Skincare is a science because nature is a science, biology is a science and looking after our skin is both. For this reason, taking care of our own skin can seem like something we don’t have the relevant knowledge or qualifications for. Aside from this, the sheer amount of conflicting information out there is overwhelming. It’s what leads many of us to spend significant time and money investing in ongoing experiments with our skincare routines. That’s not ok but many of us do so regardless. Yet, this is not something we want to be doing when it comes to our children.
The issue is, in terms of taking care of your child’s skin, there’s a lack of information. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the beauty industry is far less willing to experiment with children, so at least they generally draw the line there. Secondly, children’s skin simply doesn’t need products, save for specific skin conditions, as it hasn’t yet been polluted, spoiled with bad diet or smothered by make-up and other toxic products.
When I was born, the midwife likely checked me over and then cleaned me up before handing me to my mother. That’s generally what they did back then. By the time my kids were born though they had abandoned the clean-up process. My babies were placed in my arms covered in mucus and all sorts of unknown pieces of birth. Gorgeous as they were it was a little like something out of an alien film. There was though, good reason for this. The white, waxy substance that covers a newborn is called vernix caseosa and it adds a protective layer over the skin. One which helps to guard against bacteria and softens the skin.
I say it in every post but I’ll say it again - Mother Nature knows what she’s doing! So we no longer remove this but allow it to be absorbed.
But what about when our babies become toddlers? What about when they’re children? How can you best take care of your child’s skin?
Let’s look at what they need and when:
Taking Care Of Your Child’s Skin In The Sun
We’ll start here because it is, without a doubt, the most important part of anyone‘s skincare practices, but particularly for children. Many will be surprised to know that most of the sun damage that we endure, specifically that which can lead to skin cancer later on in life, is developed in childhood.
When we’re out in the sun most of us are intent on two things - tanning and making sure we don’t get sunburn. Sunburn is painful and it’s not too pretty either. Yet, I wish we were more worried about skin cancer. The sun’s rays can cause melanoma and this develops over time so early over-exposure to the sun can have an effect later on in life.
Now, the data on this is a little conflicting. Melanoma cancers are increasing, particularly in men and people of colour. However, generally speaking, our children have been spending less and less time outdoors in the past few decades, probably owing to increased traffic and digital products. This has led some scientists to question whether the link between the sun’s rays and skin cancers is as linear as once suggested.
However, others argue that our increased consumption of processed foods and less active lifestyles have had a huge part to play which does not discredit the sun’s part in promoting cancer cell growth but has attributed separately to the rise in skin cancers. There have also been associated links between cancers and vitamin D deficiency, which is an essential vitamin we gain only from the sun.
I’m not a scientist so I encourage you to do your own research in this area. However, here is my two cents from all I have learnt - don’t hide your children inside. The sun has many health benefits and children need to run around and be in nature for their wellbeing. At the same time, the sun can harm our skin and our future health so we need to be protecting it. Both children and adults should be wearing hats when the sun is high and exposed and we should always be applying suncream with an SPF of at least 30. I recommend an SPF of 50 for children. There is also something to be said for slow and steady exposure to the sun. As Brits, we get a bit panicky when the weather turns warm. We don’t know how long it will last and we understandably want to make the most of it. Unfortunately, this leads many of us to stay out too long in temperatures our bodies have not been conditioned to. When the weather begins to warm, think of it as a training exercise. You wouldn’t do a 5K run when your body hasn’t been used to exercise for a while. You’d likely tear muscle and maybe even do long-term damage. Better to build up to it. So, as the summer rolls in, take it easy. Cover up, apply sunscreen and build up your time in the sun over days to let your skin adjust. This is even more important for children who may not notice the incoming signs of sunstroke or remember to reapply suncream regularly and after having been swimming.
Please don’t be put off from spending time outdoors with your children in any weather. But know also that nature may be our friend, but we’re not always its main priority. Therefore, it can do us harm if we don’t protect ourselves whilst we’re enjoying it.
