8 Tips for Soothing Your Child's Sensitive Skin

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
mother embracing daughter under sunshade

It’s easy to envy a child’s beautiful, youthful complexion, but if your child has sensitive skin, envious may be the last thing you’re feeling. Some children inherit the condition from their parents, who already have experience dealing with the irritating effects of sensitive skin.

But if this is a new area for you, or even if it’s not, it can be helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help with the skin issues that can be particularly bothersome for children.

Soothing Tips

1.  Consider the source. Your child’s skin can be irritated by a number of things including heat, bath soaps, laundry detergents, pet dander, dust mites, certain fabrics and cigarette smoke. The first step is to identify and avoid anything that might be causing the irritation.

2.  Soften up. Choose fabrics (clothing, sheets, blankets) that are soft and comfortable, such as fine-weaves or natural materials like cotton (instead of wool or nylon). Cut out clothing tags that may rub the skin or feel scratchy.

3.  Lotion up. If dry skin is an issue for your child, try a cream or lotion (one specifically designed for dry skin). Petroleum jelly is also a good choice for some kids. The best time to apply it is just after bathing, when your child’s skin is still damp, to help lock in moisture. Pat skin dry with a towel (never rub) before applying the lotion or cream. If your child is worried about pimples, choose a facial moisturizer that is noncomedogenic. This means the product tends not to clog pores.

4.  Wash with care. Choose a laundry detergent free of colors and fragrances, which can irritate the skin. Avoid antistatic products or fabric softeners, which often contain chemicals and fragrances, as well. Since liquid detergents sometimes rinse out easier than powder detergents do, they may be a better choice for sensitive skin. You may find that sticking with a baby detergent, designed for the most sensitive of skin, is the best option for your child.

5.  Be gentle. You'll also want to take care when washing your child’s body. Use warm, not hot water, and a gentle soap, bubble bath, or shampoo, also free of chemicals and fragrances. If possible, limit the number of baths and showers from every day to 3 to 4 times a week to avoid stripping your child’s skin of its natural oils.

6.  Test before trying. Before trying a new product, be sure to test a bit of it on the inside of your child’s wrist or arm. If a rash appears, or if your child’s skin feels itchy, hot, dry, or like it's burning (even after a few days of use with no problem), stop using the product.

7.  Tackle the itchy problem. Many kids with asthma, hay fever, or other allergies are more likely to have eczema, a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry or cracked. Sometimes a moisturizing cream is all you need to treat the condition, but if this doesn’t do the trick, you may need to see your child’s doctor or dermatologist. The doctor may prescribe an antihistamine or a topical corticosteroid.

Try to keep your child from scratching (keep his nails short), and instead gently pat the itch with his fingertips.

8.  Screen your sunscreen. You know to look for SPF (sun protection factor) numbers on the labels of sunscreens (selecting an SPF of 30 or higher) to protect your child’s skin. But if your child has sensitive skin, you should also look for products with the active ingredient titanium dioxide. Also, don't use sunscreens with PABA, which can cause skin allergies.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 18
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