Do's and Don'ts for Your Child's Sensitive Skin

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Caring for sensitive skin is delicate business, especially when it comes to your child.

Chances are, you’re probably doing everything you can to help prevent any itching, burning, dryness or irritation.

But there may be some things you are doing — or not doing — that could be causing more harm than good.  

DO wash before wearing.

If your child develops a rash or irritation on his body for no apparent reason, it could be irritating substances present on new clothing worn without washing. For children with sensitive skin, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends washing new clothing and towels before using them. Although you don’t need to use a special laundry detergent for babies, sometimes these can be milder for children with sensitive skin. Just be sure to read the ingredients, and make sure the product is hypoallergenic (likely to cause fewer allergic reactions) and free of dyes and fragrances.

DON’T linger in the tub.

Though baths can remove irritants from the skin and help prevent infections, they can also dry out the skin by removing its natural oils. This can be especially bothersome for kids with sensitive skin. Try limiting baths to 3 to 4 times a week. If you would like to bathe your child every day, cut back on bath time (no more than 10 minutes), and avoid harsh soaps and bubbles, which can be drying when they remain on the skin. Use lukewarm water and a mild, unscented cleanser only in the places that need washing. Your child’s pediatrician or dermatologist can recommend a good brand.

Kids and Sensitive Skin

DON’T scrub or rub.

When washing your child’s delicate skin, it’s important not to scrub, which can cause redness and irritation. Carefully wash using your hands and a mild cleanser, if possible. For especially dirty areas, gently wash with a soft cloth. After a bath or shower, gently pat the skin dry with a towel.

DO keep the moisture in.

If your child suffers from dry skin, it’s time to replace some moisture. Be sure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day, which helps replace the moisture that naturally evaporates from the skin. But the skin also needs moisturizer to keep the water in. Use a gentle, unscented moisturizing cream at least twice a day to help prevent dryness. The best time is right after bathing when the skin is still damp. It can also help to use a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room.

DON’T believe the hype.

When choosing products for your child, it can get a bit confusing — “tear-free”, “fragrance-free,” “free and clear.” How do you know what to choose? Though many products like soaps and shampoos are labeled “natural,” they can still contain harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances that can irritate your child’s sensitive skin. It’s always best to consult the ingredient list. Look for mostly natural ingredients, and avoid any products with allergens, dyes or fragrances.

DO test it out.

If you’re trying a new product on your child’s skin, be sure to test an area on the inside of his wrist or arm. Watch for any redness or irritation over the next 24 hours. If a rash develops, or his skin feels itchy, hot, dry or like it's burning, stop using the product. Try something different, or talk to your doctor about other options for sensitive skin.

DO consult a dermatologist.

Sometimes even your best efforts to protect your child’s skin may not be enough. If your child is still suffering from irritation or dryness, talk to your pediatrician. He or she may recommend a dermatologist who can prescribe a soothing ointment or recommend additional tips for your child’s sensitive skin.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 6
  1. Dry Skin Care. Nationwide Children’s. http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/dry-skin-care
  2. Taking Care of Your Skin. Kidshealth.org. http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/body/skin_care.html
  3. How to Manage Your Child’s Dry, Sensitive Skin. Msn.com. http://www.msn.com/en-gb/health/aveeno/how-to-manage-your-childs-dry-sensitive-skin/ar-BB5d8wW
  4. Laundering Your Baby’s Clothes. Kidshealth.org. http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/newborn_care/laundry.html
  5. Atopic Eczema: Treatment. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Eczema-(atopic)/Pages/Treatment.aspx
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