Furthermore, it’s not all that difficult to remember to use sunscreen when we’re gifted with temperatures that take us to the coast. However, the sun is still pretty powerful, even when masked by clouds. Therefore, sun protection is something we should be using much more throughout the year than we generally are. The air may be cool but if the sun is exposed, so is our skin. Take care of your child’s skin by applying suncream for around 70% of the year, not just in July and August.
Taking Care Of Dry Skin In Children
Many children suffer from eczema. Their skin is more delicate and more prone to dryness and itchiness. Yet, as the skin builds its natural barrier, most children will grow out of eczema.
If you believe your child is developing eczema, consult a doctor. Most doctors will be able to tell the difference between a little dry skin or irritation, which could be down to many things, and eczema, which is defined as a skin ‘condition’. First, consult a professional who knows the difference. Dry or irritated skin may be left to self-correct whereas eczema may need a medical cream. Doctors can also advise you on ways to stop children from itching and learn how to assist you in taking care of their condition. Most eczema is not serious and is more of an annoyance. However, left untreated it can lead to skin infections as well as harm a child’s general wellbeing since the persistent itchiness can interrupt sleep and cause anxiety.
If your child does not have eczema but does have dry skin, which is common in children, then avoid chemical products. Chemical products, those that many adults use (but I don’t advise) are highly processed and usually very aggressive. The skincare produced by much of the beauty industry attempts to take over from our skin and solve the ‘problems’ with synthetic ingredients. Short-term, we may see results. However, bypassing our skin’s natural self-regulation can cause long-term problems. Our skin may not always heal itself as quickly as we’d like but it does know how. Interfering with this with the use of unnatural products can confuse our skin’s natural abilities, stopping it from producing the oils it needs to keep our skin conditioned and wearing down the protective barrier. We must not do this to children’s skin. Therefore, many of the products adults use are too aggressive for children’s skin and can change its natural make-up and defensive systems.
If children need extra moisture then go for natural products that only contain natural ingredients. My skincare should be fine to share with children since everything in it is gentle and natural and should encourage your skin to work as it should and not take over.
Furthermore, children can make their own natural skincare. Avocados and other store-cupboard ingredients can work very well and are super fun to make for a self-care mother-child evening at home. They won’t have a long shelf life but they shouldn’t need it. Children under 12 years old probably don’t need daily skincare products but can benefit from an occasional natural moisture-inducing treatment.
Taking Care Of Pre-Teen Skin
This is where it can begin to get complicated. Hormones start to play a part, in both boys and girls, and this can affect the skin. Acne can become a particular problem.
The first approach to taking care of pre-teen skin is ensuring hygiene is exemplary. It's important to wash the face at least twice per day with tepid water to get rid of toxins. You may also use an oil cleanser to really get into those pores and loosen any embedded dirt. It is also important to keep hands clean as we touch our faces multiple times a day and transfer bacteria. So, ensure your teens are looking after the basics and have clean flannels/cloths and towels to hand.
If some extra help is required it’s best to invest in all-natural skincare as this does not contain chemicals that can wear away at the skin's natural barrier. My face cream for acne-prone skin will help to even out skin tones, reduce redness and soften scarring. The natural ingredients regulate sebum to balance out the oils in the skin and cleanse, and hydrate deeply, without clogging pores. The cream also contains SPF and is gentle on pre-teen skin.
Last Advice For Taking Care Of Your Child’s Skin
Children’s skin needs very little. It’s young and has all it needs to thrive. Leaving it alone, as far as possible will help it to build resilience and learn to adapt and respond to toxins as it is naturally conditioned to do.
The best you can do for your child’s skin is to keep it clean, hydrated and smother it in kisses. If there is persistent dryness you may apply an all-natural moisturiser or even make a natural face mask together from fruit. Follow me on Instagram to see some of my favourite easy-to-make facemasks and scrubs you can make at home.
The only product you should regularly be applying to your child’s skin unless they have a medical skin condition, is suncream. Apart from this, the best you can do is to teach them to keep their skin clean and to love their natural beauty and show them how you care for and love yours too.