She Says… Cheeks-Be-Gone

I wrote a few weeks ago about how Owen was dealing with some overly rosy cheeks. At that point I didn’t really know if the redness and irritation were just normal “winter cheeks”, and, thus, unavoidable in this ridiculously snowy and freezing Boston winter, or something more. I asked everyone I came into contact with — moms, daycare teachers, the doctor, and everyone had a different answer. General consensus was that it looked like eczema, but the cause could have been any number of things (cold weather, food allergy, cow’s milk protein sensitivity, contact allergy, virus, fever/heat rash, bad habit of scratching the cheeks while sleeping, etc.).

I tested several theories like food allergies by restricting foods for a few weeks at a time and saw no change. We kept him inside for a few days at a time to see if it was going for walks outside that was causing the irritation. No change. The level of redness/itchiness varied from day to day, but was pretty constant. If I remember correctly, it started back in late November (right when the weather got particularly frigid, which is why I didn’t do anything about it for so long), so I’m fairly certain it’s not a virus or a passing bug. It was clearly bothering Owen because he would wake up every morning with bloody scratches down his cheeks and inside his ears, despite putting socks on his hands and slathering him in Aquaphor/vaseline before bed. The scratching inside the ears made me think maybe it was an ear infection, but we’ve been to the doctor three times in the last 3 weeks, treated for an ear infection once, did a full course of Amoxicillin, and then checked again and pronounced “all clear”.

After a few days of looking better, I woke up to this poor little sight.

There are no other signs of eczema on his body. He has some raised bumps on his arms and legs, but they are not dry like his face, and they are not red or irritated. I have some of these little bumps too, so I think they are unrelated to the face thing. Sigh. Poor little peanut. Even though we (still!) don’t exactly know the cause, we are still doing our best to treat the eczema.

After a few weeks of trial and error, I’ve found some things that have worked wonders on his skin:

  • not using soap in the bath (or only every few days and only on his body, not his face)
  • adding a few drops of jojoba oil to the bath for moisture
  • slathering his face in Hydrolatum (available over the counter, but you have to ask for it at the pharmacy), like a thick, creamy, white version of vaseline/petroleum jelly, as soon as he gets out of the bath and after every diaper change
  • using over the counter (1%) hydrocortisone on the worst days, but used sparingly, since from what I’ve read, it can thin the skin
  • keeping his nail extremely short, like, clipping them every. single. day.
  • pinning his hands down when he drinks a bottle (I hate doing this, but he has a habit of scratching his face while he drinks, and sometimes without even knowing he will make himself bleed)
  • using a humidifier as much as possible (every night, and often when we play in his nursery) and NOT using a little space heater I had been using on very cold nights

After almost a week of the above treatments, his skin looks FABULOUS. There are still little patches of redness, but no more itching and no more bleeding. Thank goodness! If it doesn’t go away entirely once the weather warms, I am going to investigate a milk sensitivity (since his formula is milk-based and that is a relatively common issue with babies). For now, though, I’d rather not rock the boat with his eating since we have a great routine going, and we’ve made it through a rocky period with his reflux/tongue tie/nursing issues.

Anything else you have tried that you recommend for treating ultra sensitive, eczema-prone skin?


29 responses to “She Says… Cheeks-Be-Gone

  1. Oh no! Poor little guy. That looks so painful! Good luck.

  2. I know how he feels. I have eczema on my shins and it’s very frustrating. After trying everything from kinesiology to hydrocortisone cream, I found a lotion that cleared it up within a few weeks. It’s called E45 and is available over the counter in Ireland (where I’m from) and the UK. I recently moved here to America and freaked out when I discovered it isn’t available here (or I haven’t found it, anyway). So I switched to Aveeno and that works a treat as long as I slather it on every SINGLE day. Miss one and I’m scaly again. Feel better, Owen!

  3. Poor Owen! I don’t have any tips for you 😦 Faith’s skin has always been good and her dry skin is fixed with petroleum jelly.

    He can’t be allergic to dogs, right? I thought your dog was a labradoodle, so that’s hypoallergenic (I think). Maybe it’s something in the laundry detergent? It could be so many things!!

  4. My Dr. told us to try Eucerin for my little girl’s eczema, however, I prefer the Aveeno lotion that is specifically for eczema. I also skip the soap and apply the Aveeno within a few minutes of her coming out of the tub. It seems to be under control for now.

  5. My kid has a dry skin and had eczema too, he’s 4 months. THE advice we got was to bathe him only twice a week, this works out great, and when you bathe him use soap free bathing oil.
    Babies don’t sweat or get dirty like toddlers or something so bathing twice à week isn’t gross or something.
    I do wash his face and hands every night, especially on daycare days!
    Good luck!

