clothes are also ideal for babies with dry skin.
  5. Use humidifiers– dry air can cause skin dryness faster than anything else. Ensure you use a humidifier in the baby’s room to maintain the required levels of air humidity. 
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