Baby’s skin is incredibly soft, but it’s also delicate and can be easily irritated. Fortunately, baby skin care tends toward the simple: less is often more. Follow some easy tips to keep your baby’s skin healthy.
First, bathe your baby in warm (not hot) water and use a mild baby soap or no soap at all. To make sure the temperature is just right, test it with your own arm – it should be warm but not hot. Look for mild, neutral pH products–free of dyes or scents–to add to your baby’s bath time. Use just a little bit of cleanser and then rinse it off thoroughly. After bath time, pat your baby dry, then, if possible, give your baby’s skin some time in open air, especially the parts that are usually covered by a diaper.
Unfortunately, your baby may develop a rash in spite of your gentle care. Here are a few examples of the most common infant rashes and a few tips on how to care for them at home:
- Diaper rash is common, especially if your baby sits too long in a wet or dirty diaper. Air-drying the area for as long as possible helps, followed by applying a zinc-based diaper cream at every diaper change.
- Milia are tiny white bumps caused by trapped skin cells commonly found on a newborn’s nose, cheeks or chin, and should disappear on their own within a few weeks.
- Baby acne are little red or yellowish bumps on a baby’s face caused by mom’s hormones that are released into the baby’s system during birth. Acne generally occurs during the first 2-4 weeks of a newborn’s life and disappears within a few months. Baby acne doesn’t require treatment beyond daily washing with a gentle soap.
- Seborrhea, or more commonly known as cradle cap, is a rash that causes scaly patches on a baby’s scalp. Using a gentle baby shampoo daily can help clear up the condition, but it will also usually clear up on its own after a few months.
- Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is characterized by red, itchy patches of inflamed skin. You can soak your infant in a lukewarm bath, pat body dry, and apply a mild unscented cream or lotion twice a day to keep the skin hydrated.
- Heat rash often occurs when a baby is overheated, either in hot weather or from being overdressed. This rash appears as little red bumps and will go away on its own when the infant cools down.
Most infant skin conditions are mild and resolve on their own. If they last longer than expected, or if you are concerned that something more serious may be going on, be sure to see your pediatrician right away.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019
- Baby skin is easily irritated and can be prone to many different kinds of rashes and skin conditions.
- Diaper rash is common and usually caused by a baby sitting in their own wet diaper for too long.
- Use lukewarm water, never hot water, to avoid heat rash.
- Many skin conditions and rashes in infants resolve on their own.
Do babies outgrow eczema? Or does it stick with them for eternity once they’re diagnosed?
That’s a great question, Molly! The answer is that some (estimated 2/3) babies will outgrow their eczema although most of those will continue to have dry or sensitive skin throughout their lifespan. What tends to happen is that eczema symptoms improve as your baby ages. So infants with severe eczema may have marked improvement by their preschool years. It is important for parents of children with eczema to have an eczema “action plan” that it, a plan for what to do when their child skin seems to flare. Eczema ebbs and flows so some times the skin may be nearly clear and then flare up again. This is frustrating to both families and doctors. Having a plan for what emollients (thick moisturizers), soaps, and steroid creams to use when this happens allows parents to intervene quickly before the child becomes very uncomfortable.
Both of my babies have very fair, sensitive skin. I use all fragrance free products and all natural baby wash/shampoo. Original Sprout makes great products for those with the most sensitive skin. The baby wash is excellent! Although it can be pricey, I know it won’t irritate my daughter’s skin.
My 3 month old has dry, rough patches on her thighs, knees and elbows. It’s not red or inflamed, and it doesn’t seem to bother her. I’ve tried lotion but that hasn’t helped much. What could this be?
Make sure the lotion is fragrance free, such as Aquaphor, Eucerin, Lubriderm just to name a few. Even the mildly scented baby lotions can irritate the skin sometimes. And be sure to show the rash to her pediatrician at the next visit if it doesn’t improve!