dry skin on a little boy

gabehart(5a OH)December 15, 2004

Hello all

I need you experience.

My 2 year old has dandruff and dry skin on the backs of his arms and the sides of his thighs. Lotions with oatmeal don't seem to be helping his skin and I have no idea what to do about his scalp. I just noticed this today on his head and feel like an awful mommy.

Since he is so little, what would you recommend that's gentle. He hasn't been itching but he is little and doesn't notice things. I'm hoping to head this off before it becomes uncomfortable for him.

Thanks for your help

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Take him to a doctor and get him thoroughly checked over. Dry skin can be caused by anything from dehydration to thryoid problems and a host of other things, including eczema and other purely 'skin' problems. Until you have a diagnosis of the problem, it would be inappropriate for us to play guessing games with your little boy as to treatments. Solutions for adults are not always suitable for toddlers and babies.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 5:59AM
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gabehart(5a OH)

I'm sorry, I should have said that we had gone to the doctor. See, I'm giving myself "bad Mommy" complex. Our doctor looked him over very well and said she doesn't think his case is too bad and to keep doing lotions and conditioners on him. I agree his case isn't too bad I just want to help him before we have to go back to the doctor because his skin has gotten worse. Since it's winter now his skin will probably get even more dry.
Now, his diet is limited and that's frustating too. He is autistic and will only eat certain things. So if there are any others who have had success hiding things in their kids foods I'd appreciate the advice!
He is very healthy, he just has dry skin and sometimes constipation. We are trying to get him to take more water and juices but that's a struggle.
Thanks for you help

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 9:10AM
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scryn(z6 NY)

have you tried some scrubbing sponges? This will help remove the dry skin on top. Then immediately lotion him up after the bath. It will absorb much better. Also cocoa butter really works well. Have you tried that? What about baby oil?
Did the dr. suggest anything in particular?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 11:26AM
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gabehart(5a OH)

Our doctor just said use what we like. She's a very good doctor, please don't think she isn't. I've tried Eucerin lotion and it helped for a bit. I haven't tried sloughing off the dried skin for fear of hurting him but I will give it a shot. I'll try cocoa butter next. Thanks! Since he is so little and has short hair, what about slathering his head with the cocoa butter too?
Thanks for all the help

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 11:50AM
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Scrubbing at dry skin will only cause irritation and potentially worsen the problem, rather than improving absorption.

If his skin isn't bothering him (apparently there are no symptoms), beware of using anything that might cause an allergic reaction or irritation, thus creating symptoms.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 11:59AM
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scryn(z6 NY)

