February 21, 2006

A Delicate Balance: Skin Care Tips for the New Mother and Baby

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(ARA) - As a new mother, what do you do if your infant suddenly develops what looks like a case of teenage acne or a rash on his or her scalp? And while you’re worried about your child’s skin, you may be worried about your own and the changes it experienced during and after pregnancy. For a lifetime of healthier skin, a dermatologist - a doctor who specializes in the care of the skin - can address both mother and baby skin concerns.

“Psychosocial stressors, such as hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, dietary changes and the new responsibility of caring for a baby can have a significant effect on a mother’s skin,” says dermatologist Andrea Lynn Cambio, M.D., of New York City. “Hormones that also can affect the baby’s skin pass from the mother to child, leading to several common conditions in baby that can be resolved by consulting with a dermatologist.”

Winter Skin Care for Baby

The change of season can be challenging for the delicate skin of an infant and Dr. Cambio recommends the following tips to prevent seasonal skin conditions:

* Use only fragrance-free baby soaps and lotions.

* Apply generous amounts of moisturizing creams and ointments to areas of baby’s skin that appear dry.

* Reduce the number of baths - Avoid daily baths and spend no more than 10 minutes washing your child in lukewarm water.

* Use a humidifier to boost moisture and ease your child’s breathing overnight.

* Don’t bundle children up too tightly - Heavy layers can make children sweat, leading to skin irritation, while under-dressing can expose your child’s skin to the elements.

Infant Skin Conditions

Recurrent diaper rash is caused by persistent wet, soiled diapers and the use of unnecessary baby products, such as powders, creams, lotions and oils. “When a baby has diaper rash, parents should remember to change diapers frequently, use a warm, wet washcloth instead of pre-moistened baby wipes on the bottom and apply a barrier cream with zinc oxide to the affected area,” recommends Dr. Cambio.

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is an itchy, oozing, crusting rash that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches can appear anywhere. Eczema treatment can include the use of an over-the-counter or prescription topical, steroid-free antihistamine.

Baby acne, which can have the appearance of pimples and whiteheads along the nose and cheeks, is quite common in newborns. This condition usually clears within three weeks without treatment.

Birthmarks, the two most common types of which are hemangiomas and port-wine stains, may increase in size as a child grows. Port-wine stains are present at birth, while hemangiomas may not immediately appear. Oral corticosteroids can be prescribed or a pulsed-dye laser can be used to significantly improve the appearance of these birthmarks.

Mother’s Skin Changes

Dark patches on the face could be melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy.” This benign condition is attributed to an overproduction of melanin, a natural substance in the body that gives color to the hair, skin and eyes. Dr. Cambio recommends applying cosmetics to camouflage the condition and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to prevent further darkening of the skin. A dermatologist also can prescribe topical creams with ingredients such as hydroquinone, retinoids, azeleic acid or hydroxyacids.

Stretch marks develop in more than 90 percent of women during pregnancy. “There are no over-the-counter treatments to ‘cure’ stretch marks, but a moisturizer may help improve their appearance and control itching,” remarks Dr. Cambio. “Women also may use a sunless tanning product which can help hide stretch marks, or there are many successful treatment options available from a dermatologist, such as a prescription tretinoin cream or laser treatments.”

During pregnancy, itchy, red skin is common on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The best solution for this condition is to avoid long, hot showers and switch to a fragrance-free non-soap cleanser. An over-the-counter mentholated or oatmeal-based moisturizer stored in the refrigerator can provide added relief.

“For many new mothers, caring for their own skin after pregnancy is not at the top of their list, while caring for their newborn’s skin becomes the priority. A visit to the dermatologist can put a mother at ease about her child’s skin condition, while finding solutions to her own skin concerns,” says Dr. Cambio.

For more information about skin care, visit the Academy’s Web site at www.aad.org or contact the Academy toll-free at (888) 462-DERM (3376).

Courtesy of ARA Content


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