9 Ways to Care for Your Baby’s Skin in Winter

Protect your little one’s skin and relieve cold-weather dryness and more.

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Winter is tough on anyone’s skin—but especially so on the delicate skin of our munchkins. Redness, itchiness, dryness and eczema are just a few common skin problems that can arrive along with chilly weather. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to keep baby’s skin soft and healthy with help from Amy Kim, MD, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in Atlanta. She is also founder of Baby Pibu™, some of my favorite baby skin products.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

Layer Up

2 / 10 Layer Up

It’s important to keep your baby warm, but not too warm. Heat and moisture (sweat) aggravates soft skin. “Too many layers may lead to a case of prickly heat rash,” says Dr. Kim. Dress baby in one more layer of clothing than you’re wearing. When in doubt, just put a hand under her clothing to test her body heat and make sure she’s not sweaty.

Humidify the Air

3 / 10 Humidify the Air

“Air tends to get dry, with less than 5 percent humidity, when you heat your home,” says Kim. “This dryness leaches out the moisture from your skin.” Keeping the humidity level between 25 percent to 40 percent is ideal. If your child is prone to eczema flare-ups, using a humidifier is a must.

Should you choose a cold or warm humidifier? Both can be beneficial for the skin as well as breathing (especially little nasal passages and airways that can get easily clogged). But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only using cool humidifiers, since warm ones can present a scalding hazard if a child pulls it onto himself.

Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!

4 / 10 Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!

Baby’s skin is so delicate that it needs extra TLC. “After a bath, slather on a fragrance-free moisturizing cream or ointment,” advises Kim. “Put on her PJ’s and it’s like your baby just had a mini spa hydrating treatment.”

Be sure to avoid fragrance in all baby products. “It’s one of the leading causes of contact allergies,” says Kim. Contact allergies come from products or things (such as soaps or plants) that come into contact with the skin. If you want to use a scented product, “look for those with an essential oil such as lavender, rosemary or sage,” says Kim. “Good moisturizers for baby can include jojoba oil, shea butter and cocoa butter.”

Don’t Overdo Bath Time

5 / 10 Don’t Overdo Bath Time

Many babies love splashing in the tub. But long, hot baths can dry your baby’s skin. Keep baths warm; limit them to five minutes and stick to an irritant/tear-free hair and body cleanser.

If your baby’s skin becomes irritated, try soap alternatives, including the Baby Pibu™ Bathtime Wash (one of my faves) or forego liquid soaps altogether and try a hypoallergenic, unscented moisturizing bar, like Dove.

Another skin-hydrating trick? The “soak and seal” method. As soon as baby is out of the tub, pat skin dry (don’t rub) and slather on a thick cream or ointment. Applying the cream immediately after drying helps seal in moisture.

Nip Eczema in the Bud

6 / 10 Nip Eczema in the Bud

While rosy red cheeks can be adorable, the redness could be a sign of eczema, especially if it turns into red, scaly, itchy patches. In babies, eczema not only affects their cheeks but the outer parts of their arms, legs and trunk as well. Some children with eczema only have symptoms in the winter months when the dryness and cold air can trigger a flare-up. “Babies are prone to eczema if they have any family history of asthma, hay fever or eczema,” says Kim.

How can you ease symptoms? “Use pH-balanced, irritant-free hair and body cleanser and a fragrance-free moisturizer,” says Kim. Look for products with the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association.

Know When to Call the Doc

7 / 10 Know When to Call the Doc

If your baby has pronounced redness or an itchy rash it can be hard to know when to call in reinforcement. "As a general rule of thumb, if your baby seems especially bothered by the condition due to itching, pain, irritability or a fever, and what you're doing to ease symptoms doesn't improve it over two to three days, see your pediatrician or a dermatologist," advises Kim. Be sure to take your baby to the doctor even sooner if the area is warm, appears to be painful, looks swollen or spreads over 24 hours.

If your baby has eczema and the condition worsens, “see your doctor,” says Kim. “Your baby may benefit from a corticosteroid or non-steroid cream or an antihistamine to reduce itching.”

Avoid Baby Blisters

8 / 10 Avoid Baby Blisters

Between drooling and runny noses, the area around the lips and chin can get very irritated. Protect this area by applying an ointment such as white petrolatum ointment, Aquaphor ® ointment or Baby Pibu™’s Hydrating Ointment. Dr. Kim advises repeating application several times throughout the day.

If your baby develops blisters or little ulcers on her lips or mouth, call your doctor to have them evaluated, especially if they seem to keep your baby from eating or drinking.

Best Clothes for Fingers and Toes

9 / 10 Best Clothes for Fingers and Toes

In addition to warm gloves, fuzzy booties and fleece hats to protect fingers and heads, consider using an additional protective outer layer attachment on your baby’s stroller to protect him from the elements, such as cold winter wind.

Another good rule of thumb? Check his hands and feet regularly to be sure they’re warm. Some winter accessories are cuter than they are functional. You may need to get a warmer hat and gloves. But if his head becomes sweaty, loosen up the ties.

Don’t Skip the Sunscreen

10 / 10 Don’t Skip the Sunscreen

The sun’s rays aren’t any less harmful when it’s not swimsuit weather. Infants and children are more susceptible to the damaging effects of UV rays at any time of the year. Kim recommends non-chemical sunscreens that use non-micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. Some favorites include Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen and Aveeno® Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick with Broad Spectrum SPF 50.

If the sunscreen leaves a whitish film after applying, it’s likely that the product contains no micronized ingredients. Some babies are sensitive to PABA, so look for protection that is also PABA-free.

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