I don't mean to scrub hard, just lightly to remove the flakes. It shouldn't hurt, if it does you are probably pressing too hard. I have really dry skin and find if i scrub lightly it helps it out. I would use a washcloth or plastic mesh sponge. Don't ever use a loofah, they sometimes have bacteria on them.
but ya, I can see it causing more irritation also is you aren't careful.
I have never put cocoa butter on hair before. It may look a little greasy. The scalp is a bit different than skin on a leg or arm so it may not be as effective there.
My mom had really bad dried skin on her scalp and used a certain shampoo, it was in a brown, very small, bottle. It worked well. However I am not sure if it would be safe for a child. It smelled pretty strong. I don't remember the name right now. sorry.
oh ya! I totally forgot, If you are using any soaps or lotions with Triclosan (most everything has that now) STOP using it. A large number of people are allergic to it. I am and when I use it my skin will get flakey and red. Sometimes it would get little teeny tiny blisters. Check out the ingredients in your soaps that you use. If something says "antibacterial" it most likely has triclosan in it. I know that Dial and Irish spring has it in them. Maybe that could be causing some problems?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 1:37PM
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hi there gabehart, dont feel bad, you are obviously a great and concerned mother, you are doing your best and thats commendable! about his diet, try making basic recipes such as jelly or soup, these are great for hiding healthy stuff like fruit and vege in, make them as bright and colourful as possible. does your little boy have any allergies? has he been tested for allergies? slough the dead skin og using gentle massage in circular motions a damp soft facecloth is ideal. massage olive oil, peach kernel oil or almond oil into his skin after a bath, dont bath him every day asd this may cause his skin to dry out, but using oils in the bath will reduce the drying. there are a number of remedies equaly suitable for eczema, psoriasis and plain old dried skin, these are mild gentle and suitable for children. here are a few of them! evening primrose oil in capsule form, failing this, sneak it into a jelly or treat. 1 to 2g a day for kids. nettle, heartsease and chickweed are great in creams or ointments. these herbs are soothing, astringent and antiinflammatory. for his scalp and head, try a soapbark shampoo and a rosemary rinse, these are cleansing, astringent and mildly antiseptic. a comfrey ointment or infused oil is great for dry and irritated skin as it is demulcent, soothing and healing. it is mild enough to use for nappy rash and cradlecap, so lather him in it as much as you like! as i am not sure what experience you have in herbal preparations i will not include the standard recipes here, however if you require any recipes for oils, creams, ointments, shampoo or rinses, please let me know by email or post any queries here. good luck and i hope you manage to clear the condition up for your son, he is very lucky to have such a caring mom...
take care
love ella :)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 2:00PM
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Comfrey use has not been studied in children. Due to the known health hazards associated with the herb, both herbalists and mainstream medical practitioners generally advise against even topical use in children.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 9:17PM
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What fiber is his clothing? With the arms and outer thighs being irritated, it could be a synthetic fiber in his clothing. Try all natural fibers for a bit like cotton or linen. Also, look at your laundry detergent, go for one with no dyes/perfumes/additives. His scalp may be cradle cap (which is a form of eczema). You might try calendula oil or salve on his skin. This is very mild and is quite helpful for skin irritations. Also, many lotions contain mineral oil, which can be very irritating on skin. No petroleum products! Increasing his water intake is a good idea. If he won't drink a glass of water, will he suck on ice cubes? Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 8:10AM
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sorry, but comfrey is perfectly safe for children, not sure if were talking bout the same herb here, comfrey cream is the most common natural prescription for nappy rash and cradlecap.. it is perfectly safe used a an oil or ointment.. the comfrey you refer to is symphytum officinale? if so, you are mistaken.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:56AM
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From the University of Maryland's site on alternative medicine:

"Children should never ingest comfrey or comfrey-containing products for any reason.

There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of topical comfrey ointments or creams. Therefore, it is not currently recommended for children.

Comfrey contains toxic substances that can cause severe liver damage and possibly even death. For this reason, comfrey and comfrey-containing products should never be ingested. The main symptom you would feel if experiencing liver damage from comfrey is abdominal pain just below the right side of the rib cage because the liver enlarges from HVOD.

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, even topical comfrey preparations should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Both the FDA and the American Herbal Products Association have been ramping up their warnings about comfrey use lately. It seems like an unnecessary hazard to which to expose an asymptomatic toddler.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:05PM
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Eric, the article you cite refers only to comfrey which is ingested, not to topical use. It is quite safe when used externally.

But as Ellenadasdy has said, chickweed is a specific for many skin disorders, and is quite safe for children. Calendula is also wonderful for the skin. You could also try soapwort instead of soap or shampoo. Aloe vera is also a specific for skin problems. Test a small area first when using any herbal product - individuals can react differently to anything. If the aloe vera is OK, use the fresh gel as a moisturiser. If you're buying commercial products containing these things, double-check what creams are being used, and what else is included in the product. A lot of such products have such minute amounts of the herb in them, that they are virtually useless. Making your own, and thereby being assured of the freshness, is by far the best option if you can manage it. A simple infusion (tea) of the chickweed, soapwort or calendula is not a difficult thing to do each day, and may be better than using them in creams and lotions.

Gabehart, you have not mentioned what condition your doctor has diagnosed.

