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Caring for Sensitive Skin
Healthy skin relies on retaining natural moisture – in sensitive skin the natural skin barrier becomes damaged, allowing moisture to escape. Dry, arid skin is vulnerable to any irritants that it comes into contact with – which work through the barrier and cause inflammation, tenderness and itchiness.
Your baby’s skin is naturally delicate and more sensitive than yours, and needs special care – normally it will become less sensitive as it matures. However, there are some skin conditions that your baby may suffer from that can be very uncomfortable – and distressing for you both.
In babies – and adults – environmental factors can be the problem: seasonal weather changes, central heating, or air conditioning can dry out the skin. Too much bathing, and inadequate drying can make skin more delicate and prone to itchiness. Poor clothes- laundering, or using the wrong detergent can allow irritants to come into contact with delicate skin. Perfumed soaps and creams, or some alcohol-based wipes can also cause problems.
Eczema is a specific condition that is fairly common in children under seven years of age, but can affect any age group, and can be a lifelong problem. Sometimes the condition is mild, with hot, dry, itchy skin. Other cases can be severe, and skin may frequently become broken, raw and infected. Causes vary – there is sometimes an inherited tendency that is often linked to hay fever or asthma, or the skin may be reacting to a particular substance.
If your baby seems to suffer from unusually sensitive skin, or eczema, contact your doctor – he may prescribe specially formulated creams and washes to help reduce the itchiness and irritation.
- Keep baths short and sweet! Being immersed in water for too long can reduce the skin’s natural oils, increasing the risk of irritation. If fingers and toes get white and ‘crinkly’ your child has been in the bath for too long.
- Older children and adults with sensitive skin should have bath water at body temperature. Your baby should have the water a little cooler than this.
- After the bath pat baby’s skin dry rather than rubbing – rough drying can damage sensitive skin.
- Dress your child in natural fabrics. Cotton and linen may stain more easily, but they allow skin to ‘breathe’.
- Dress baby in layers, so that if baby gets too hot you can remove a layer to prevent sweating.
- Buy clothes that are machine washable. Hand-washing may not give a thorough wash.
- Buy bed linen made of natural fabrics – your baby’s skin will be in contact with the fabric all night long. And be sure to wash bedding well and often, to get rid of any dust and mites.
- Always wash new baby clothes and bed linen before use, to soften them and rinse out any impurities.
- Use a non-biological product for washing your baby’s clothing. These are usually tested more rigorously for potential skin irritation, and some are developed specifically for use on baby clothing, bedding, etc. They do not contain enzymes – which are added to other ‘biological’ products to help break down the proteins, fats and starches that make most of the stains and marks on clothes.
- Always follow the instructions on the container. Brush or rinse off excess dirt, use the correct amount, and the correct wash programme.
- Pre-treat any badly stained areas with some of the detergent then wash as normal.
- Soft fabrics are gentle on delicate skin, but if you use fabric conditioner, buy one that is specifically formulated for baby clothing.
- Be sure that rinsing is thorough so that all traces of the detergent are completely removed. If your machine uses reduced amounts of water to save water and energy, do an extra rinse.
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