Newborn skin is known for its softness, and honestly, that’s a lot of pressure on Baby – especially right now, when they're still trying to figure out the little things in their life, like when they are meant to be sleeping, what they shouldn’t be putting in their mouth, and the fine art of rolling over. Lucky for Baby, they're got you looking out for them, making sure their baby-soft skin stays, well, baby-soft.
If you start to notice Baby’s skin drying out, there are a few strategies that might help. To start, try avoiding scented products. It’s a good idea to stay away from soaps and shampoos with fragrances as they can dry out the hair and skin. You can also switch to detergents without dyes and scents. If this doesn’t work, a scent-free, gentle moisturizer might do the trick. Some healthcare providers and pediatricians recommend waiting to use moisturizer until Baby is a month to 2 months old, so it’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before starting. The best time to apply a moisturizer is just after Baby’s bath.
You can also try bathing Baby a little less often, or limiting soap and shampoo use to just once or twice each week. They only really need to bathe a few times a week their first year, and bathing strips them of the natural oils that keep their skin from drying out.
Keep them from catching rays
Baby’s delicate skin is particularly vulnerable to the sun, and should not be exposed to direct sunlight until they are six months old. Under six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using sunscreen. The best, safest way to keep them from getting their first sunburn – one milestone you might want to put off reaching for as long as you can – is to keep them out of direct sunlight, and to avoid taking them on walks during peak sun hours. Make liberal use of hats, lightweight long-sleeved clothing, little Baby-sized sunglasses, breathable blankets, and the sun-shade on their stroller. Once Baby is older than 6 months, it’s time to introduce sunscreen, but that doesn’t mean you should stop with the long sleeves and the hats. During peak sun hours, it’s smart to limit direct sun exposure at any age.
Be sensitive to Baby’s sensitive skin
Try washing Baby’s clothes and bedding before putting Baby into it. They may not actually thank you for putting them in clothes made of soft fabric without rough tags, washed in a mild, baby-safe soap, but you’ll avoid them fussing all day over itchy fabric or turning up with a mysterious rash from one of the perfumes in your favorite detergent. And that really is thanks enough.
Don’t be rash
- Cradle cap: a common rash in babies, typically peaking between 3 to 12 months. Its origin is unknown, but it’s thought to occur from maternal hormones that cross into the placenta during pregnancy. Cradle cap appears as a flaky, scaly, yellow-brown coating over their skin, which, if it flakes off, can show redness underneath. Cradle cap usually shows up on Baby’s scalp, but can also show up on their face, bottom, or in their skin folds, like behind their knees and elbows. Cradle cap will often go away on its own, but you can help to get rid of it by washing their hair gently with warm water and a mild soap, combing their hair with a fine soft brush, or by gently massaging olive oil or baby oil into the affected areas. If the rash is moderate to severe, the pediatrician may prescribe topical steroids to help with treatment.
- Diaper rash: these rashes are very common as babies tend to pee and poo at a much faster rate than their parents can change their diapers. These rashes are called “irritant dermatitis,” or inflammation of the skin from excess moisture. They typically look like red and scaly rashes that stay confined to the diaper area. Irritant diaper rashes are most easily treated just by keeping Baby clean and dry, and by changing their diaper promptly. If Baby is recovering from a diaper rash, giving them some time outside of a diaper to ‘air out’ can help them recover, and patting rather than rubbing them dry may prevent irritating already sensitive skin. Diaper rash cream can also help to create a barrier between the diaper and skin. Make sure that you choose a zinc oxide based cream that doesn’t contain extra scents of colors. The more basic the better.
- Yeast infection: another common type of diaper rash are rashes caused by infection with yeast, on top of extra diaper moisture. Diaper rash yeast infections are generally accompanied by thrush, and are caused by the ingestion of yeast. These infections appear as a bright red, raised rash, that may have fluid visible under the skin, or may develop into pustules. Unlike the simply irritated kind of diaper rash, this type isn’t easily treated with home remedies, so it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician about how to treat it. If you’re breastfeeding, you may also notice a yeast infection on your nipples. If you do, check in with your healthcare provider to receive treatment to avoid passing on an infection.
- Heat rash: heat rash (also known as sweat rash), like the name implies, happens in extreme heat, and is caused by blocked pores which cause sweat to build up under the skin instead of being sweated out. This is normal and very common as babies have immature sweat glands and so instead of sweating, they overheat. In addition, excess heat and friction commonly cause this kind of blockage, which is why heat rash often shows up on Baby’s neck, and in their skin folds when they are held tightly or over-bundled. Heat rashes usually go away on their own once Baby is cooled down, but if it doesn’t go away in a few days, or if it gets worse, it’s time to consult your pediatrician as it might be caused by something different.
- Eczema: known as “the itch that rashes,” eczema commonly appears as patches of red, dry, itchy, scaly, crusted skin on the cheeks, neck, backs of legs, and fronts of arms. Eczema is fairly common in babies (though it is sometimes a sign of a potential future food allergy) and sometimes clears up on its own. Make sure you protect Baby‘s skin by using mild baby soaps that are scent and dye-free and use them as sparingly as possible. Pat them dry after a bath and cover them liberally with petroleum jelly to help lock the moisture of the bath. Trim or file their nails to prevent scratching, and even try gloves if they let you. You can also help by keeping Baby out of extreme temperatures and keeping them from being exposed to any texture that seems to irritate their skin. Evidence suggests that a diet rich in probiotics can be helpful for eczema as well.
- Lawrence E. Gibson. “When is it OK for a baby to wear sunscreen?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. May 24, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/baby-sunscreen/faq-20058159.
- Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP. “Bathing your Baby.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics. March 3, 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/To-Bathe-or-Not-to-Bathe.aspx.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Baby bath basics: A parent’s guide.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. September 4, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20044438?pg=1.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Cradle Cap.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. October 27, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cradle-cap/symptoms-causes/syc-20350396.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diaper Rash.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. April 7, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diaper-rash/basics/causes/con-20019220.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Heat Rash.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. March 3, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-rash/basics/symptoms/con-20033908.
- “Baby Sunburn Prevention.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics. January 25 2013. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Baby-Sunburn-Prevention.aspx.
- “Cradle Cap.” NHS choices. GOV.UK. January 24, 2019. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cradle-cap/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
- “Diaper Rash.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. June 9, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000964.htm.
- Sarah Stein, MD, FAAD, FAAP. “Eczema in Babies and Children.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics. March, 15, 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Eczema.aspx.
- “Taking Care of Your Baby After the First Few Weeks.” Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington. March 1, 2014. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/healthAndWellness/?item=/common/healthAndWellness/pregnancy/newborn/newbornCare3.html.