Skin Care for Children: What You Need to Know

Photo courtesy Celebrity Baby Blog

With skin care becoming increasingly popular with ever-younger crowds, I actually found myself wondering what skin care little Suri Cruise is using. (This may also suggest that I am perhaps a little too obsessed with skin care and In Touch magazine, but nevertheless…) :-) With that said, what skin care should and should not be used on children? Here are five guidelines for parents and guardians to follow:

1. As a precautionary measure, use only physical sunscreens.

As described by Dr. Leslie Baumann in the textbook Cosmetic Dermatology, there are two different categories of sunscreens: physical sunscreens, which scatter or reflect UV radiation, and chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV radiation and then dissipate the radiation as either heat or light, usually of longer wavelength that does not affect the skin.

Two chemical sunscreens, avobenzone and oxybenzone (the latter present in 20-30% of sunscreens), have been demonstrated by Hayden et. al to be absorbed into the body and secreted into the urine of users. While avobenzone and oxybenzone are not considered to be toxic agents in the medical community, it is still not recommended that sunscreens with avobenzone or oxybenzone are used by pregnant or nursing women nor small children, as they are absorbed into the body. Physical sunscreens, like Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 ($12.79, with 5.0% Titanium Dioxide and 10.0% Zinc Oxide, are a preferrable option, as they have not been shown to be excreted into the urine.

2. Make sure your children receive adequate sun (UV) exposure.

(Please note that adequate is not excessive.) While children’s exposure to sunlight has been associated with later effects like skin cancer and premature aging, too little sunlight is linked to rickets and vitamin D deficiency. According to the journal Pediatrics, child patients are advised to have a minimum intake of 200 IU of vitamin D daily, from infancy through the teenage years. However, keep in mind that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (i.e., it can accumulate to toxic levels), so excessive consumption (2000 IU for adults/day according to the Mayo Clinic) is not recommended.

In addition, actual sun exposure is important: a recent study demonstrated that people residing in Australia (just below the equator) produce 3.4 times more vitamin › Create New Post — WordPress as a result of sun exposure than people in the United Kingdom, and 4.8 times more than people in Scandinavia. Many experts recommend ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen.

3. As another precautionary measure, use sodium lauryl sulfate-free cleansers.

Sodium lauryl sulfate is added to many children’s cleansers for the fun bubbling effect. (I admit to being a Mr. Bubble fan myself). However, sodium lauryl sulfate is a known, documented skin irritant. According to Dr. Leslie Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology text, “[Sodium lauryl sulfate] is such a consistent irritator for skin with an impaired barrier that it is actually used in ‘challenge patch tests’ to evaluate the barrier function of skin…it strips the natural lipids from the skin, disrupting the barrier and rendering it more susceptible to external irritants.” In The DERMADoctor Skinstruction Manual, dermatologist Dr. Audrey Kunin further advises that sodium lauryl sulfate has been additionally blamed on “chapped lips and perioral dermatitis, a rash around the mouth.”

With that said, I highly recommend a sodium lauryl sulfate-free cleanser for children. I particularly like Burt’s Bees Citrus and Ginger Body Wash ($7.59, for everyday, “oh-no-the-baby’s-got-spaghetti-sauce-all-around-her-mouth” cleansing. (And no, I don’t have children yet, but two of my best friends are nannies, so I have heard stories galore.) :-)

4. Apply lotion post-bath.

Applying lotion after a bath or shower is an excellent way to keep your child’s skin feeling hydrated and soft, particularly in the colder winter months. A petrolatum-rich lotion especially locks in the moisture; an excellent choice is Theraplex ($16.50, And if you prefer all-natural skin care without petrolatum, I like Whish Body Butter ($24.00,

5. Visit a pediatric dermatologist with any signs of skin trouble.

Pediatric dermatologists are great because they specialize in common pediatric skin diseases and conditions. (I myself am thinking of becoming one, partly because I love children, and partly because I don’t know if I will ever stop joking around long enough to deal with adults all day, see below). To find a pediatric dermatologist in your area, a fairly reliable locator (through is here.

In summary…

It’s never to early to teach your children how to take care of his or her skin. Start healthy habits early with limited sun exposure, non-absorbed sunscreens, non-irritating cleansers, and post-bath lotions. And don’t forget to consult a pediatric dermatologist at any signs of trouble! :-)

For a post on the ingredients in skin care pregnant or nursing women should not be using, please click here.

