As winter’s chill begins to sweep across the Inland Empire, parents face a unique challenge – safeguarding their children’s sensitive skin against the harsh elements. With her profound expertise, Loma Linda University Health Board-certified Dermatologist Dr. Janiene Luke sheds light on the importance of specialized skincare during these colder months.
Children’s inherently sensitive and developing skin demands careful attention, especially in infants. “Even infants can get eczema,” explains Dr. Luke, highlighting the vulnerability of young skin to dryness and irritation. The winter season exacerbates these issues, with colder, drier climates triggering skin changes and eczema flares in children and adults.
Contrary to popular belief, the relatively milder Inland Empire winters still significantly threaten skin health. Dr. Luke warns against underestimating these conditions. “We might not face extreme cold, but the use of heaters and exposure to cold air strips natural moisture,” she notes, emphasizing the need for protective clothing like hats and mittens to combat moisture loss.
A prevalent concern Dr. Luke observes is dry skin, particularly among children of Latino and African-American descent. She points out the unique genetic predispositions, such as lower ceramide levels in African American skin, which lead to higher susceptibility to dryness. This calls for diligent moisturizing, with Dr. Luke advising thicker moisturizers during winter and using ceramide-rich products.
For parents seeking to craft a simple yet effective skincare routine for their children, Dr. Luke recommends avoiding long, hot baths, which can deplete skin oils, and opting for fragrance-free products to reduce irritation. “Moisturizing immediately after bathing with a thick cream or ointment is key,” she advises, stressing the importance of locking in moisture, particularly during winter.
Parents should also be cautious about certain skincare ingredients. “Fragrances and alcohol-based products can be particularly drying and irritating to the skin,” Dr. Luke cautions. She notes that environmental factors like seasonal allergies and certain detergents can exacerbate eczema.
In addressing the skincare needs of the region’s diverse population, including people of color, Dr. Luke tackles a common misconception regarding melanin and sun protection. It’s often believed that the presence of melanin in darker skin tones negates the need for sunscreen. However, Dr. Luke emphasizes the importance of using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for all skin types. While studies have suggested that darker skin may have a natural SPF of around 13, compared to about 3 for lighter skin, this does not eliminate the need for additional protection.
The inherent melanin in darker skin provides some defense, but it’s not sufficient to fully protect against skin cancer, discoloration, and premature aging. Sun protection remains a critical yet often overlooked aspect of winter skincare. “Even in winter, and even for people of color with natural melanin, sun protection is critical,” Dr. Luke states.
When selecting skincare products, she recommends brands like CeraVe, La Roche-Posay, and Eucerin, especially those products carrying the National Eczema Association’s seal of approval. These products are formulated for sensitive skin and are suitable for children and adults.
Dr. Luke also stresses the importance of consulting a dermatologist for persistent skin issues like severe dryness or eczema. Access to dermatological care is more feasible than many realize, as some health insurance plans do not require referrals for specialist consultations.
To vet skincare products for children and adults, visit nationaleczema.org.