Olive oil is wonderful for cradle cap and other dry skin conditions. Don't overdo it though, because it can clog the pores. Perhaps a treatment once a week or so. Gently massage in, leave on overnight, then wash and shampoo as usual in the morning. Old towel on pillow!!

Try using a non-soap product for bathing. Try Aqueous Cream or Sorbolene. Perhaps try a shampoo based on coal-tar. It's a brown colour, has a weird but not unpleasant skin, and my own doctor uses it and recommends it for a range of skin problems including dandruff, cradle cap, and similar things. I've been using it lately as an all-over wash product after I got nickel poisoning from wearing a cheap neck-chain. It's very effective. The one I use is made by Neutrogena.

I would also consider doing allergy tests. Eliminating a possible culprit might also help his other problems.

Gabehart, you are NOT a bad mother, just a naturally concerned one. Keep in mind that your lad is not itchy or otherwise suffering, so keep calm about it and don't overfuss the child, who will feed off your anxiety if he feels it. This may exacerbate any stress-related causes of the problem. Take a leaf out of the doctor's book, and relax! Meantime, encourage your boy to drink plenty of water, and provide him with as well-balanced a diet as you can. Doctor can help here, too. Those allergy tests might tell you what he can and can't eat.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 4:10PM
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"Eric, the article you cite refers only to comfrey which is ingested, not to topical use. It is quite safe when used externally."

Again, the most specific citation from my last post:

There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of topical comfrey ointments or creams. Therefore, it is not currently recommended for children.

Even in adults, herbal practitioners warn again the use of comfrey salve or ointment on broken skin. It is also contraindicated in nursing mothers.

You are right about not needing to fuss overly about a cosmetic problem.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 9:03PM
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gabehart(5a OH)

I thank you all for your advice and support.
We're going to start with changing soaps to all natural, examining his clothes, using an Aloe gel, massaging his scalp with oil when needed and trying (cross my fingers) to change his diet.
Our doctor gave the diagnosis of eczema. Quite the generic term. As of now allergy tests aren't recommended by our Children's Hospital because of his age. They don't feel he would show proper readings and he also doesn't have any other symptoms of a specific allergy other that maybe too harsh of soaps and bad diet.
He is doing fine but is starting to scratch and crack a bit. This is more than cosmetic and will hopefully be cleared up with a little effort.
Off to the Herbal store I go!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:42PM
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scryn(z6 NY)

Best of luck! Keep us updated!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 12:11PM
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ummmmmmm on my side my mom and probably me are allergic to sulfates. So when reading the label don't use anything that has sodium lauryl sulfate. Go to if they have it natural food store or price chopper and or stop and shop and go in their organic food section. Then proceed to check the back for sulfates. Even the NATURAL AND ORGANIC shampoos have them.

Try uncle toms, soap. I have had good luck with it. they have a shampoo for children that is fairly gentle and when gotten in the eyes won't sting. google them.

Try dreft.

btw plain old olive oil is high in moistorizing benefits. use some on him externally and cook with it. Failing that anything with jojoba and aloevera should be good. However make sure they don't have the sulfates. NOt sure why they use them but almost everything has it. Jason a type of shampoo doesn't have it but they have another type instead.

the brown shampoo which i recognise since i got it at pricechopper is a peppermint oil shampoo. ummmmmmmm i think burts bees makes it.

Sometimes your local pharmacy may carry some of these if its not a big store. theirs also a chain of natural grocery stores that is pretty darn decent price wise that carries stuff. Trader joes. ANd if they don't have it they can help you find it.

arm and hammer may also be good detergent that is less pricey then dreft to switch too.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 3:08PM
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Ok here is what think...healing has to be from the INSIDE out. Start giving him Flaxsed oil, olive leaf oil ot tablets and Omega 3,6, essential fatty acids tablets or oil itself. Just depending on external remedies is not the answer. He is not getting enough of something to allow his body to be hydrated or produce enough oils to keep his skin from drying out. Topical applications of anything is not the answer. Inside out is the clue here. Vitamin E 1000 mg in addition to all fods ric in fatty acids and supplements. It taes about three months to notice a difference but it should work.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 9:07PM
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"Vitamin E 1000 mg in addition to all fods ric in fatty acids and supplements."