Product Review and Giveaway: Theraplex


Theraplex ($16.50, consists of a “water-in-oil” emulsion that leaves the skin without greasiness or tackiness. It is recommended by Dr. Kenneth Beer, M.D., on the Theraplex website for helping to aid dry skin: “Theraplex can help to not only protect your skin from the elements but also to restore the moisture your skin craves. ”

What is special about Theraplex?

Developed in the early 1990′s by Swiss scientist Dr. H.R. Suess, Theraplex contains a special petrolatum fraction that is an “oil-in-water” emulsion. By using this formulation, over 82% of the oily residue left on the skin by mineral oil-based moisturizers is taken away, leaving the skin feeling smooth and hydrated, rather than oily or sticky.

Unfortunately, Theraplex does not contain antioxidants, retinoids, or sunscreen, and is therefore primarily a dry skin treatment. It is, however, hypoallergic, noncomedogenic, and fragrance-free.

There are four Theraplex moisturizers. Which is best?


According to the company brochure, Theraplex Emolient ($21.00, is designed for patients with severe dry skin including eczema, xerosis, and psoriasis. Theraplex Emolient is particularly effective on chapped lips, hands, elbows, and feet, as well as hardened cuticles. It contains a very high concentration of the oil-in-water petrolatum emulsion, so it goes on heavy, more like a balm than a lotion.


My personal favorite, Theraplex Hydrolotion ($16.50,, is designed as a daily moisturizer for the face and body. Again, it does not contain anti-aging ingredients or sunscreen, so it is primarily to be used as a dry skin treatment. According to a company-reported study by the University Dermatology Clinic in Wein, Germany, 80% of dermatologists and physicians said that Theraplex Hydrolotion was good to very good at protecting and relieving dry skin, and an additional 14-15% were satisfied with the ability of Theraplex Hydrolotion to protect and relieve dry skin. Theraplex Hydrolotion has a lower concentration of the oil-in-water petrolatum emulsion than Theraplex Emolient, so it goes on like a lotion and dries quickly. It is non-scented, so it makes a good body lotion for dry skin under perfume.


A close second favorite, Theraplex Clearlotion ($18.50,, is a liquid formula designed for use after the shower or bath. Unlike Theraplex Hydrolotion, it contains mineral oil and jojoba oil, which is included to lock in even more moisture right after the shower or bath. Its texture is that of an oil, but it dries quickly, leaving the skin hydrated and soft. It is also non-scented, and makes a good after-shower body lotion for dry skin under your favorite perfume.


The last lotion, Theraplex FT ($21.00, is designed for patients with very dry skin, and is recommended for scaly or callused feet. It contains a high concentration of the special petrolatum fraction, plus exfoliating salicyclic acid. It contains a very high concentration of the oil-in-water petrolatum emulsion, so it goes on more like a balm than a lotion.

Giveaway for Theraplex Samples!

Theraplex has offered to give samples of all four formulations to one lucky FutureDerm reader! To enter, leave your name and e-mail address in “Comments” below by Friday, March 7, 2008. On Friday, March 7, 2008 at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, one lucky winner will be chosen at random to win! Good luck, and happy commenting! :-)

Overall opinions…

Theraplex contains a unique form of petrolatum that is effective against most forms of dry skin. Dr. Kenneth Beer recommends that patients who use Theraplex daily for 1-2 weeks without dry skin improvement should see a dermatologist. After several weeks of use myself, I find the Theraplex Hydrolotion and Theraplex Clearlotion to be effective in treating dry skin without any oily residue or scent. I think the formulations designed for drier types of skin, Theraplex Emolient and Theraplex FT are very balm-like and somewhat sticky, but less so than pure petrolatum. At any rate, Theraplex is effective in treating dry skin, and I love Theraplex Hydrolotion and Theraplex Clearlotion! Good luck in the contest too! :-)

Related Posts

  • About the author:  Natalie K. Bell is the former magazine editor of The Pitt News.  She has nearly five years of experience in print and communications.  She loves big sun hats and good grammar.  For more, please visit our About page. It may just look like green goop on your tortilla chip, but avocados have…
  • Whether intermittent redness or the persistent redness of rosacea, Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream ($39.50, promises to "instantly calm and soothe" and "relieve visible redness, blotchiness, and discomfort." In fact, over two weeks, Clinique states that use of the soothing cleanser, followed by either the urgent relief cream or the Clinique Redness Solutions…
  • Today I've got a review on Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes for you. I know a lot of people love facial wipes, especially since they're quick and easy to use. The Website Claims: Our philosophy is: simple says - never use perfumes, dyes or harsh irritants that can upset your skin. Simple says - settle for only…