To Bathe or not to Bathe

By Heather Legg

I know it’s not a very 21st century question, but with the dry winter air and the heat on in the house, skin can get really dry. Hot baths sure feel good, but what do they do for your skin? They dry it out, which can lead to irritating eczema, which can even lead to other skin conditions, like molluscum.

A couple of years ago, I learned a lot about taking care of skin and avoiding eczema when my daughter had to visit the dermatologist due to her dry, winter skin. Here are some things he recommended:

• Use a humidifier in the house, especially in the bedrooms of whoever needs it
• Use a good lotion or cream every day. We use Cetaphil cream and put it on every night before bed, before the itching starts. On nights we’ve forgotten, my other daughter (who has it worse now) wakes up itching, especially on her legs.
• Apply the cream right after a bath, while skin is still moist and warm and will absorb the lotion. This needs to be done within about 5 minutes of getting out of the bath.
• When bathing, use warm water, not hold and not cold. A hot bath is terrible for the skin and can really dry it out; a cold bath is not a whole lot better.
• Add a gentle oatmeal bath to your water, like Aveeno, and soak.
• Here is the one that shocked me; I remember my mouth dropping open. The dermatologist told me to bathe my kids, get this, once a week. At that point, they were bathing every night. Since I couldn’t bring myself to only give baths once a week, I did switch to every other night, and that has calmed their skin down. In our culture, one bath a week is hard to do, but modify to what works for you, maybe you can pull off two or three times a week. (It’s also better for hair not to be washed every day, on a side note.)

I’m reading a book which takes place in medieval times, the townspeople washed hands and faces every day, “private parts” once a week, and actually took full baths twice a year. Wow! Things are different now, but is the every day bath necessary, especially to small children in the winter? We want to keep them clean, but not dry out their skin. Still, I vote on the side of bathing!

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