When it comes to babies, the slightest sign of discomfort is enough to send any mom’s worry meter into overdrive. So just imagine waking up to find your baby’s chubby cheeks now riddled with patches of red, flaky and itchy skin. Eczema is the general term used to describe certain medical conditions that cause the skin to be irritated and inflamed. In babies, the most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which affects about 1 in 10 infants (and even as many as 1 in 5) in the United States.
While infant eczema or atopic dermatitis is inherited, it rarely carries over into adulthood. However, it can prove difficult to treat as flare-ups are triggered by a host of different factors—from baby’s saliva and clothes to food and temperature. And because it is chronic, it cannot be cured. It can, however, be controlled.
To help us understand this condition better, we sat down with board-certified dermatologist Janet Prystowsky of Livad Skin Care. Here she talked about the causes, symptoms and steps to manage infant eczema.
Dr. Janet Prystowsky: Skin affected by eczema will often feel dry, thick or scaly. Itchiness is a common symptom as well. Sometimes, itchiness occurs before the physical symptoms present themselves.
Dr. Prystowsky: Eczema flares occur when the skin is very dry, infected, irritated or having an allergic reaction. Eczema tends to be worse in the winter, when the air is dry, and tends to improve in the summer when it is more humid. In babies, saliva from drooling may cause additional irritation, particularly to the cheeks, chin and neck.
Dr. Prystowsky: There are known triggers that can make eczema worse. Specific triggers can vary based on the baby and can include pets, pollen, dust mites, mold, fabrics (such as wool), cigarette smoke, scented products (such as perfume, laundry detergent and air freshener) and harsh soaps and shampoos. Skin infections, certain temperature and humidity situations and fluctuations, dietary allergies and stress can also cause eczema to get worse. Some common food allergies associated with eczema include milk, eggs, wheat, fish and nuts. However, not everyone who has eczema will be triggered by a food allergy.
Dr. Prystowsky: Unfortunately, there are no cures for eczema, but the good news is that eczema can be controlled. In most children, eczema becomes less severe with time.
Treating eczema requires treating both skin dryness and skin inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications, like topical steroids or topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), are used to treat inflammation. Occasionally, oral anti-inflammatory agents are needed to treat the most severe cases.
Moisturizers should be applied at least twice daily—in a thick layer. Generally, two types of moisturizers are recommended for treating eczema: ointments and creams, which seal moisture from bathing into the skin, much like plastic wraps seal moisture into a cake.
Dr. Prystowsky: If you’re looking to manage your baby’s eczema, give him or her warm baths and moisturize afterwards. Avoid anything that you know will make your baby’s eczema flare. Here are other tips:
Need products to help keep your little one’s flare-ups under control? We’ve listed our tried-and-tested, baby-friendly infant eczema solutions!
This shampoo and body wash is infused with calming ingredients to relieve top-to-toe dryness and itchiness and features organic colloidal oatmeal, which works like over-the-counter topical steroids.
This soothing, hypoallergenic bubble bath formula is dermatologist- and pediatrician-tested, and made without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, PPGs, dyes, GMOs, triclosan, formaldehyde, bisphenol A (BPA) and essential oils.
This moisturizing body cream is specially formulated for those with eczema. Featuring skin-healing botanical extracts from calendula and aloe vera, it soothes, repairs and calms raw, cracked and irritated skin.
Featuring primrose oil and thermal spring water, this moisturizing cream controls your body’s inflammation response, diminishing redness and irritation while restoring your natural defense barrier and reducing itchiness for smoother, softer skin.
Designed to treat cradle cap, eczema and diaper rash, this gentle and rich formula contains vitamins B and E, bisabolol and allantoin, which nourish, strengthen and soothe irritated skin. It also heals and repairs by creating a protective barrier over affected skin and preventing chafing and further irritation.
Dry, cracked and irritated skin is no match for this soothing and restorative balm that comes packed with nourishing emollients. It features glycerin that cools and hydrates, carnauba wax and sunflower oil that heal and moisturize and squalene that reinforces the skin’s lipid barrier.