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All of my kiddos have had problems with sensitive skin and eczema. Mila’s was mild and she seems to have outgrown it, although she had terrible baby acne, which neither of the other two did. Margot has had a handful of skin issues, including a past case of impetigo and a current case of mollescum. So fun. Plus the poor girl has had the same patch of rough dry skin on the back of her knee for as long as I can remember. Her compulsive leg scratching certainly doesn’t help with the healing process.
Point is, when Ryan started getting scaly dry rashes all over his body several months ago, I was hardly surprised.
We’ve tried so many things to soothe their sweet skin over the years, from coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and homemade salves to prescription-strength cortisone cream. While nothing has entirely cured their eczema yet, we have learned a few tricks to help keep it in check.
Keep fingernails short
Weird tip to start with? Maybe. But eczema is itchy. Itches beg to be scratched. Babies and young kids aren’t exactly known for their self-control, so you know they’re gonna go to town on those itches when they can. If I wait too long before I trim my kids’ nails, they will literally scratch till they bleed, and then it takes even longer for their skin to heal, no matter what else I do to treat it.
Plus, kids are grubby. Long nails tend to collect dirt underneath, and scratching with dirty nails can lead to infections. Keep them short. It’s a pain to keep up on but saves everyone a lot of grief in the long run.
Stick to loose, soft, knit, breathable clothing, preferably without tags
My babies tend to wear pajamas and onesies almost exclusively for the first four to six months of their lives. That’s partly because babies in jammies are friggin adorable, but mostly because they’re also gentle on soft baby skin. Tight waistbands, itchy tags, even the seams on woven fabrics make Ryan’s eczema flare up. If I want to put him in something a little more restrictive (looking at you, cute plaid church pants with the suspenders) I make sure it’s been washed in all® free clear detergent to minimize the irritation as much as possible.
Use only products that are gentle on sensitive skin
This can be SO difficult to do but makes such a huge difference when combating sensitive skin issues. When you think about all the things you might put on your skin in a day–body wash, shampoo, conditioner, hair products, makeup, lotions, clothing, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, baby wipes–it gets a little overwhelming. But if you want to be a clean, clothed member of society…well, you just gotta pay attention!
Added scents, dyes, and alcohols are obvious irritants. Butters and oils (shea, jojoba, coconut, cocoa, etc.) are best for soothing dryness. I can remember that much. When I’m not quite sure if a product is going to be gentle enough, though, I look for something like this on the packaging:
I don’t have to even check the ingredients because I already know all® free clear liquid detergent is the #1 detergent recommended by dermatologists, allergists, and pediatricians for sensitive skin. It was even awarded the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association for having no dyes, perfumes, certain chemicals, and irritating residues.
So even though Margot insists on using her fuzzy green blanket to treat EVERYTHING that ails her, I take comfort in knowing she’s not rubbing more ickiness into sensitive places. She stuffs that thing in her mouth when she has a sore throat, you guys. She uses it as a bandage when she bleeds. It would be more horrifying if I wasn’t confident in how clean it is. Plus the all® free clear dryer sheets minimize the static between “green blanky” and her favorite fuzzy kitty pajamas, which is a nice bonus. She may drive me nuts with her obsessions, but I still gotta look out for my silly girl.
Rinse off/remove any irritants as soon as possible
I have yet to find a sunscreen that is both extremely gentle and effective. For my fair blond babies, though, sunscreen isn’t optional, so we make do. Chlorine can be pretty harsh on their skin too; going to the pool almost guarantees an eczema flareup. We can still have fun, however, as long as we remember to shower off right afterward.
Sand also tends to irritate their skin, especially when it gets inside diapers. After we go to the park, everyone gets a good shakedown/rinse as needed. Same with crumbs. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have graham cracker crumbs in my crevices and I don’t even have eczema! It’s so important to be mindful of things that might rub their sensitive skin raw.
Use soaps sparingly and moisturizers liberally
Baby boy gets a bath most nights, but David only really washes him once a week or so. And he doesn’t use soap on the girls until after Ryan is out of the tub. Then we dry him off and grease him up with lotion specifically formulated for treating sensitive skin and eczema.
It’s a simple formula: minimal soap + plenty of good moisturizer = sweet soft happy baby.
Dry skin carefully
Speaking of baths, this is a pretty important post-bath (or swimming) step. Those chubby rolls are prime real estate for rashes, especially when they’re damp. I can’t just dry thighs and armpits and call it good, either; baby boy even starts chafing behind his ears if we leave them wet! Blotting all his creases with a soft towel goes a long way in preventing irritation.
Be mindful of allergies
Fortunately, washing our clothes and bedding with all® free clear detergent makes this one a piece of cake. It doesn’t treat or prevent allergies, but it does eliminate 99% of skin allergens, including cat and dog dander, dust mite matter, ragweed, grass, and tree pollen. In my book, that’s an easy win.
All we really have to worry about then is food allergies. We’ve been lucky on this point so far and our kids don’t seem to have any. But if topical treatment isn’t clearing up your eczema, it never hurts to examine your diet and eliminate things like dairy, soy, or gluten to see if it makes a difference.
Watch for eczema flare ups and treat them right away
The longer I leave any rash untreated, the bigger it gets. It’s common sense but easy to forget, especially when my attention is split between three young kids. I try to give everyone a quick once-over any time they’re changing their clothes and apply lotion or cream as needed. Margot may think her green blanky helps her dry skin feel better, but I think we all know who deserves the credit there.
(Me. It’s me. I am the one making sure she feels better. I work hard at it, dang it, and some recognition would be nice.)
Caring for sensitive skin is an ongoing battle at our house. It is what it is. I hope my younger two are lucky enough to outgrow their skin issues like their big sister has, but I imagine they’ll be dealing with one thing or another for a long time. As long as we keep up on our prevention and maintenance, though, those tiny lil pink patches you see on baby boy’s back will be the worst he has to deal with.
Well, that and my constant need to nom on his squishiness. Baby skin is so delicious.
You can buy all® free clear products at a number of retailers; I usually get ours when I’m on a grocery run at Fry’s. I love when taking good care of my kiddos is convenient like that.
Learn more about how other folks are “Free To Be” by joining the new all® free clear community!
Do any of you deal with eczema or other skin conditions? What about your kids? I know my list of tips is far from exhaustive; what tricks do you use when caring for sensitive skin?