Skin Conditions

An interview with Dr Jo-Ann See
Dermatologist, Sydney

Infants & children

A photograph of a group of infants

How does young skin differ?

Young skin is potentially more sensitive than older skin. Babies and children’s skin is more likely to become irritated by saliva, food and nappy contents.

What sort of skin conditions are infants and children likely to get?

The commonest would be eczema (also called dermatitis). Babies are prone to nappy rash and cradle cap, whereas infants and children may develop skin infections such as bacterial school sores (or impetigo), viral warts and molluscum.

What is good skin care for infants and children?

Try to avoid anything that may be irritating to the skin, so use gentle, pH neutral, fragrance free (non-perfumed) and non-coloured products. Kids love bubble baths but these are often full of fragrances, colouring and lathering agents; these can dry their skin out so I try to avoid them or use only as a ‘rare treat’.

For nappy rash, regular changing of the nappy is crucial and disposable nappies may be helpful. The soiled area should be gently wiped with a low irritant cleanser and then a barrier cream applied. Avoid the use of a regular soap or shampoo in the bath.

What do you look for in a skin cleanser?

I look for a cleanser that is gentle, pH balanced, fragrance free, non-coloured and low lathering to minimise irritancy. Soaps and shampoos have a high pH (alkaline), and can strip the natural oils that make up the skin’s barrier. They can also leave a residue on the skin's surface that is irritating and can make the skin sensitive.

What do you look for in a skin moisturiser?

Again I look for something simple without any unnecessary added ingredients such as fragrance. The consistency of a moisturiser is important as it should feel pleasant to use so kids won’t object. Many kids prefer a thinner runnier lotion that glides on easily, however if they have really dry skin they will need a thicker cream.

How suitable is Cetaphil®?

Cetaphil® is one of a group of good non soap cleansers (eg Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser) and moisturisers (eg Cetaphil® Moisturiser) available in pharmacies. They are suitable and fulfil the criteria you want in a cleanser or moisturiser eg low irritant, no unnecessary chemicals.

Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser can be used without water and doesn’t sting the eyes.

How would you recommend using Cetaphil®?

The Gentle Skin Cleanser can be used as a soap and shampoo alternative anytime the youngster needs washing. It is as good as soap in removing dirt and bacteria without the irritation; and kids don’t need a strong shampoo as their scalps are not oily. You can start using Cetaphil® as soon as the baby is born.

Use the Cetaphil® Moisturising Lotion after the bath if there is a tendency for dry skin (eg cooler winter months and heating). Daily use can often prevent dry skin from turning into dermatitis.

When should we take our infants or children to see a GP or a dermatologist?

If they have an unknown rash or the rash is making them uncomfortable. Eczema can be complicated by a bacterial or viral infection, so a prescription cream may be required. Advice may be needed about allergies.

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