  6. Hydrocortisone at the first sight of recurrence! It’s AOK to use for a week. I find that hydrocortisone in OINTMENT form is the best for kiddos, their skin is much more receptive of it (you can call your pedi for an Rx).

  7. My daughter has had eczema on her back and ribcage for awhile now and what we found worked was this body butter.

    It’s a Canadian Company (where we are from) and it’s very affordable and all natural. When the eczema was at its worst I had to apply at almost every diaper change but then got down to once or twice a day. If I miss a day or two it comes back quite badly. I also switched her to lukewarm baths and stopped using any wash (even though the wash I used was all natural Earth Mama Angel Baby). We also don’t worry if we miss a day or two of baths here and there.

    I wonder if it really is eczema? But I imagine these treatments will help regardless of what it is. Hopefully it clears up…many babies are prone to eczema and other skin ailments that tend to clear up on their own. My daughter also has seborrheic dermatitis in her eyebrows.

    Good luck!

  8. Riley is 15 weeks and pedi told us to wipe her face all the time. It is her saliva/wetness that makes eczema worse. He was right! her skin improved by wiping her saliva asap, bathing her only twice a week, tons of oil and creams all.the.time. we bought two of everything, and keep one set of bottles downstairs & one upstairs. Pedi didn’t want to rx anything but I would recommend: noodle and boo, we use the entire line but keep in mine price is triple than your drugstore baby products. The eczema oitment is an instant fixer!. We only use Triple Paste for all of her diaper changes, diaper rash is a 100% preventable is you use this paste. Get well Little Owen! ;(

  9. no skin tips but wanted to comment on your twitter feed on the right….you “might” have bought a house?!! CONGRATS! 🙂 i’m sure there will be a post on that soon? 🙂

  10. did the doctor tell you it was eczema? it looks a lot like he has fifths disease which is just a virus (more common in older kids but still). it goes away with time and there is really no treatment. if it is a virus it might be important for your pals at daycare to know. has anyone there had it? it could very well be eczema but since fifths disease goes away, you might not have to worry long term as you would with eczema.

  11. I was googling a rash for my son as he has weird bumps all over his legs and arms. While on the babycentre website I came across an image for Fifth disease. Have you heard of it?

    “Starts with a slight fever, achiness, and cold symptoms, followed a few days later by bright red cheeks and a lacy, red, sometimes itchy rash on the trunk and feet. Also called slapped cheeks disease or erythema infectiosum. Most common in preschool and school-age children.”

    I know its mroe common in older children, but the baby in the pic had bright red cheeks like your poor little guy. You can totally ignore me if you want, I know how annoying unsolicited advice is… but it could be something to look into.

  12. We use over the counter cream called resinol. It has to be ordered at Walgreens or CVS and comes in next day. its $7 for a small tub. It literally makes diaper rash go away in 24 hours. You might try it on his face at night.

  13. Hi Kate — my daughter has the same problem on her cheeks, and we’ve found that CJ’s BUTTer works wonders. It’s a great diaper rash/eczema cream, and if we put it on her cheeks in less than an hour the redness is gone. You can find it pretty easily at cloth diaper shops like or Glad to hear Owen’s cheeks are clearing up, though!

  14. I come from a family of chronic eczema sufferers, and while I haven’t suffered myself, I did develop an awful case of dermatitis during pregnancy which turned my face into a mess. Fun! I turned to the product my parents have been using on my brothers for many years. It’s an Australian, all natural product based on milk (obviously not helpful if Owen’s eczema was caused by a cow’s milk allergy, but you seem to have illuminated that.) There are a heap of testimonials on their website from people who have suffered from skin conditions and Moo Goo has worked for them. For me, I tried numerous over the counter creams as I was unable to take medication to clear the dermatitis due to my pregnancy and nothing helped. I tried to MooGoo and about a week later the rash was completely gone. I don’t know that there are any US stockists, but they may be able to ship internationally for you.

  15. My 6 m0nth old wakes up occasionally with what looks similar to this, but I it is from her drool wetting her sheet and then she sleeps on the wetness all night therefore waking with chapped little cheeks. Does Owen sleep on his tummy? If he does and he drools some while sleeping it could be related to that.

  16. Thanks, everyone! Wonderful comments and some great suggestions that I may try if the current treatments stop working or I see a resurgence.

    To those who suggested Fifth Disease, we have investigated and we’re pretty certain it’s not that. First of all, my pedi had a look and said that the actual skin doesn’t look like Fifth Disease (if I remember correctly, Fifth Disease is just redness, not raised bumps, and doesn’t itch). Also, Fifth Disease would not stick around for over 3 months, as Owen’s issue has. Similarly, most viruses wouldn’t stay around that long or be that constant either, which is why we’ve ruled that out (that and the fact that we did a 10 day course of Amoxicillin, an anti-viral, for a possible ear infection and bronchialitis he had a few weeks ago after starting daycare). I appreciate the suggestions, though! I just wanted to post this so anyone else reading and trying to diagnose their own skin issue would know.

