(BPT) - Soft, smooth, fresh and flawless – it’s how parents envision their baby’s skin. Your little one may be born with perfect skin, but protecting that perfection requires work.
“The skin acts as a protective barrier, and many environmental factors can affect a baby’s skin,” says Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City and a pediatrics expert who’s been featured in media ranging from CBS This Morning to the Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine. “Allergens, UV exposure, heat and even the laundry detergent parents use to wash baby’s clothing can all irritate an infant’s skin.”
The arrival of warm weather often comes with an increase in rashes and skin irritation for infants. Fortunately, parents can take steps to help protect their baby’s skin from common irritants. Hes recommends parents focus on a few key areas:
Shield baby’s skin from the sun
Melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer, accounts for about 3 percent of all childhood cancers, and just five sunburns in childhood raises lifetime melanoma risks by 80 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
“Always apply a sunscreen specifically designed for use on infants whenever you take your baby outdoors, even on overcast days,” Hes says. “If you’re not sure what sunscreen to use, talk to your pediatrician. Keep in mind that you can only use sunscreen on infants 6 months and older. Until then you must keep your baby in the shade or provide your little one with a hat and UV protected clothing.”
Parents can also shield babies from the sun with hats, long sleeves, covered strollers and sun shields in vehicle windows.
Be aware of irritants lurking in laundry
“Infants can be exposed to skin irritants in their own homes,” Hes says. “In fact, laundry detergents are a common cause of contact dermatitis – red, itchy bumps that develop on a baby’s skin wherever it comes in contact with clothing.”
Hes recommends expectant and new parents use a laundry detergent that’s hypoallergenic and specifically designed to be gentle on baby’s skin, such as Dreft. Trusted by parents and pediatricians for more than 80 years, Dreft has launched a line of products that match the stages of babyhood.
Dreft Stage 1: Newborn is for very young babies and expectant families who want to care for their little one’s clothing – and skin – with the familiar hypoallergenic formula that parents and pediatricians have trusted for decades. As babies grow and become more active and mobile, Dreft Stage 2: Active Baby helps parents of babies 5 months and older remove 99 percent of baby food stains and other outdoor messes while still providing gentle, hypoallergenic cleaning. Parents of older children who still crave that new-baby scent for their laundry, can turn to Dreft Blissfuls – an in-wash scent booster (like dryer beads) that imparts that baby fresh scent to fabrics. Visit www.dreft.com to learn more and to view tips for doing baby’s laundry.
Help them handle the heat
Warm weather can affect infants’ skin in multiple ways. Exposure to heat and chlorinated water can dry out their skin. Babies may also develop a heat rash – an uncomfortable, red, prickly rash that can appear on a baby’s face, neck or bottom. And intertrigo – a raw, oozy red rash that appears in skin folds – can show up at any time of year, but may get even worse in summer. This can be bacterial or fungal, so it's important to check with your doctor if you see a rash appear in those areas.
To keep baby’s skin from drying, apply a gentle moisturizer specifically designed for infants. Treat any existing rash with petroleum jelly or a moisturizer designed for infant dermatitis. Dress babies in comfortable, loose, lightweight clothing to help prevent prickly heat. Wash little ones with water and a gentle baby soap to prevent dermatitis. Note that over-bathing can lead to dry skin and rashes as well, so make sure your baby does not bathe more than 2-3 times per week.
“You should always consult your pediatrician whenever your baby has a rash or other health condition that concerns you,” Hes advises. “Some simple precautions, such as using a moisturizer and a hypoallergenic, gentle laundry detergent, can help parents keep their baby’s skin protected.”