Contrary to popular belief, babies don’t always have that perfect, baby soft skin we often hear about. In fact, babies are prone to all sorts of skin conditions in their first year of life, not the least of which includes infant eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.
Eczema is often confused with other skin conditions such as baby acne. It is advised that you consult your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis before attempting to treat your baby’s skin condition, to be sure you don’t do anything to further worsen baby’s sensitive skin.
What is Baby Eczema?
According to the National Eczema Association, “eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed, or have a rash-like appearance.”
While there are 7 types of eczema and they can begin at any stage in life, the following 4 are the most common to affect children ages 6 months to 5 years old:
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Contact Dermatitis
- Dyshidrotic Eczema
- Seborrheic Dermatitis, commonly known as “Cradle Cap” in infants
Eczema is very common and it is important to understand that is not contagious. Its exact causes are unknown, although it is understood that it is caused by problems with the skin barrier, in which the skin contains too little of the protein filaggrin, which helps form the barrier between body and environment.
In most cases, a combination of genes and environmental triggers contribute to this condition, according to the NEA. These factors “trigger” the immune system to produce a response, resulting in inflammation of the skin cells, along with other uncomfortable symptoms.
Seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, unlike other forms of eczema, is not the result of environmental triggers such as allergies but is believed to be triggered, at least in part, by hormones from the baby’s mother and the presence of yeast that lives on the skin’s surface. Cradle cap usually goes away within 6-12 months and does not return. Many children outgrow eczema entirely before they reach school age.
Eczema tends to run in families, and many people who are affected by eczema also have other allergic conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies.
Symptoms of Baby Eczema
Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, although the diaper region of your baby is usually spared from its uncomfortable and often painful irritations. While eczema can look and act differently for different people, and at different stages in your baby’s life, some common symptoms usually include any combination of the following:
- Itchy skin
- Dry or sensitive skin
- Inflamed skin
- Scaly patches of skin
- Oozing or crusty skin
Eczema in Infants Up to 6 Months
In the early months of baby’s life, eczema can appear on the scalp (as cradle cap), and face, including cheeks, chin, and forehead. While it can spread elsewhere on the body, the diaper area is usually not affected. Eczema usually presents as reddish and weepy skin during this age, or as scaly, dry, flaky skin on the scalp.
Eczema in Babies 6-12 Months
Older babies can develop eczema on their knees and elbows. Eczema may present as yellow and crusty, or look like pus bumps at this stage.
Eczema in Toddlers 2-5 Years
At this age, eczema is more commonly found in creases and on ankles, wrists, and hands, as well as on your toddler’s face, including around the mouth and on the eyelids. Eczema may present as dry and scaly at this stage.
Understanding Your Baby’s Eczema Triggers
Understanding what triggers your baby’s eczema will go a long way in helping you manage it. Triggers may vary from child to child, and at different times and situations.
Here is just a list of common possible triggers, so that you can consider which of these may affect your baby’s eczema:
- Dry skin
- Heat and Sweating
- Insect Bites and Stings
--Stress doesn’t cause eczema directly, but it can make symptoms worse.
--Pollen, dust, and pet dander are all potential allergens known to trigger eczema.
--Fragrances, such as in bath and body products and cleaning products
--Soaps and cleaning agents in laundry and household cleaners
- Certain Fabrics
The biggest obstacle in managing eczema is stopping the itch-scratch cycle. When an itch is scratched, the body releases histamine, which leads to further inflammation and more itching, creating the urge to scratch again, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Therefore, you want to calm the itching as much as possible to prevent further irritation and worsening of symptoms. Read on for ways to properly treat your baby’s eczema.
How to Treat Eczema
While there is no known cure for eczema, there are many ways to treat it so your baby can feel more comfortable. Targeting the dryness, itching, inflammation, and potential infection of eczema in your course of treatments will help keep baby feeling her best.
Combating the dryness of eczema is your number one step in managing it. Dry skin is more likely to crack and become infected, so you want to prevent this from the start.
A daily or every other day lukewarm bath with a soap-free gentle cleanser will work, so long as it is hypoallergenic and fragrance- and irritant-free.
Pat baby’s skin dry after bathing.
Apply any prescription topical medications.
Apply moisturizer to baby’s entire body to lock in moisture. Be sure to use a moisturizer formulated for sensitive baby skin with eczema.
For seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, you can use a natural-based emollient to help loosen scales on baby’s head.
Since scratching can further irritate already sensitive and inflamed skin, you want to try and prevent your baby from rubbing or scratching as much as possible. Some ways to help reduce and relieve itching include:
Keeping baby’s nails cut short
Have baby wear cotton mittens at night to prevent scratching
Wet wrap treatments
Antihistamines may help, but only use after consulting your pediatrician
When skin becomes inflamed and irritated, you want to help it heal as quickly as possible.
Your doctor may suggest the use of over-the-counter (OTC) cortisone or steroid creams, or they may prescribe you stronger ointments to apply twice daily to affected areas during flare-ups.
When inflamed skin gets scratched, it becomes vulnerable to infection from bacteria and viruses. Be sure to check for signs of infection, such as oozing, crusting, pus bumps, or a rash that continues to worsen even after your typical treatments.
