July 26 2021 – Ibironke Jegede
Skincare in Children
Why? Is it necessary?
The skin is the largest organ of the body and its appearance can make a big difference in a child’s self-esteem. Encourage good skincare habits during these formative years and your child will be well on his or her way to a lifetime of healthy skin. The choices you make today can also play a role in protecting and strengthening your child’s skin barrier. By following a daily routine that incorporates gentle skincare products without harsh chemicals and using adequate sun protection, you can help your child develop a stronger skin barrier as they grow.[i]
A baby’s skin is ten times thinner than adult skin. Their delicate skin’s acid mantle, the protective topmost layer that keeps bacteria out and locks moisture in, does not fully function until they are about three months old.[ii] Infant skin is more fragile and prone to dryness.
Always do a patch test on your baby’s skin before using any new product. Place a small amount of the product on your fingertip and put it behind your baby’s ear or on the inside of their elbow. Wait 24 hours to see if there is a skin reaction. If there is not, it’s safe to use. If there is any sign of redness or irritation, do not proceed using the product on your baby.
Babies’ skin also tends to lose moisture quickly which is why moisturizing is very important. Ideally within 3 minutes after bathing. If your baby’s skin is excessively dry, apply lotion after every diaper change and as often as necessary.
Also ensure you put a protective barrier between your baby's skin and the diaper by applying a diaper balm to avoid excessive dryness and diaper rash.
At the minimum A child’s skincare regimen should include a daily bath with a gentle cleanser, followed by a moisturizer.[iii] In the summer, it’s also important they wear sunscreen, reapplied several times throughout the day, especially because a child’s skin is more sensitive than most adults’ skin.
Gentle Cleansers: Use a gentle cleanser[iv] or bar soaps that are mild and safe which should not have any synthetic fragrance or dyes. Always use lukewarm water for their skin and they should not spend more than 15 minutes in the shower or bath otherwise, their skin will shrivel.
Reinforcing this habit as they grow creates a solid foundation for skin health and will prevent their skin from drying out!
Moisturizers: Many soaps strip the skin’s natural oils, making it harder for a child’s skin to maintain moisture. Children’s skin is very tender and doesn’t have the full ability to make oils and regulate moisture, so it is important that you moisturize. Depending on how dry their skin is, choose a cream rather than a lotion. Lotions are usually about 70-90% water. While creams have reduced water. Children with particularly sensitive skin will need a moisturizer that includes ingredients such as glycerin, ceramide, hyaluronic acid, sodium lactate etc.
Sunscreens: Sunscreen is essential for everyone. Wearing sunscreen helps to prevent sunburns and sun damage to children’s skin as they age.
Avoid sun exposure for babies under 6 months. Your baby's skin is sensitive and can easily absorb too many chemicals which is why experts DO NOT recommend using sunscreen for infants under six months old.
There are two types, physical and chemical. Physical/mineral sunscreen essentially blocks the sun’s UV rays from absorbing into the skin where it causes damage, while the chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and releases them from the body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical sunscreen.
While physical sunscreens can be whiter than chemical formulas, sticking to physical ones helps avoid potentially irritating or harmful chemicals that absorb directly into the skin. Especially because children’s skin is still quite delicate and has the potential to absorb more ingredients. In addition, for kids with sensitive skin, especially dark skin, absorption into the skin is enough to cause damage before the chemical sunscreen does its job of converting the rays into heat.
Physical sunscreens tend to leave a white cast on the skin but today’s formulations are more elegant than the bright white zinc-based sunscreens of the past. I recommend the Blue Lizard Baby or California Baby sunscreen brands. Try to dress your kids in UV-protective clothing and hats as part of their everyday summertime routine.
As for clothes, items with a tight weave provide the best protection. You can hold clothing up to the sun and see how much light comes through to check how well it blocks sun. A dry, white T-shirt typically only offers an SPF of about 7. For proper sunscreen usage, you should apply it 30 minutes before activities begin and reapply every 2 hours—unless they are wet or sweaty, which means it should be reapplied more frequently.
