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Skincare Secrets All Year 'Round

How to Keep Your Little One's Gorgeous Skin Healthy and Happy

It's so plump, so smooth, and most of all, so kissable. Your baby's skin is a thing of beauty, and of course, you want to keep it that way. The most important thing to know about your baby's flesh is that it is far more delicate than the skin of older children or adults. That means it needs a lot more pampering—and believe it or not, a lot less washing.

No doubt you've seen hundreds of ads featuring beautiful babies in bubble-filled tubs. But the truth is, bubble bath is a bad idea for little ones; its ingredients are too harsh. Most soaps can also irritate babies' super-sensitive skin, so it's best to use a soap-free cleanser that is free of any dyes or scents. You really only need to get your baby into the tub twice a week. That will change once he starts eating solid foods and crawling around dusty floors. But for now, concentrate on keeping your little guy's diaper area clean and go easy on the rest of him.

If you or your spouse have sensitive skin, your baby is likely to have it too. Does his body sometimes break out in a fine red rash? Your detergent could be to blame. Talk to your pediatrician about the rash and consider switching to a detergent especially formulated for babies, or one that is free of any dyes or scent. A baby can also exhibit bright red cheeks and chin, a reaction usually caused by drooling. Simply put some petroleum jelly on his face at night to soothe the irritation.

In addition, here are some tips for keeping your baby's skin safe and healthy when you head outside.

  • Go undercover. No matter what the temperature is outside, that sweet skin needs to be covered up. Always put a hat on your baby, use the shade curtain on your stroller, and shield that sensitive skin from the sun—either with clothing or with sunscreen.
  • Summertime Savvy. Especially if you are at the beach, try to keep your baby out of the sun as much as possible between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (the hottest time of the day). For babies younger than 6 months, buy a sunscreen especially formulated for infants, containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Use an SPF of at least 30.
  • Bug Off. If you are out in the yard where mosquitoes or deer ticks might pose a threat, keep your child as covered up as possible until he's 2 months old (you can put a mosquito net over his stroller). After this age you can use an insect spray or cream that contains no more than 10% DEET—the most effective ingredient for repelling bugs—but keep it well clear of his hands, mouth and eyes. Put it on before you apply sun lotion.
  • Sunscreen Smarts. Get in the habit of rubbing sunscreen all over your child body and face before you go outside. This ensures that you don't miss a spot, and it also protects him from sun that can easily penetrate light summer clothing. Apply the cream generously, and don't forget his ears and the tops of his tiny feet. Re-apply it every two hours and after swimming even if the product says it's waterproof.
  • Wintry wisdom. Sunscreen in the winter? Yes, and here's why: Infant skin is nowhere near as tough as ours, so when the sun reflects against the snow, it can cause serious sunburn. Another tip: If you're going to be in the cold for any length of time, put a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your baby's face to prevent chapping.
  • Keep him comfy. Babies can't yet sweat or otherwise regulate their temperature through their skin, so remember this golden rule: Add one more layer to your baby's clothes than you yourself are comfortable in.

This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.

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