In these cases, you will want to contact your pediatrician so that they can determine whether antibiotics or antiviral medicines are appropriate for treatment.
How to Prevent Flare-Ups
There are many steps you can take at home, without the aid of a doctor, to help manage your baby’s eczema and prevent future flare-ups. Some ways include:
Maintain a regular, proper bathing and moisturizing regimen.
Wash all clothing and fabrics before coming into contact with baby’s skin.
Use sunscreens for sensitive baby skin, and only on babies over 6 months of age.
Avoid potential irritants, such as dyes, fragrance, chlorine, and other harsh chemicals in cleaning products.
Use “Free and Clear” detergents, and wash clothes with an extra rinse cycle.
Avoid dryer sheets.
Choose bath products made for babies with sensitive skin or specifically formulated for those with eczema.
There are many products on the market available that are specifically formulated to treat infant eczema nowadays. If you can’t find any in your local store, check online.
Avoid coarse fabrics that may irritate baby’s skin.
When possible, choose 100% cotton for baby, as this is least irritating for baby’s skin.
Avoid potential allergens by vacuuming and dusting often, and keep pets groomed if dander is a potential trigger.
Use essential oils to help relieve your baby’s eczema symptoms.
Treating Eczema with Essential Oils
Essential oils are plant extracts that are highly concentrated, and therefore highly potent. They can be a wonderful natural addition to your at-home care regimen for treating your baby’s eczema. There are many powerful benefits to using essential oils. But before you introduce the use of essential oils into your regime, it is important to note the following precautions:
- Essential oils should never be used with babies under 3 months of age.
- Essential oils should never be ingested by babies.
- Essential oils are very potent, and as such, they must never be applied directly. They must first be diluted in a carrier oil or cream before applying to baby’s skin.
Essential oils have a multitude of potent healing properties that can be ideal for helping to manage your baby’s eczema.
In addition to helping with the physical symptoms of eczema, essential oils will naturally benefit the body in other ways, such as impacting the immune system and the nervous system.
Here are just some of the ways essential oils can positively impact your baby’s health:
Essential oils have numerous healing properties.
Essential oils are known for their healing properties. The oils are highly concentrated and help the skin heal and regenerate new cells.
Essential oils are anti-inflammatory.
The anti-inflammatory properties of essential oils can relieve uncomfortable inflammation and help heal certain skin conditions.
Essential oils are antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibacterial.
Many essential oils are antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibacterial, which can help combat certain skin and hair follicle conditions.
Essential oils are moisturizing.
Essential oils are easily and readily absorbed and can lubricate and help lock in moisture.
This is especially helpful for eczema, as dryness can trigger uncomfortable symptoms of the condition.
Essential oils help support the nervous system.
Essential oils can help restore balance or calm the nervous system, promote a greater sense of calm and peace, and support more restful sleep and regenerative healing.
While all essential oils have their benefits and uses, there are a specific few that are especially suited to help with eczema symptoms. Read on to discover what they are.
The Best Essential Oils for Eczema
There are a great many essential oils that can help treat eczema, and we have narrowed the list down to those that are best suited for babies. Here are the top 6 essential oils to enhance your eczema treatment regime.
Top 6 Essential Oils for Baby Eczema
Lavender is one of the most well-known and widely used essential oils, renowned for its endless healing properties, and therefore endless uses. Lavender is soothing and anti-inflammatory, which is useful for all types of skin afflictions.
It is a staple in natural first aid kits, as it is an immune-booster with its antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antimicrobial, making it a clear winner when it comes to treating eczema.
Lavender can calm inflamed and itchy skin, help heal scratches and abrasions, reduce scarring, and help relieve pain associated with eczema.
Lavender is also known for its soothing and sedating effects, which can help calm and balance the nervous system, and promote a more restful sleep, which is ideal for baby.
It can be diffused, and used topically as well, and therefore is especially useful in treating eczema. It can also be blended with many other essential oils for maximum effect.
Chamomile essential oil can be used for numerous skin conditions, not the least of which include eczema.
It is one of the best essential oils in treating eczema. Chamomile is gentle and non-irritating to most skin types and is especially popular in products specifically formulated for children, including those with sensitive skin.
Chamomile is best known for its calming and soothing abilities, but it also contains antioxidants that aid in skin repair and regeneration. Its anti-inflammatory properties aid in reducing swelling and irritation, particularly helpful with eczema.
Chamomile has been found, in some cases, to decrease inflammation better than OTC steroid creams, and has also been found to relieve pain associated with eczema better than OTC NSAIDs. Chamomile’s calming effects are also useful in soothing baby’s irritation and promoting a more restful sleep.
Frankincense essential oil has been used for over 5000 years and is even considered sacred by some. Frankincense has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties, which are fantastic at treating skin irritations.
Frankincense is well known for its healing properties, as it stimulates skin cell regeneration which aids in healing and repairing damaged skin.
It can also reduce the appearance and occurrence of scars. Frankincense can be used in a warm compress, as well as in a lukewarm bath, or applied with a carrier oil or moisturizer to help soothe and heal irritated skin.
