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Kids’ Dry Skin Care in a Few Easy Steps

It’s that time of year. Our children with dry skin might be suffering. This is true especially in dry places, at a time when many are washing their hands even more than usual. What can we do to help our kids with dry skin?

This post is for anyone who knows a child struggling with dry itchy skin. If you have a regimen that’s working for your family, please don’t change a thing!

I’ve seen that some online advice overcomplicates things. Here, I want to offer some very simple suggestions. We’ll talk about how to limit irritation and protect the skin. Then, I’ll review just a couple of non-fancy product suggestions. That’s it. 

Here’s the basic sequence:
  1. Avoid skin irritation (commonly caused by hot bathwater or soap ingredients).
  2. Apply a generous amount of Vaseline (white petroleum jelly).
  3. Wear non-irritating clothing and protect the skin from scratching.

(This post contains affiliate links).

First Step: Limiting Skin Irritation

A warm bath or shower can feel wonderful. However, prolonged exposure to hot water can irritate the skin. So, one of the first things I suggest is taking shorter baths and using lukewarm water. Daily bathing for young kids isn’t necessarily required, but some do better with a quick bath most days. For kids with eczema (a separate topic!) short daily baths may be part of their treatment regimen. Bathing every few days may be fine for other kids. 

Use a gentle cleanser with no extra fragrance. For especially sensitive skin, some dermatologists recommend the Vanicream brand. It’s non-irritating and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. However, if what you have works, please don’t buy something new.

Vanicream cleanser (affiliate link)

After the bath (less than 10-15 minutes, ideally), pat the skin dry. Vigorous drying can be a form of irritation. Irritation will worsen the dry itchy feeling. 

Step Two: Protecting the Skin

After patting dry, apply an emollient. An emollient seems to be even more effective if it is “goopy.” It may also feel a bit greasy. If you don’t have one that already works for your child, I recommend plain petroleum jelly. (Vaseline is a common brand). Some families prefer coconut oil or shea butter. Those are fine too, but are more likely to irritate skin in some people. So, since I can’t predict which kids will have reactions to which ingredients, petroleum jelly is my go-to universal recommendation. 

Many swear by Aquaphor or other more specific products. And that’s fine! It’s worth noting that the main active ingredient in Aquaphor is petroleum jelly. And, most products also have additional ingredients. Those additional ingredients may be a great fit for your child and your family. If so, please carry on. However, some of those ingredients may not sit well with other people. (Lanolin is a common irritant).

What about petroleum jelly contaminants?

All that being said, I can see why some would choose products without petroleum jelly. It comes from the oil refining process. And, if it’s not refined and purified, it may contain contaminants that we would not use on skin, as they’re likely carcinogens.

On the other hand, if it has been properly refined, it’s safe to use. The Vaseline brand and labels that specify “100% white petroleum jelly” or “100% white petrolatum” have been adequately refined and purified.

100% white petroleum jelly (affiliate link)

So, plain Vaseline is an excellent choice. Ironically, I advise against the “baby” Vaseline due to added fragrance. 

Last Step: Get Dressed

Everyone is different, but for many kids, sleeves and long pants are a great idea to help keep skin moisturized and protected. If a child is prone to subconsciously scratching or itching, the clothing provides an additional barrier. If the layer of Vaseline is particularly thick (a great idea after an evening bath), some families choose pajamas that can withstand smears of Vaseline. I have yet to see it ruin any clothes, but consider the possibility.

That’s now simple this is!

A Few Extra Tips For Dry Skin Care in Kids

Most dry irritated skin will improve with these few steps. In this case, simple is best. Depending on the child and circumstances, there are a few more things that may be helpful.

Keep nails trimmed.

If someone is prone to itching, short nails prevent scratches on the skin. 

Use sun protection.

Sunlight is another skin irritant, especially in dry climates. 

Look for other signs of discomfort.

A common symptom of bothersome skin is trouble sleeping. By ensuring a daily coat of Vaseline before bedtime, some kids find relief from their restless squirming. If they’re still itchy and uncomfortable, seeking more care can make a big difference.

Today, we’ve just discussed the most basic of suggestions. They’re the initial part of many regimens. (If, for whatever a reason, a child has a medicated cream or ointment, it goes on before the Vaseline). If these first steps don’t seem to be enough, there’s more that can be done. Additional steps or products may be needed. Seek help!


Basic care for children’s dry skin includes short baths or showers in lukewarm water followed by patting dry. Then, coat the skin in a layer of 100% white petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Your baby may be slippery and shiny. This is the goal! This will help seal in moisture and protect the skin. Finish up with loose long-sleeved clothing.

As always, if this doesn’t solve all skin issues, please seek medical attention.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

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