Top tips from experts on looking after your baby and their delicate skin during the summer.
Caring for your baby and their delicate skin in the summer
Sun, sea, swimming, buckets and spades – the summer season can be lots of fun for both you and your baby with the chance to make new memories in the great outdoors. However, summer also means exposure to heat, the sun’s rays, salty water and chlorine which can cause your baby’s skin to become sensitive.
Here’s what you need to know about caring for your baby, and their skin, during the summer from Consultant Dermatologist Dr Cairine Wilkinson and GP Dr Pixie McKenna.
Impact of Heat
While it can be lovely spending time outdoors snapping pictures of your little one in their cute sun hat and baby sunglasses, it’s important to take extra care of little ones to avoid dehydration, sunburn and heat exhaustion too. 1
Dress them in light, loose clothing to help regulate their temperature on hot days
Apply high factor sun protection factor (SPF) to all exposed areas, if spending time outdoors
Try to keep them in the shade when possible to ensure they are kept out of direct sunlight. One way to do this is attaching a parasol to your pram.
Playing with your little one in a shallow paddling pool can be a fun way to keep cool, but remember not to leave them unattended!
Protect their eyes with sunglasses that carry the CE mark2
Keep them well hydrated
Close bedroom curtains to keep their room cool during the day1
Get them to wear a sun hat, preferably one with a long flap to also protect the back of their necks.2
It is important that your baby is drinking lots of fluids in the summer to stay hydrated, if not, it can lead to dehydration meaning the body loses more fluids that it is taking in. Dr Pixie McKenna explains: “Some key signs to look out for to help you recognise if your child is dehydrated include them being thirsty, dizzy or tired, having dry lips, mouth and eyes, dark yellow and strong smelling urine or not urinating enough.3 It may be difficult to look out for some of these symptoms in young babies, so just ensure you are regularly giving them small amounts of fluid throughout the day and it may be easier to use a spoon or a syringe.3 If you are breastfeeding, you do not need to give them both milk and water, but this may mean in the summer they want to feed more than usual to avoid dehydration.1 Note, if you are giving your new-born water, you should be giving them cooled-boiled water.”1
The heat can also cause your little one’s skin to also become dehydrated, so keep their skin hydrated from the inside and out.4 Dr Cairine Wilkinson says “Make sure your baby drinks plenty of fluids throughout the day to reduce water loss and keep the outer surface of their skin moistened by either applying a rich moisturising cream4 or a moist baby wipe to freshen the skin. WaterWipes are the world’s purest wipes and are specially designed for your baby’s delicate skin.5 Furthermore, due to the hot environment it is likely that your baby will sweat more and this can lead to dehydration as their body is losing a lot more water, so to minimize this ensure your baby is kept cool.”6
Sun light is a good source of vitamin D, and this is essential in helping to regulate calcium and phosphate levels which are key to bone, muscle and teeth development.7 But, direct sunlight can be harmful to a baby’s skin. Dr Cairine Wilkinson notes: “Use a sunscreen with a high SPF and UVA rating, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen should be rubbed into all exposed areas before going out in the sun and reapplied every couple of hours.8 If your baby is going to be splashing about in the pool, be sure to use a water resistant sunscreen and always remember to re-apply once they have come out of the water.8 For added protection you can also dress your baby in swimwear that covers up their arms and legs for extra protection from the sun and put a long floppy hat on them to protect their head and neck too.”2
Sunshine and holidays often mean taking a dip in the pool to cool down. If your little one loves splashing around in the water it can be a great way to keep your baby cool.
Chlorine is a chemical used to treat water to eliminate any harmful micro-organisms. However, if your baby’s skin is sensitive, the chlorine may cause some irritation such as itchy, red or dry skin and red bumps.9 Furthermore, Dr Cairine Wilkinson notes that exposure to heavily chlorinated water may cause irritant dermatitis and dry the skin in some babies depending on how sensitive their skin is, and how it reacts to particular substances10, but this will vary baby to baby and not everyone will develop skin irritations due to chlorine.
Dr Cairine Wilkinson suggests: “Rinse the skin with clean, non-chlorinated water once they have finished in the pool to help avoid any chlorine related irritations. Once you have rinsed your little one down, slather on moisturiser all over the skin to prevent dryness.”11
Dr Cairine Wilkinson explains: “Just like chlorine, salt water can be drying on your baby’s skin.12 In addition, sand can also cause the skin to become sensitive due to the harsh sand grains rubbing against the skin. The top layer of the epidermis is 30% thinner in babies than adult skin, meaning it is more prone to sensitivity and dryness.13 As with chlorinated water, your little one should be rinsed off with clean water to minimise any irritation”.
How to keep your baby’s skin clean in the summer
Dr Pixie McKenna explains: “After a long day of playing in the sun, sea and sand, it is important to cleanse baby’s skin. But after being exposed to all these irritants it is important to clean the skin with only the purest and gentlest tools for the job. Bath babies in lukewarm water using a non-perfumed gentle wash and for nappy changes, consider using a wipe that contains minimal ingredients (and are free from chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium citrate, hydrogenated castor oil, sodium benzoate to name a few). WaterWipes and WaterWipes with Soapberry, are specifically made to clean your baby’s little hands, face and bottoms, whilst maintaining their skin barrier function. They consist of 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract making it the world’s purest wipe.”
For more information on baby skin conditions, check out the article on common skin problems and rashes as your baby grows up.
1 NHS Choices. ‘How can I keep my baby safe during hot weather’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/childrens-health/how-can-i-keep-my-baby-safe-during-hot-weather/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
2 NHS Choices. ‘Sun safety for children’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/safety-in-the-sun/ [Last accessed: July 2019]
3 NHS choices. ‘Dehydration’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
4 Net Doctor. ‘A dermatologist explains how dehydration can sabotage healthy skin’. Available from: https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/beauty/skincare/a28038/how-to-fix-dehydrated-skin/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
5 WaterWipes. ‘About WaterWipes’. Available from: https://www.waterwipes.com/uk/en/health-care/resources/waterwipes-for-healthcare-profesionals [Last Accessed: July 2019]
6 Emedicine Health. ‘Dehydration in Children’. Available from: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/dehydration_in_children/article_em.htm#what_causes_of_dehydration_in_children [Last Accessed: July 2019]
7 NHS choice. ‘Vitamin D’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
8 NHS Choices. ‘Sun Safety for Children’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/safety-in-the-sun/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
9 Santevia. ‘How chlorine may be detrimental to your baby’s health’. Available from: https://www.santevia.com/blog/chlorine-how-chlorine-may-be-detrimental-to-your-babys-health/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
10 NHS Choices. ‘Contact Dermatitis’. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/causes/ [Last Accessed: July 2019]
11 Baby Centre. ‘Swimming with your baby’. Available from: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a539332/swimming-with-your-baby [Last accessed: July 2019]
12 Baby Centre. ‘Dry skin’. Available from: https://www.babycenter.com/baby-dry-skin#articlesection1 [Last Accessed: July 2019]
13 Stamatas, G., Nikolovski, J., Luedtke, M., et al, 2010. Infant skin microstructure assessed in vivo differs from adult skin in organization and at the cellular level. Pediatric Dermatology 27, 125–131 Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19804498 [Last accessed: July 2019]