Skin Care for Babies and Toddlers

While we, as parents, are seeking the glow of youth that we had as children, there are many things we should be doing to take care of our children’s skin from baby to teenager and beyond. Emily Staggs is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and a Dermatology-certified Nurse Practitioner, the only one with these credentials in the state of Arkansas. Below, Emily advises on skin care for babies and toddlers. She sees patients in our Bentonville, Fayetteville, and Harrison at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Centers, PLLC.

How baby & toddler skin care and skin are different

Skin anatomy of infants and toddlers is just like that of adults. However, baby skin is much thinner. This thinner skin is very delicate and soft and more prone to irritation and effects of chemicals, which in turn means gentler skin care for babies and toddlers. As children grow and develop, their skin will increase in thickness and become just as resilient as their spirit. Until that time, baby skin may develop diaper rash, acne, atopic dermatitis, cradle cap, birthmarks, etc. Most of these problems are not harmful and will resolve on their own, but some may need intervention. Since irritated skin leads to an irritated baby, prevention is going to be a sanity saver, as well as a great practice to maintain skin care for babies and toddlers and avoid more severe problems. 

Diaper rash

A common skin condition in infants and toddlers is diaper rash which occurs from a combination of friction, moisture, and occlusion. Tight diapers and products that contain fragrances or chemicals should be avoided. Soiled diapers should be changed immediately, and bottoms should air out throughout the day. Ointment or zinc oxide-based products can protect the skin and prevent breakdown. If the rash persists, a dermatology provider should be consulted for possible cultures and treatment.

Infant & toddler acne

Acne on infants and toddlers is different from adolescent acne and will generally resolve on its own. It is usually more distressing to parents than it is to kiddos. Gentle cleansing with a child safe, non-comedogenic cleanser and fingertips is appropriate. Over the counter acne washes, scrubs, and creams should be avoided; these chemicals are not safe for infants and toddlers and can lead to increased absorption and irritation. If the acne is inflamed or bothersome, a dermatology provider can direct you in proper treatment.

Infant & toddler eczema

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is an itchy rash that can become inflamed and uncomfortable. Many children will grow out of their eczema, but some will keep it into adulthood. As with many things, prevention is key. Avoid fragrances, use soap substitutes, and moisturize twice daily with a cream or ointment; lotions are less effective. If the rash becomes red, itchy, or crusted, seek treatment from a dermatology provider to prevent infection and scarring.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap, or seborrheic dermatitis, looks dry and flaky but is actually a combination of oil build-up and overgrowth of yeast. As an infant’s normal skin flora develops, this rash will resolve. In the meantime, gentle cleansing with fragrance free baby shampoo and gentle exfoliation with a soft bristled baby brush will help to reduce the build up. If the condition is more severe, or causes itching and inflammation, a dermatology provider can prescribe an appropriate medication.

Birth marks

Birth marks, pigmented or vascular, can be present at the time of birth or may develop in the first couple years of life. These skin growths should be measured, photographed, and routinely examined. Vascular marks often gradually regress and resolve whereas pigmented marks may grow with your child as their skin grows. Having a dermatology provider monitor these areas will ensure quicker identification of problems and earlier intervention if needed.

Sun protection

Sun protection also should not be overlooked in this age group. Infants should avoid direct sunlight and be kept in the shade to avoid sunburn and overheating. Sun protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, window tint, stroller covers, etc. should be utilized. At 6 months old, sunscreen may be used. Mineral-based sunscreen, containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and a SPF of 30 or above are recommended.

Emily Staggs, APRN DCNP
Emily Staggs APRN DCNP

“Having an infant or toddler in your life can be stressful – trust me, I have one!”, smiled Emily, “However, this time is also wonderful, amazing, and way to short. We should all try to give our best daily, try not to sweat the small stuff, and give tons of love to the little ones. Making time to provide good skin care to our children is an excellent time to bond, teach, and show them how much you care. I encourage all parents to do this because before we know it, our little ones will not be little anymore. Take time to hug big, love big, and wear a big hat!”

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