I can’t honestly think of anything more tender and gentle than a baby’s skin. That feeling as you pick up your baby and nuzzle her close to you, is one of the best feelings ever. And who can forget that moment when you first picked him for the first time ever and gazed at him in wonder! You vowed to protect and cherish him forever. But life happens, winter sets in and if your baby’s skin becomes dry and peels, it can be rather heartbreaking. Let’s have a look at what exactly dry skin is all about and the possible causes of dry skin.
As most of you would remember from your once upon a time biology classes, skin is composed of various layers. The outmost layer is epidermis (I know you know that!). The loss of water or lipids (oils) causes the outer most dead skin layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum (bet you forgot this one) to shrink. This causes tightening and may crack leading to flaky or dry skin.
So, how does this loss of moisture occur you ask? Well, unfortunately it’s easy and happens in a variety of ways. Inadequate hydration, extremes in climate, being out in the sun, why, even if it’s too windy! Yeah, the elements seem to take great pleasure in drying out your little one’s skin.
Harsh detergents and harsh baby soaps with pungent perfumes that strip the skin of its natural oils do your baby no favours either. And oh, then the genes. You can’t fight that. My grand mom has dry skin, so does my mom and now so do I. Ugh! Seriously, if only one could pick and choose the genes that one wants to show up. I would for sure pick the gene responsible for my mom’s slender (never put on weight) build! Oops, I digress. Coming back, you know what to watch out for now!
Let’s have a look now shall we, at what happens when dry skin sets in. Outwardly, the skin appears dry, flaky or cracked. It could also appear red or even leathery or scaly in extreme cases.
It may feel itchy and that’s troublesome for babies as they may scratch it in irritation. As a mom, you know just how sharp those tiny nails can be! Cutting those tiny baby nails is something that I’ve never mastered. My daughter is almost two, but the thought of cutting her nails is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.
Since the skin forms the first barrier of defence against not just the elements but also infections, breaks in the skin are a cause for concern. Infections in babies are scary, so do take care to nip dry skin right in the bud.
Also, when your skin is broken, products that you put on it can also easily lead to an allergic reaction if they aren’t gentle. So, when your baby has dry skin, you actually need to be extra careful of what ingredients you put on the little one. A product with harsh chemicals can actually cause more irritation and damage which will only aggravate the existing problem. Do your research on the ingredients of any moisturising lotion or oils that you use. Plant based, gentle ingredients are always preferable. Finally, if dry patches start to spread, crack, or seem painfully itchy, consult your paediatrician.
In my next article, I discuss how to alleviate dry skin problems in babies.