Traditionally when people think of babies, the image conjured up involves beautiful soft, smooth, plump, unblemished skin. Generally, this is what is referred to when we talk about baby skin. Thinking about it, it’s ironic that we refer to soft, smooth skin as baby skin as statistically a person is more likely to suffer from rashes, redness, dryness and other signs and symptoms of eczema including eczema on the face as a baby or young child than as an adult.
Facial eczema can cause considerable distress for parents both for its impact on the physical comfort of their child and because aesthetically this is not how parents have imagined their baby would look.
Eczema on the face is particularly common in babies and children and normally first appears between the ages of two months and six months old. Babies’ cheeks and their forehead are often affected first but Atopic Dermatitis often spreads to other parts of the body over time. The symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis, which include dry, red, itchy and irritated skin are often extremely uncomfortable for the child.
The reason why eczema may begin on the face for babies is because this is the area that they can most easily rub on carer’s clothing, on sheets in bed, and with their hands both deliberately and accidently. Because skin is dry and itchy, children scratch and rub and so the vicious circle known as the Atopic Skin Cycle begins.
What is the Atopic Skin Cycle?
The infant scratches their skin and this scratching damages the skin’s protective barrier. With a now damaged protective barrier, a bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus is able to multiply and infect the skin. This infection causes inflammation and itching which worsens the condition making skin even more irritable and itchy and causing the infant to rub and scratch more. And so the cycle continues.
What can be done to try to halt this cycle?
There is no known cure for Atopic Dermatitis so the focus should be on daily skin maintenance and on supporting the skin’s protective barrier to prolong the period between flare-ups. Thus giving the skin the moisture it needs to prevent further dryness will help.
‘My baby is already showing eczema on their face. Now what?’
Chances are they may develop further eczema on other parts of their body. These tips may be of help to care for sensitive skin:
- Being aware that harsh cleansers can strip away essential lipids and damage the delicate protective barrier and moisture balance of young skin. It is best to avoid bubble baths, traditional alkaline soaps and harsh surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. Choose a mild, soap-free cleanser such as Happy Little Bodies Eczema Wash & Shampoo.
- Keep in mind that even water itself can actually increase moisture loss so bathing and skin cleansing should ideally be done with quick baths or showers where possible. Warm water should be used in place of hot water as hot water causes further moisture loss.
- Children’s skin is thinner and has less pigmentation than adult skin so it is always best to make use of a product specifically formulated for children. Happy Little Bodies Eczema Moisturizing Lotion is one such product.
- It’s important to moisturise your baby’s body immediately after cleansing to avoid further evaporation of water from their skin. Bear in mind that moisturising once a day may not necessarily be sufficient particularly on children’s hands and faces which are likely to need more frequent care.
- If your little one seems particularly itchy, you could try to relieve the itch by making use of something cool on the area like a cold, damp face wash cloth or a small ice pack covered in a thin cotton cloth. I know from my own son that he often found this to immediately stop an intense itch. He however would never think to ask for an ice pack as once the itch starts, the first instance is to just scratch and scratch but use your mummy instincts and head for the cool compress sooner rather than later.
- If you miss the beginning of the cycle, and it turns into an eczema flare-up, reach for a good quality cream such as Happy Little Bodies Eczema Relief Cream.