9 Ways to Make Bath Time Fun for Kids With PsO
Any parent whose child has psoriasis knows that baths and showers can either make the chronic skin condition worse or better. We’re going for the latter—without sacrificing all the joys of bath time. From the right kind of soap to use, to water temperature tricks and ways to make the whole session more playful (without introducing irritants), here are the expert tips that will make your child’s soaks skin protective and super fun.
Swap Bubbles for Tunes
While Joshua Zeichner, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says kids with mild cases of psoriasis might be able to tolerate bubble bath, in moderate to severe cases, it’s best to stay away. “The lathering and bubble-forming ingredients in the bath additive can be drying to the skin,” he says. Instead, stick with straight water and think about other ways to bring in whimsy, like playing your kid’s favorite music—is “Baby Shark” still the tot jam?—so they can sing along.
Keep Temp in Check
Hot water is also drying to skin, says Dr. Zeichner. “As a rule of thumb, keep your bath temperature around what you'd imagine a heated pool to be in the summertime—around 86 degrees.” Hot water strips the skin’s protective lipid layer, which plays a big role in the skin barrier, whose job is to lock in moisture and keep bacteria out. Monitor water temp, while creating a playful mood, by dropping a kids’ bath thermometer like the Ozeri Turtlemeter, $13, amazon.com, into the tub. This one displays the temperature on the back of a turtle as he floats around the water like a regular ol’ bath toy.
Pick Psoriasis-Smart Bath Toys
One way to make bath time fun for everyone? Tub toys! Dr. Zeichner has a few rules to keep in mind: “Just make sure that toys are all properly dried after each use and disinfected—as water builds up in crevices in toys, mold and mildew commonly builds up and can be harmful. Mold can cause allergies and inflammation in the skin which can trigger a psoriasis flare." Look for dishwasher-safe sets without “squeezy” functions that can trap water inside like this Green Toys Tide Pool Set, $10, target.com.
Set a (Colorful) Timer
A long bath or shower may seem luxurious (even for little ones); but soaking too long can wash away skins’ natural oils, drying it out and making it more vulnerable to skin irritants, warns dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., assistant clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. That’s why the American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting bath time to 15 minutes and showers to 10 minutes. One way that will make the time limit less of a bummer: Counting down the minutes with a playful timer that lights up like the Time Tracker Visual Timer & Clock, $43, stemfinity.com.
Pick the Right Cleanser
When it comes to what to clean with, Dr. Zeichner says, “Look for ultra-gentle cleansers that contain skin-barrier protecting ingredients to keep the outer layer in as good shape as possible while they remove soil from the skin.” That means going for ingredients like ceramides (proven in studies to help reinforce the skin barrier), and soothing ingredients like oat extract (which studies show have anti-inflammatory effects). His pick: Ever Eden Shampoo and Body Wash $16, evereden.com, which has sunflower seed, oat extract, and coconut oil to hydrate and protect.
Keeping irritation at bay is crucial for a happy wash time when dealing with a chronic skin disease like psoriasis, and Dr. Engelman says that means saying “no” to fragrances, which are known irritants and have been shown in studies to exacerbate scalp psoriasis in those with fragrance allergies. Take note that it’s best to look for products labeled “fragrance-free” (meaning it contains absolutely no fragrances) vs. “unscented,” which the EPA warns may simply mean the fragrance is neutral.
A lot of the formulas that are best for psoriasis tend to be stripped down and basic — and they look that way, too. The trick to making the whole thing seem more kid-friendly: simply swapping your gentle formulas into colorful bottles. “Packaging is everything. In many cases, the bottle is the single biggest determinant of whether a consumer will use a product—in both adults and in kids!” says Dr. Zeichner. “It's like your meal, it may taste great, but if it doesn't look appetizing, you won't even take a no-thank-you-bite!”
Skip the Washcloth
Once your child is old enough to suds up on their own, skip the gentle wash sponges you relied on for their baby years and teach them to lather up on their own, sans applicator. “I generally recommend washing by hand,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Washcloths can become easily contaminated if not regularly cleansed, and poofs typically are made of synthetic fibers that can cause irritation if rubbed against compromised skin.” Paint it like a “big kid” move and they might even enjoy the independence!
Do the Gentle Pat Down
When it comes time to towel-off, the AAD recommends patting skin dry rather than rubbing to avoid plaque-irritating friction. Bundling your kiddo in a cute, cuddly robe-style terry cloth wrap like the Kid’s Cozy Animal Robe from L.L. Bean ($55, llbean.com), which features an irresistible bear on its hood, can make the process a lot more entertaining for you both!
Ceramides and the Skin Barrier: Cosmetics. (2019.) “Recent Advances on Topical Application of Ceramides to Restore Barrier Function of Skin. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335317541_Recent_Advances_on_Topical_Application_of_Ceramides_to_Restore_Barrier_Function_of_Skin
Oatmeal as Topical Soother: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2015.) “Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25607907/
Fragrance as a Psoriasis Trigger: Journal of Clinical Aesthetician Dermatology. (2014.) “Corticosteroid and fragrance allergy exacerbating scalp psoriasis.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3935652/