From that first tender skin-to-skin cuddle with your newborn to those delightfully squishy arms that are always reaching out for you – baby skin is something special. And because baby skin is still developing during the first months and years after birth, it is thinner and more fragile than adult skin. This means their skin can be sensitive and may become dry or prone to eczema. Read on to learn more about these common baby skin conditions and ways you can help keep your baby’s skin as soft as a baby’s butt.
Eczema-prone baby skin
What is eczema-prone baby skin?
Eczema-prone skin describes skin that can become inflamed and itchy. Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, can affect people of any age, although eczema in babies is most common – so your baby is not alone! Around 1 in 5 children under 2 years of age develop eczema*, and while it can continue into the toddler years and beyond, baby eczema typically improves by the time kids are around 5 years old (thank goodness).
When you first notice eczema-prone skin, it may be a little concerning and have you questioning what’s happening to your sweet munchkin. Knowing what eczema looks like in babies is the first step in helping your little one. The key symptom you’ll likely notice is an itchy, red rash that can look like inflamed and dry, scaly patches on your baby’s skin. The most common areas affected in babies are cheeks, scalp, body, arms, and legs. Don’t worry – they are not turning into a lizard! And if you get a handle on one patch only for another to pop up, that’s just because the areas of the body affected by eczema can change as babies get older, so newborn eczema may look a bit different from infant eczema, toddler eczema, or child eczema.
*Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA). Eczema (atopic dermatitis) frequently asked questions. Updated March 2023 Available: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/skin-allergy/eczema.
What causes eczema in babies?
While genetics and the environment can play a role in the development of baby eczema, it’s thought that disruption to skin barrier function is a main player. Your baby’s delicious-smelling skin helps protect against water loss and prevent entry of irritants, allergens, and germs. Things that can impact this protective layer and lead to eczema-prone skin include:
● Dry skin
● Irritation from soaps, fragrances, detergents, or other chemicals
● Contact with rough or non-breathable fabrics
● Exposure to environmental allergens (e.g., pollen, grass, animals, dust mites)
● Temperature changes, especially overheating
How to care for eczema-prone skin
Luckily this part is easy! It starts with maintaining a healthy skin barrier by keeping your baby’s skin hydrated and avoiding things that could irritate their skin. Try developing a skincare routine that uses a gentle, soap-free cleanser and a fragrance-free moisturiser – this is also the perfect time for a little bonding! For eczema-prone baby skin, go for a thick cream over a lotion to protect the skin and help it retain moisture – and it may need to be applied more than once a day if the skin seems dry, which just gives you more time for those special wriggles and baby giggles. The best part is you can continue this routine throughout childhood – teaching your children how to take care of their skin and bonding with them at the same time.
The next step is to avoid anything that might trigger eczema flares (see list above). If your moisturising routine just isn’t cutting it, you can always talk to your baby’s doctor about topical medications (creams or ointments that you apply to your baby’s skin) that you could use to help relieve symptoms and get back to happy bonding time.
Baby sensitive skin
When we are born, our skin is immature in more ways than one. It will develop and mature over the next couple of years, but during this time baby skin is thinner and more sensitive than adult skin. This means that the outer layer of skin can be easily irritated when it comes into contact with body fluids such as pee, poop, drool, snot – you know, all the stuff that babies produce constantly!
Sensitive baby skin that is exposed to these irritants for long periods of time can develop red-coloured rashes that may make your baby uncomfortable or itchy. You can imagine how it would feel to have your most delicate skin exposed to something irritating, so keeping your baby’s skin clean and moisturised is the key to help protect and soothe their sensitive skin.
It’s also important to use skincare products specifically formulated for delicate baby skin to help maintain and protect their natural skin barrier function – and avoid products that contain fragrances, harsh soaps, or other ingredients that may irritate baby sensitive skin.
Baby dry skin
As if being sensitive wasn’t enough, baby skin also tends to lose water more easily than adult skin. Dry baby skin may appear dull, rough, and scaly, and may become red, inflamed, and cracked as dryness worsens – poor little things!
While it might sound counterintuitive, too much water can make dry baby skin worse. Giving your baby shorter baths using only lukewarm water and a soap-free baby wash can help to limit skin dehydration, while moisturising your baby’s skin from head to toe after every bath can help to hydrate and protect their skin barrier. Try playing a game with your baby while moisturising – think ‘slippery fish’, where your baby slips and slides through your moisturiser-covered hands (in a safe way of course!). Making moisturising time fun for both you and your baby may help set up good moisturising habits for life!
Caring for eczema-prone, sensitive dry baby skin
When you’re looking for skincare products specifically formulated and clinically tested for delicate baby skin, the Dermaveen Baby Calmexa range has your whole routine covered. These products contain high levels of naturally derived ingredients including ceramides, colloidal oatmeal, and Kakadu plum to help soothe, protect, and restore sensitive, dry, and eczema-prone baby skin. Making a routine is simple:
● Wash – use Baby Calmexa Soap-Free Wash & Shampoo to gently cleanse your baby without drying out their skin
● Moisturise – use lightweight, nongreasy Baby Calmexa Moisturising Lotion every day to keep your baby’s skin hydrated
● Protect – use deeply nourishing Baby Calmexa Extra Rich Moisturising Cream to help hydrate and protect extra dry and eczema-prone baby skin
For babies with extra dry, itchy, or eczema-prone skin, consider adding Dermaveen Sensitive Relief Calmexa Bath Soak to bath time to help soothe itch and irritation and lock in moisture – the best part is you can jump right in there with them and get some bonus moisturisation yourself!
What about older children?
As mentioned above, eczema can continue in kids, though it usually clears up by the age of 5 years. The routines and products that you use on your baby can still be used as they get older. Try adapting the routine to suit your child, maybe they start to apply the moisturiser themselves as they get older, helping to teach them how to take care of their skin throughout their lives.
Eczema-prone, dry, or sensitive baby skin FAQs
Babies under 2 years of age who have eczema or eczema-prone skin generally see improvements in their symptoms between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
You should talk to your baby’s doctor if your baby’s skin is itchy or rashy – they can help guide you on the appropriate steps to care for your baby’s skin.
For sensitive baby skin, choose clothing that is light, loose, and soft – think fabrics like cotton – and avoid rough, non-breathable fabrics.
Baby dry skin will appear dull, rough, and scaly, while eczema-prone skin will develop dry, red, itchy rashes.