Parenting Win of the Week: Salvaging Winter Skin

Keep your kids protected from the harsh winter elements with these expert tips.

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Ryan Zellers applies sunscreen, preparing for a day of skiing in the backcountry of California.


Ryan Zellers applies sunscreen, preparing for a day of skiing in the backcountry of California.

Photo by: Corey Rich

Corey Rich

The weather here has dropped from 60 degrees to about 30 with snow flurries and wind. This is the time of year I question where we live. It's also the time of year when the weather wreaks havoc on our skin — my kids included. Wearing masks all day has seemed to perpetuate the issue.

So, what to do?

Honestly, it is hard enough to get my kids to brush their teeth, shower, and change their clothes in the morning — much less to keep up a full-force skin routine.

So, I spoke with Tracee Blackburn, a dermatology PA in Chicago and author of the e-book My Ecz-ellent Day at Camp, about the most important things we can be doing for our kids’ skin (much of it also applies to adults) to keep it from cracking, getting irritated or developing a form of atopic dermatitis.

A mom herself, she really understood that our kids aren’t always the most compliant, so do what you can. If you spot the start of irritation, major itching, or cracked skin, make sure to consult your dermatologist before it gets really bad!

Here are four of her tips:

1. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

As we are really trying to not irritate or compromise the skin (leading to ouchies and itching), it’s important to create a moisture barrier. But as we know, kids are picky, so it may take a bit of trial and error to find a cream that works. Her general guidelines are to go for creams that are unscented and without dyes, especially if your kid has really sensitive skin. You’ll want to use it everywhere that is exposed, but if your kid is really resistant, start with some trouble areas.

"Kid-tested and approved," she says, is the way to go. That may mean mixing two things like an ointment and a thinner lotion to get to a consistency that they like. It’s like the Goldilocks adage (instead of too cold, too sticky!).

2. Use Lip Balm

It’s just as important to protect those lips and the area around them, which can get super sensitive — especially in the winter. Even though your kids may be drawn to the bubble gum flavors and glittery balm, if they tend to react easily, you’ll want to reach for those without sulfates, parabens, or lanolin.

And if your kids are wearing masks in school, it’s extra important to have a layer of lip balm and moisturizer to protect them from how irritating masks can be. Speaking of masks, you will want to have clean ones available everywhere. "The disposable masks are great but can be irritating to the skin, so look for those with a softer material," she says.

3. Layer, Layer, Layer

Yes, Blackburn knows that when she sends her kids to school that the gloves they went with may not return home or that getting a coat on may be a fight. But when you win that battle, it’s important to have your kids protect their skin barrier. Gloves help with the hands and moisture-wicking fabric is important for the whole body.
"Sweat can be an irritant to the skin," she says, "so dressing in layers is great." This is true especially as kids spend much of their day going from indoors to outdoors at school.

4. Yes, Sunscreen Applies in the Winter

I am sure you as an adult have been told to wear sunscreen year-round, but if you are like me, you never thought about it for your kids in the winter. If you think about it, as Blackburn pointed out to me, your kids are likely outside more than you are in the winter between recess and winter fun in the snow. Therefore, it’s even more important for them to have some kind of barrier to the sun, especially when they’re out for extended periods of time.


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