1000 mg/day is about 200 times the recommended daily vitamin E intake for a child this age. Vitamin E overdosage can potentially have toxic effects including headache, weakness, nausea, diarrhea and bleeding problems. You would need to consult with a health professional before starting any vitamin or supplement therapy for him.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 8:12AM
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gabehart(5a OH)

I agree he needs a better diet but...
He is taking a multi-vitamin (that took months to get him to accept it) for children but to add more vitamin E may not be ideal for a child his age and size.
He does need a better diet. I support that 100% BUT he is autistic. Picture a typical toddlers reaction to anything they consider yucky and amplify that by 200%. No, hiding things in his food only makes him reject the foods he does like.
So, I'm stuck with topical and hopeful for a better diet as he matures.
Now, the olive oil and aloe gel are making a difference. If I miss one day his skin goes back to chapped and flaking. He is also so young that his skin regenerates double an adults and that may be working against me too. All his clothes have been checked, the soaps changed and the house humidified properly. All I can do now is wait out winter and hope he gets a little flexible.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2004 at 10:31PM
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sorrel(z6 MA)

I am with kfgesq on this one...I have had many skin problems in the past (psoriasis, eczema, scalp problems etc) and only dietary changes are going to offer any long-term solution. Not sure how much you can "sneak" past him, but maybe you could try ground flaxseeds. Skin problems like these are often related to a fatty acid imbalance and flaxseeds are a big help. Flaxseeds are also slightly laxative, which may help his constipation. They have a nutty flavor and he might like them, but if not, they are easy to sneak into smoothies/shakes, cereal, etc.

Externally, try sesame oil. I have found that it absorbs into the skin better than other oils. Peanut and olive are good too, if you can't find cheap sesame oil (don't use the expensive Asian imported toasted type...) For the scalp, rub in some oil and then wrap his head in a warm towel for an hour or so. You can heat the towel in the microwave, or use one that just came out of the dryer. Of course, that's if he'll allow it...I can't see too many toddlers putting up with that kind of thing :)

    Bookmark   December 25, 2004 at 7:27PM
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ok ummmmmmmm what does he eat? and what do you think he needs for more nutrition?

ok ummm.. you may also want to consider and i don't know if its affordable but get a walter filtration thing you hook up to the water heater or somewhere. It could be hard water, or he could be having a problem with too much chlorine or some unknown factor their. failing that their are pur or brita type filters you can hook up to the shower. Or heck, if he doesn't get dirty during the day instead of a shower every day, try every other day. I have to do that when the winters get bad out in ct. Or else i get dry skin.

mind you i'm up late on the puter when i should be in bed so bad mommy me:) i'm sending myself to bed now:)

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 11:44PM
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Luv_My_Boys(z5 Indiana)

Here's my 2 cents worth *LOL* :

I have two sons who have both had the problems you are describing to a certain extent.

Part of the problem was traced to simple skin sensitivity, but the main culprit was pet allergy and dairy allergy.

You might try taking milk, cheese, yogurt, etc out of his diet for 2 weeks and see if the skin problems and constipation ease up. You can purchase soy milk or rice milk that is enriched with calcium, A & D if you need to. My kids have since outgrown their dairy allergy, but do still tend to be dry. I agree with other posters to make sure he is getting enough fats in his diet. Little kids need more fat than adults for proper brain development and all that good stuff :).

Here is how we handle bathing:

Daily: 15 minute bath in water only. Just wash hair at the very end. Pat dry and immediately slather up with "Vanicream" (a dye free, perfume free, lanolin free, alchohol free...etc etc lotion that is available from the pharmacy, but you don't have to get a prescription for...it is what works for us. A one pound tub is around $12 here in Indy)It helps to seal the moisture in his skin.