Sandalwood Indian sandalwood oil is an ancient healing remedy that has been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine, and has recently been rediscovered in modern medicine.
It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-proliferative properties, and it is also known as a mood enhancer. It is no surprise then, that sandalwood is one of the best essential oils for treating eczema. It reduces inflammation, calms the itch, and calms the nervous system, providing relief for body and mind.
New studies show that sandalwood can actually mimic the effects of NSAID pain relievers, and a recent clinical trial revealed that sandalwood can be a promising topical treatment for eczema, according to the National Eczema Association.
Tea Tree Tea tree oil is one of the most effective essential oils in treating eczema. Tea tree, or Melaleuca oil, is a common ingredient in many skin care products due to its far-reaching benefits and numerous healing properties, which include antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory.
Tea tree oil is purifying and cleansing and is used to fight infections of all kinds, including bacterial, fungal, and viral. Tea tree oil works particularly well on infected skin, although it should not be used in concentrated form directly on broken skin.
It can soothe and reduce irritation as well as redness and swelling, and it also works to heal wounds. However, tea tree can also be an irritant, so be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil, and perform a patch test to be sure it does not worsen symptoms.
Be sure to use it with a carrier oil such as olive, castor, or coconut oil and apply daily to the boil until it is gone. It is also important to note that tea tree oil should not be used on babies under 6 months of age, and it should never be ingested at any age.
Rose geranium Rose Geranium has been used for centuries, and ancient Egyptians used it to promote healthful, radiant skin.
This essential oil works soothing wonders on sensitive skin, as it has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling by more than 70% in some cases.
Rose geranium has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties which are all well-suited for treating eczema.
How to Use Essential Oils for Eczema
While natural, essential oils are very powerful substances and should be used with care and caution. Not all essential oils can be used in the same way, and special precautions must be taken when considering use with babies.
Precautions for Using Essential Oils with Babies
Essential oils should never be applied in concentrated form directly to the skin.
Always dilute essential oils in a suitable carrier oil. The proper dilution ratio for babies older than 3 months is between 0.5% to 1%. See below for a list of carrier oils that are beneficial to use in an eczema treatment regimen.
Always patch test oils before using.
Essential oils and carrier oils should always be tested on an inconspicuous place on the body first for irritation or allergic reaction.
First, dilute the oil accordingly, then apply a small spot, the size of a pea, to baby’s arm or leg.
Leave for 24 hours and monitor frequently for adverse reactions. If none occurs, the oil is considered safe when used properly. If your baby does develop a reaction, do not use.
Ways to Use Essential Oils for Eczema
Add a few drops in bath
Drop a few drops of your chosen oils into a lukewarm bath for baby for a soothing topical and aromatherapeutic effect on baby.
Use With Wet Wrapping or Cool Compress
You can add a few drops to the water you use when preparing to wet wrap or apply cool compress to help soothe baby’s irritated skin.
Add to Carrier Oil to Massage or Moisturize
Add a few drops, as per the recommended dilution rate, to your chosen carrier oil to massage into baby’s skin and lock in moisture.
Add a few drops, in keeping with recommended dilution rates, to your diffuser for an aromatherapeutic experience for your baby.
You can also add to a humidifier to help combat dry air, which causes dry skin and can trigger flare-ups.
Recommended Carrier Oils for Eczema
Coconut oil is an excellent carrier oil due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which contains antimicrobial properties that help to prevent infection. Coconut oil also contains fatty acids that condition, moisturize, and protect the skin.
Jojoba oil is a natural anti-inflammatory skin conditioner that seals in moisture and forms an effective barrier for the skin, ideal for eczema since dryness can trigger flare-ups. It also has healing properties and can be particularly soothing for those with eczema.
Sunflower oil contains linoleic acid, which helps the skin retain moisture. It is also anti-inflammatory and rich in vitamins A, C, and E which help moisturize and soothe the skin when used topically.
Calendula oil has calming, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. It is known to be healing and soothing for the skin, which makes it ideal for soothing eczema symptoms.
While there is no known cure for eczema, there are many ways its symptoms can be treated and managed. Essential oils can be a powerful complement to your baby’s holistic eczema skincare regimen when used properly.
People Also Ask…
Q: Can essential oils make eczema worse?
A: Everyone is different. What works for some may not work for others. Some people may have more sensitive skin or particular sensitivities which make the use of certain essential oils less than ideal in their course of treatment. It is always advised to follow all precautions when trying something new, and always perform a patch test with essential oils.
Q: Do babies outgrow eczema?
A: Many babies do outgrow eczema before they begin school. However, some children will have eczema into adulthood.
Q: Should I take my baby to the doctor for eczema?
A: Since eczema is easily confused with many other baby skin conditions, it is advised that you see your pediatrician for a proper diagnosis before attempting to treat your baby’s condition.
Q: Is baby eczema common?
A: Baby eczema is very common, affecting 1 in 5 children in the US.
Q: Is eczema a sign of allergies?
A: Eczema is not a sign of allergies, nor is it caused by allergies. However, it is closely associated with the development of food and environmental allergies.
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