Children should stay in the shade from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the sun’s peak hours. Also. the sun reflects from sand, snow, water and the pavement, so ensure your kids apply sunscreen all over (including the underside of the chin) to protect them from all angles.
Although, melanin provides some inherent protection, it is not 100 percent, you still need sunscreen. Skin of color is prone to discoloration, and dark spots will get darker when exposed to the sun if you don’t wear protection.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D
Vitamin D is very important for good health and a lack of it can cause serious illnesses such as rickets – a disease that weakens bones. Sun exposure is one way of getting vitamin D. If necessary, allow your kids get about 10-15 minutes of sun daily before 10am.
Should the Routine Change as the child grows?
The skincare products you choose for your baby may be different from the ones they use as they age. On the one hand, a baby’s skin is more sensitive than older skin; on the other, a child’s skin can develop irritations to products that were once harmless. As your children grow, it is important to keep a close watch for signs of irritation and rashes. If regular irritation occurs even after being diligent with clean ingredients, then it’s time for a follow-up appointment to rule out eczema, allergies, or more severe skin conditions.
Light skinned kids vs Dark skinned kids
At birth, your child's skin is likely to be a shade or two lighter than her eventual skin color. The skin will darken and reach its natural color over the next few months. Your baby didn’t get darker, their melanin was just not fully developed. The darker your baby's skin, the more melanin it makes. Melanin is a pigment that provides natural protection against the sun's harsh rays, so the darker a person's skin, the longer it'll take to get sun burned.
Don’t fall into the temptation of buying separate products for your light skinned kids and dark skinned kids. Black skin is delicate and needs to be treated with care to avoid developing dark spots and scars.Black skin is generally very dry, and without proper moisturizer, may develop an ashy appearance. The same dry skin cells are present in all shades of skin, but without the contrast against a darker background they're less visible in other skin tones.
Skincare for Ages 6-12
Habits kids internalize at this age will likely carry over into their adult lives so consistency is key to making sure skincare is a lifelong habit.
The routine is similar to that of younger kids. Wash their face with a mild cleanser. Pat skin dry with a towel. Do not rub and use a light moisturizer Do not forget sunscreen!
Avoid irritating products:
A lot of body care products that are marketed towards this age group usually have their favorite characters and are loaded with glitters, dyes, bubbles, and synthetic scents. Unfortunately, these ingredients can irritate the skin on some children. Discuss with your children and ask them to let you know if their skin feels itchy or irritated.
For most children, puberty starts sometime between the ages of seven to thirteen for girls and nine to fifteen for boys. This is the time when physical changes are most likely to appear and accelerate for your child. During this time, hormones are just beginning to influence the look and feel of their skin. At age seven, sebum production increases, and it is during these prepubescent years that they may experience slight oiliness in their T-Zone and their first pimples.
Skincare for Teenagers
Skincare is especially important during the teenage years. Teens undergo hormonal changes that can make their oil glands hyperactive, leading to oily skin that is more prone to acne, blackheads and whiteheads. This period can also affect your child’s self-esteem. The good practices that you have instilled in them from childhood, will help a lot here.
You may not be able to fully navigate these times but you can help ease their problems a little by helping them maintain healthy skin. Blemish-free skin can boost anyone’s confidence level! Keep it basic. You don’t want to overwhelm your tween or teen with your favorite multi step routine. There is always room for them to add more products as they become more comfortable. From age twelve, they can add an exfoliation step once a week to start. Treat acne as it occurs with targeted spot treatments.
Avoid picking at acne or scabs. Teach your children that picking at acne or scabs will lead to scarring that will carry over to adulthood. To help children cope and stop picking, you can have them wear bandages on their faces or clothing that covers scabbing so they will not be tempted to pick at them.