Laundry: always use "Free & Clear" detergents. We *don't* use any fabric softener, although we do put some white vinegar in a downy ball which helps make sure all the soap gets rinsed out and does have a softening effect on the clothes.

Clothing: My kids do best with cotton clothing. Haven't noticed a problem with a little polyester in a blend, but wool does make them itch more than usual.

Another question that hasn't been asked is: do you have a cat or dog in the house? You could very well be dealing with a pet dander allergy. We used to have housecats, but we had to give them up for adoption because my older one's eczema got so bad it would crack and bleed and then get infected. It could be dust mite allergy too.

Anyway, I hope things are getting better for your little guy.

Cheers, Carrie

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 3:17PM
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I know this is an herbalism forum, but I'm going to suggest this anyway.

My son had eczema on the insides of his elbow joint, and we used Udder Cream on it. It cleared it up in about a month. When I worked for a nursery, my hands were wet all day, and my skin started splitting. I used the udder cream too, and it worked to heal my cracked skin. What's the magic ingredient? Lanolin. Lanolin is the ONLY moisturizer your skin can actually absorb, but it only absorbs small quantities, so slathering stuff on won't help. It smells bad, but hey, it's worth a try, right? We got some of those thick stockings that they wear for circulation and cut them up and put them around his joint at night with the cream on. It helped keep it from rubbing off at night.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 6:59PM
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angeles13(z9 Phx dtwn)

My sister and mom have extremely dry skin. My nephew (2 1/2 years old) has some of the same dry skin problems. He will actually develop red scally patches behind his ears, on his legs and over his elbows. He was diagnosed with eczema at 1 1/2 years (the dry skin is that bad). My sister baths him with Eucerin soap and after bath, gets lotion all over his body - primarily Eucerin. On the very bad spots is a Rx cortison cream. It does get some getting used to but the rashes and scally skin from missing one day have kept it to a routine that my nephew anticipates the lotion after bath time.

My mom's hands get so dry, crack and bleed that the dermatologist says for her not to get her hands wet with water repeatedly. She uses an anti-bacterial cream/lotion as an alternate to washing (again -- from the dry skin).

Lanolin is an excellent skin moisturiser. Woolite detergent has lanolin in it (which is why you wash silk in baby shampoo instead of Woolite -- silk readily absorbs the lanolin and dulls. It is very good for cotton and linen).

Also -- nephew is severely allergic to cats and dogs. He can no longer pet the dog.

Good luck with the changes and the autism.

You had mentioned you changed everything -- was it one change at a time or all together??? I know from my asthma that I made the changes one at a time to see what the trigger was and to make sure that what I changed to didn't make the situation worse.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 9:41PM
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gabehart, it has been about 5 years since you posted this. I would be very interested in hearing how you have been doing with your little guy and if anything helped his skin condition. I am much older, but skin problems always come and go and I am always interested in other people's stories. I hope you are doing well.
Patricia Moore
SE Michigan

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 10:14PM
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Realizing that much time has gone by...My son had very dry skin when he was 3-4 as well. He is now 20 and still scratches his legs in the winter! He would scratch his legs in his sleep until they bled. I took him to the pediatrition who recommended:
1) Cetaphil cleanser instead of soap (CVS has a cheaper version that is virtually the same)

2) Very thick cream - like Vasoline after the bath. I did not want to use petrolium products on him, so used Eurcerin lotion - which did the trick - I switch to the thick Eurcerin cream for extra dry patches. I also like Calencula creams - read labels - some of them don't have any calendula in them! Also - watch out for perfumes in everything- most perfumes have toxins in them.

3) I agree with the laundry issues - use good unscented soaps - I used to run his clothes & sheets through an extra rince cycle.

4) Consider what is on YOUR skin, clothing that may affect him.

5) I remember how tough it was to get them to eat what you think they need! Can you find something that gets more fluids in him? I used to dilute fruit juices - you will know better than anyone what he should or should not have.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 2:17PM
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