Winter tests our skin differently than summer. This is because of cold temperatures, recirculated air (without outside humidity) and lots of exposure to the elements. If you think your skin looks older in winter, you might be right. Winter skin is likely really dry and probably chapped, making us perhaps look a bit like we’ve been at this a while…same can be true of your child’s skin. Giving your skin the TLC it needs during these dark months will keep it healthy (and looking great) once it’s time again for spring exposure. Lots of OTC lotions and creams to choose from. Here’s a bit on which and why:
Dry Skin And “The Itch That Rashes”
Winter is also a time when we see an increased risk for eczema flare-ups, a chronic, relapsing condition that brings incredibly dry, itchy patches of skin. The icing on the cake is that eczema primarily affects kids! A recent study suggests at least 10% of children in the US suffer from eczema, the “rash that itches.” A patch gets started, a child can’t help but itch it and the rash blooms. Between 2000 & 2010 pediatric cases of eczema came close to doubling and while this condition not only affects how skin looks and feels, it can have a direct impact on a child’s quality of life. Nearly half of kids with eczema report a severely negative impact on their quality of life, including sleep deprivation (from the itching), activity restriction and even depression. If your child suffers from eczema, talk to your pediatrician to create an action plan for combating these dry months and hopefully avoiding such severe tolls and trolls on everyday life.
Protecting Your Skin From Sun
Even though there isn’t sun to be seen, there are still plenty of UVA rays penetrating the clouds and reaching our skin. UVA rays don’t vary throughout the year and contain radiation thought to cause aging, wrinkles and damage to the immune system of the skin. SPF protective clothing and “broad-spectrum” sunscreen help protect against UVA rays. If you’re up in the mountains, the danger of sun exposure is even greater because of the altitude and all that reflective, wonderful snow. That fresh powder reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays and UV radiation increases 4-5% every 1,000 feet above sea level. Not sure how strong the sun will be at your vacation destination? The EPA has a detailed UV index for the entire country that gives an outlook up to four days in advance. Download the app and check out the maps — the index incorporates climate, latitude and weather.
5 Ways To Keep Your Family’s Skin Healthy This Winter
- Use unscented cream. Most moisturizers & creams devoid of scents and unnecessary ingredients aren’t marketed/labeled specifically to children, but they are often a great choice. Ask your child’s doctor which brand they love. Don’t spend your time searching online for “pediatric” OTC creams, they are likely unnecessary. One trick to remember is to purchase creams that you have to “scoop out” (not a pump) as they have less water in them, therefore providing a better barrier for the skin. Avoid scents and smells, colors or claims for “baby” or “children.” In general most pediatricians and dermatologist recommend a few OTC creams that lack any extra ingredients. Ask your doc which is their preferred.
- Be a bath pro. Let your kids bathe until their skin wrinkles, pat it dry (don’t rub the skin) and cover with that scoop-able cream. That way it’s pump and full of hydration. If your child has dry skin, remember that applying creams to whole body immediately after bathing can combat the dryness that comes from hot baths. If your child is one of ten with eczema, review your skin action plan with your pediatrician when in next!
- Use daily sunscreen. SPF 30, broad-spectrum (covering UVA and UVB rays) is great when outside but many daily moisturizers for the face include SPF 20 or above which can be great for regular office and school days. A quick reminder here that SPF only refers to UVB protection while broad-spectrum refers to protection from both UVB and UVA. UVB burns burn the skin (rarely in winter) and UVA ages the skin.
- Set up a humidifier. The excess moisture helps keep skin moisturized in your dry-as-a-bone home and protects not only dryness on outside skin but also dryness in mucus membranes in the nose, preventing nosebleeds. Remember to change water daily to prevent mold growing in humidifying machine. And while you want to humidify the air around your skin you’ll also want to hydrate from within — you’re much more wrinkly when dry or dehydrated than when you’ve had adequate water. Although no good data to back up the 8 cups of water a day, more really may be merrier this time of year. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can easily replicate the humidity by running the shower with hot water and the bathroom door open.
- Don’t forget your lips: Your lips are also susceptible to those harmful UV rays, dryness and sunburn! And although cancers of the lip comprise only 0.6% of all cancers in the US, a lip balm with SPF will keep your lips safe from the sun preventing dryness, sun damage or freckling.
This post was written in partnership with KnowYourOTCs.org. In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @KnowYourOTCs #KnowYourOTCs for more info on health and wellness.