Ingredients to avoid
The younger a child is, the more sensitive their skin tends to be. Babies are typically more susceptible to irritants than adults and it is not uncommon for kids to develop skin irritations or allergies to common synthetic ingredients. Here are a few ingredients to be wary of:
Fragrance: We all love a nice smelling baby but products with fragrances are often linked with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, and other potentially negative side effects. In order to avoid any skin problems, choose products that are fragrance-free.
Parabens: Parabens are used very widely in the cosmetics industry. You will see them as preservatives in body washes, shampoos, moisturizers etc. However, they can cause irritations and allergies in young children, so it’s best to avoid these as well.
Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are sometimes used to help prevent bacterial growth, but this chemical can also lead to allergies and irritation and may even be harmful to the immune system. It’s a good idea to avoid any cleansers, body washes, conditioners, or shampoos with this ingredient. Read labels and avoid products containing the following ingredients: Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol). In addition, if you allow your child use nail polish, choose nail products that are labeled formaldehyde-free or “toxic-trio-free” (formaldehyde, toluene and DBP). Also, if you take your child to a salon, take your own products. Most salon products have this ingredient and you may not see the ingredient list since they mostly decant their products into handy bottles for use. Also, a lot of liquid soaps in Nigeria has this ingredient especially the multi-purpose washes.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/Sodium laureth sulfate (SLeS): A report estimated that more than a whopping 90% of shampoos and body washes contain sulfates. SLSs can irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs, and the ingredient sometimes interacts poorly with other chemical products.
Synthetic Dyes: Often labeled as FD&C or D&C, coloring derived from petroleum or coal tar sources are potential irritants that children can develop allergies to. You will find this in many beauty and food products.
Propylene glycol: This is regularly found in moisturizers and sunscreen, propylene glycol is a small, organic alcohol used primarily for skin conditioning. However, it’s been known to cause dermatitis and hives, even in very low concentrations.
Sunscreen Chemicals: Chemicals are commonly found in sunscreen and operate as agents to absorb ultraviolet light, but the consequences are unknown if a large amount is absorbed. Avoid using sunscreens that include chemicals like benzophenone, avobenzone, PABA, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate. Instead, choose zinc or titanium dioxide based sunscreens.
Of course, adherence to a completely clean product list 100 percent of the time can be extremely challenging and impractical. Just do your best and choose safer alternatives when you can find it. Be willing to make changes if you notice any negative reactions in your child’s skin. Pay attention to the ingredients because the ingredients make the product. Our children's skincare line takes out the guesswork.
More Than Just Skin Care Products
There are other habits that can have a big impact too. Changing pillowcases frequently and disinfecting helmets, hats, goggles, or any other sports gear that comes in contact with the skin helps to control the bacteria that causes acne. Washing hands and keeping them away from the face and keeping cell phones disinfected helps as well. Choosing shampoos and conditioners and other hair products that won’t aggravate acne is also important, especially if the breakout is around the hairline. Also encourage them to change towels weekly and keep a separate towel for their face.
Also consider other factors such as maintaining a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, having adequate sleep and choosing a healthy lifestyle. Guide them in choosing the best products for their skin type and skin concern.
Everyone wants beautiful skin and starting good skincare early in life will give your kids the best opportunity to have a lifetime of beautiful skin.
[ii] Fernandes JD, Machado MC, Oliveira ZN. Children and newborn skin care and prevention. An Bras Dermatol. 2011 Jan-Feb;86(1):102-10. English, Portuguese. doi: 10.1590/s0365-05962011000100014. PMID: 21437530.
[iii] Johnson E, Hunt R. Infant skin care: updates and recommendations. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2019 Aug;31(4):476-481. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000791. PMID: 31188166.
[iv] Kuller JM. Infant Skin Care Products: What Are the Issues? Adv Neonatal Care. 2016 Oct;16 Suppl 5S:S3-S12. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000341. PMID: 27676112.