How often should your kids be bathing? Here’s what it’s doing to their skin, experts say

Kids have more sensitive skin than adults and should be treated with care — bathing too much or for too long can lead to future issues.

How often we shower (and when) can be a hotly contentious issue, especially when kids are involved.

But there’s good reason for the debate, doctors tell the Star, as under or overdoing our bathing routines can lead to problematic skin issues or foster fungal growth.

Studies show young kids have softer, thinner and more sensitive skin than adults, which can be easily irritated and prone to moisture loss — putting them at greater risk of skin issues like eczema, which over-showering can exacerbate.

Experts previously explained how, for most people, showering every other day could result in healthier skin. Here’s what they recommend for our kids.

How often should my kids be showering?
While every child is different, as a general rule, bathing or showering once every two to three days is fine — at least, it is before they hit puberty, said Dr. Benjamin Barankin, the medical director and founder of the Toronto Dermatology Centre.

After puberty, which hits around the ages of 12 to 18, “daily bathing is worthwhile for most people due to more oil secretions and bacterial overgrowth, particularly in the armpits and groin,” Barankin explained.

If your child is physically active and sweating regularly, it’s worth showering daily, he continued. Additionally, if young ones haven’t completed toilet training yet, they should be bathing daily — “or at least washing the groin area.”

This is because frequent showering — especially long, hot and soapy sessions — can erode the skin’s natural oil barrier and lead to irritation or damage, he said.

Dr. Renée A. Beach, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and founder of Toronto’s DermAtelier on Avenue, notes that daily showering makes sense — just so long as they’re not overdoing it.

Not showering enough could lead to bad body odour and even health conditions like folliculitis or fungal growth, Beach explained.

“However, the frequency can depend on the teen, their body chemistry, menstrual cycle, the amount of hair they grow in the armpits and genitals” and more, she added.

How long should kids be showering?
Overlong showers can damage our kids’ skins and even spark medical conditions like eczema, or make pre-existing skin conditions worse, Beach noted.

It’s a common belief that “a longer shower means you are ‘more clean,'” she said. Not so — a 10 to 15 minute-long shower will usually suffice.

“Staying in longer may feel good, but (it can do) your skin damage in the form of trans-epidermal water loss — a factor for eczema,” she said. That’s especially true for kids under 10, who have skin more permeable to water.

Barankin agreed, recommending a length of five to 15 minutes as “sufficient for most.”

He added that water temperature is also an important factor, warning against hot showers which can “strip some of the skin’s natural oils.”

Avoid natural soaps in the shower — use this instead
As children have thinner, more fragile skin, they are especially sensitive to chemical irritants — meaning it’s wise to pay attention to the products we use in the shower.

Because our skin is naturally slightly acidic, we should take care to avoid basic cleaning products like natural soaps, which are made using lye. So too should kids avoid fragranced products, which can cause allergic reactions, Barankin explained.

“Use a gentle cleanser or moisturizing soap bar, rather than a shower gel,” he recommended.

Afterward, pat-dry the skin to minimize damage, and ideally, apply a cream or balm to lock in the moisture, Barankin said. It’s doubly important to moisturize during the dry winter months or “in kids prone to dry skin,” he continued.

Credit: By Kevin Jiang, Toronto Star

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