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Does your child need a skin care regime?

If your child is asking for their own skin care regime, you could be doing them more harm than good by agreeing. Dermatologist DR LOUISE REICHE explains why less is more when it comes to children’s skin.

Our young daughters have begun nagging that they want ‘skin care’. They don’t necessarily know what ‘skin care’ involves, they just want some like their friends. Panic set in: Am I missing a trick here? Are their skins missing out on something everyone else is already on to?

Not at all, says Dr Reiche, who is also the co-president of the NZ Dermatological Society.

“Most children do not require many products on their skin at all – other than SPF 50+ sunscreen to exposed skin, particularly during daylight savings months,” she says.

Overusing skin care products can actually damage children’s skin and risks creating allergies to components of the products used to make them. Dermatologists and GPs are starting to see cases of these issues in their clinics. Using inappropriate products such as anti-aging formulations on young skin can create issues too.

“Overuse can cause harm,” Dr Reiche says.

However, it is important to note that children with specific skin issues such as acne, eczema, etc., will need tailored skin care and treatment. 

Caring for your child’s skin

She suggests rather than using a cleanser, just washing children’s faces with water – or soap if their face is visibly dirty – is fine.

“Use lukewarm water as hot water dries out the skin,” she adds.

However, around puberty, the sebaceous and apocrine glands become more active, and a different approach may be needed.

“So, soap and water use are required to the axillae (armpit) and face (in this situation). Skin that is irritated by regular soap will benefit from non-fragranced non-oily skin cleanser in lieu of soap,” Dr Reiche says.

If their skin is dry, feeling tight and looking scaly/powdery, then moisturiser can be helpful. But she says this is uncommon in normal children and adolescents.

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Dr Reiche says the key to good skin and general health is good lifestyle habits.

“Extensive research shows that a widely diverse skin and gastrointestinal microbiome enhances resilience against infection, allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer, aging and degenerative diseases.”

She says this is best achieved through regular good sleep every 24 hours – aiming for around eight hours for adults, 10 hours for teenagers, and 12 hours for younger children.

Having a plant-rich diet that is locally grown and composed of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables is also important, with the aim of eight to 10 servings of fruit and vege each day.

This is in line with the Mediterranean-style diet, which is found to be the best inflammatory diet, Dr Reiche says. The general guidelines for this are that people eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; lots of lentils/legumes, healthful fats such as nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil; moderate amounts of fish, some white meat, dairy, few eggs and up to once weekly red meat.

Steer clear of processed foods and drinks, particularly those containing sugar. Water should be the main drink and kids should exercise for up to 60 minutes per day (adults 30 minutes). And exercising in nature is even better, she says.

So next time your child asks for a new skin care product in a snazzy bottle, think twice. You’ll not only be benefitting your pocket and the environment, but you are likely benefiting their skin too.

Or suggest they buy it out of their own money and treat it more as a toy used occasionally, rather than a serious regime, unless there really is a valid need for it.

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