  17. Do you have a store called Lush in the US? Moo suffered with terrible redness, just like this, but on her hands. It’s much worse when she’s teething but also when she comes into contact with certain foods like tomatoes (contact, not eating…)

    We used the steroid creams, and a similar cream to Hydrolatum, and they helped, kept it at bay, but not more than that, and I was nervous at using a steroid cream long term.

    But a fellow eczema sufferer recommended a moisturiser from lush called dream cream. It’s not medicated, just a really thick moisturiser, with camomile and other natural additions. And it cleared Moo’s hands in 2 days. Bearing in mind they were scaly and bleeding and horrible… She now takes it to nursery with her, and they put it on after every meal.

    The vaseline type creams are great as a barrier, but they don’t replace any of the lost moisture. See if you can find a natural moisturiser and see if that helps…

  18. I had this problem years ago – it was an allergy to laundry detergent. Doctor told me to use Ivory Soap. It was pure soap back then but I’m not sure if it still is. Then I had to double or triple rinse everything to make sure the soap was gone! It cleared up my skin, however.

  19. I have found goat’s milk soap has helped wonders! I particularly like this one. And it smells great!

  20. I’m sure you’ve had a ton of responses about which treatment to try, but here are some suggestions from a mother of three, with one who has had eczema since 2 weeks old. My 5 year old daughter has eczema. We tried everything. What seemed to work for us was the following: less bathing. Limit bath time to necessary baths. No fragrance in soaps. Ask your doctor for a prescription to treat the eczema. IF Owen in fact has eczema it WILL get worse. So, ask for it now. And eczema does tend to flair up when the weather changes and with stress…so you may see a change in the summer months as well. Hope this helps.

  21. Kate – I’m reading this blog post and its responses nearly 2 years after the fact, but as I’m trying to figure out why my son’s cheeks are so darn red, I thought I’d ask if you ever discovered the cause of YOUR sons red cheeks? We’re feverishly searching the internet for ideas – the gluten free diet hasn’t worked, nor has the dairy free diet; i’ve even gone soap-less with him for a couple weeks and still no dice. We don’t see the pediatrician again for about 3 weeks.

  22. Found this in a google search for baby eczema. My 2 month old daughter looks the same, and i’m trying to figure out how to soothe the skin. Ugh.


  23. natasha-diana

    omg this is exactly the same as y little boys face! it is that sometimes it cracks! and same my little one has no other signs of dry irritated skin just on his face! i will be trying all of these in hope my little ones face clears up 😀 thank you for your post x

  24. Wow, my 11 month old has the exact same problem with all the same symptoms and attempted treatments. It began the first week of November, nearly exactly corresponding with the first cold weather of the season (we live in CT), and has persisted since with a short reprieve when we spent a week in Miami. The severity varies from day to day, thought I can’t be sure why as it doesn’t seem to be weather related (I.e. can be severe on the warm(er), more humid days and clearer on the cold dry windy days). Aside from this variation, I’m inclined to think it’s winter weather induced and potentially related to having very soft water which makes it more difficult to wash detergent completely out of clothing and sheets. Despite this thread being more than two years old, I hope for more feedback on additional cases and solutions!

  25. Wonder Bra

    My son looks the same way and has little bumps on his arms and legs. He has keratosis pilaris. It is genetic and runs in our family. I just wanted to share that with you as I have tried stuff and did the doctors visits to come up with nothing.

  26. Looks like my babies did. Baby number 3 and 4 ended up with it. The diagnosis ended up being food allergies. Drove us nuts until we figured it out. One ended up so severe, he was on Elecare for a while. Not all the allergens came up in the skin testing immediately, but it was surely causing the skin rashes. So don’t rule out an allergy just because the skin test was negative. Best wishes to all the mommies dealing with it. It was major research and diet changes for our whole family. Life changing! But we are ALL much healthier now because of this! Maybe even to the point where it saved a disease or even a life. God is good all the time!

  27. I am going through the same thing with my 8 month old but haven’t been to doctors yet, have done research and am praying that it is not something called 5th disease. It in the same family as measles,chicken pox, ext. wondering if that is what your little guy has.

  28. It’s a viral infection can’t take antibiotics have to let it run it’s course, there is no vaccine for it either. According to my reasearch doctors can’t do much for it, I’m trying to stay away from doctors due to their lack of caring, wanting to help their patients. Every time I bring my little one to the doctors there is nothing they can do blah blah blah. But he’s coughing, runny nose, wheezing. If one more doctor tells me there is nothing they can do I’m going freak!

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