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baby skin concerns and conditions - dry skin, psoriasis, cradle cap, eczema and more

14 minutes

13/10/2020

There's nothing quite like the velvety soft, delicate skin of a baby. However, many different baby skin conditions and concerns can affect their skin leading to rashes, unsightly bumps, and uncomfortable babies. Many babies are prone to skin irritation in their first few months but there is always a way to treat this and ease any discomfort.

Skin conditions in babies can arise for multiple reasons, be it a change in the weather, a product you’re using, or even their diet. However, if you are ever worried about your baby’s skin, always consult an expert such as your doctor or a pharmacist.

In this guide on baby skin concerns and conditions, we've considered some of the most common, as well as advice on why they occur and how to treat them.

The most common baby skin conditions

  1. Baby eczema

  2. Dry baby skin

  3. Cradle cap and cradle cap treatment for babies

  4. Baby acne

  5. Milia (white bumps on baby’s face)

  6. Diaper rash

  7. Baby psoriasis

  8. Baby heat rash

  9. Allergic baby skin reactions

Eczema in babies and how to treat it

Babies often get red, scaly skin that could point towards a skin condition known as eczema. This baby skin condition is a fairly common issue but can be very itchy and uncomfortable if left untreated.

Eczema symptoms in babies

The symptoms of this common baby skin condition are:

  • Patches of red dry and itchy skin, on the face or behind the ears.

  • Dry and itchy skin in the creases of the neck, knees, and elbows.

In babies, aged between one and six months, eczema usually starts on their cheeks before then spreading to the rest of their face and body1.

What causes eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is not known. In some cases, it may be inherited, and in others it can be triggered by an allergy or sensitivity. Most babies eventually grow out of eczema but speak to your doctor if you think your child has eczema for guidance and support.

Tips for treating eczema in babies

  • Moisturize – Keep your child’s skin well moisturized with an unperfumed moisturizer. You may wish to do this a couple of times a day, for example, when you feed or change your baby.

  • Avoid sodium laurel sulphate – Veer away from products with sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) as these can dry or irritate the skin.

  • Choose fragrance-free and alcohol-free wet wipes – Check that your wet wipes do not contain alcohol or other unnecessary ingredients. WaterWipes and WaterWipes for Weaning are the world’s purest wet wipes and provide gentle but effective cleansing for your baby or toddler’s skin.

  • Regulate temperature in your home – Try to keep your baby's nursery cool and comfortable, as overheating can make their eczema worse.

  • Avoid certain fabrics – Some fabrics can irritate the skin. Try to avoid wool and nylon and stick to cotton instead.

  • Use a steroid cream – Steroid creams can reduce inflammation during flare ups. They are safe as long as they're used as directed by your doctor or a pharmacist.

  • Reduce irritants in your home – Try to identify and avoid anything that irritates the skin or makes the problem worse, such as soap powder, animals, certain foods, chemical sprays and cigarette smoke.

  • Talk to an expert about your baby's diet – Speak to your doctor if symptoms appear to be triggered by certain foods, but do not exclude a food group without first consulting your doctor.

Baby skin conditions – Dry skin

Your newborn’s skin is much thinner than that of an adult, this means that they can therefore absorb and lose moisture more quickly, making it prone to dryness.

When a baby is in the womb their skin is protected by a waxy substance called vernix. Once a baby is born the vernix clears from the skin. With the skin exposed to the world for the first time, babies may develop dry patches. It is common for babies to experience some skin dryness, and it doesn't mean they have eczema. Instead, it could simply be dry and need of a little TLC to get it back to normal. Follow our tips on how to treat dry skin on your baby.

How to treat a baby's dry skin

  • Reduce bath times – You may be surprised to know that you do not need to bathe your newborn every day. Three times a week should be enough until your baby becomes more mobile .

  • Use a bath moisturizer – Add a moisturizer to the bath water. Bath moisturizers are designed to protect your baby's skin while gently cleansing and moisturizing it

  • Don't overheat the bath water – Use lukewarm, not hot water for bathing.

  • User a moisturizing cream – Apply a moisturizer cream all over your baby's body as often as needed to prevent dry developing into eczema.

  • Choose fragrance free wipes – If using wipes, choose fragrance-free and alcohol-free baby wipes. Check they do not contain alcohol or other unnecessary ingredients. WaterWipes and WaterWipes for Weaning are the world’s purest baby wipes and provide gentle but effective cleansing for your baby or toddler’s skin.

What is cradle cap? And how to treat it

Cradle cap is one of the most harmless baby skin conditions and is very common. The symptoms are red, flaky or scaly skin on the scalp. Yellow crusts or greasy patches can sometimes develop too.

It's not clear what causes cradle cap and although some parents feel cradle cap is unsightly, it does not cause any problems to the baby (it is not itchy or painful) and it isn’t contagious3. It usually clears up on its own within a few months. Here, we’ve featured some cradle cap treatment for babies that you can try at home.

Cradle cap treatment for babies

  • Regular hair washing – Wash your baby's hair regularly with baby shampoo. Regular washing may stop cradle cap from forming.

  • Use oils – Gently rub on baby oil or a vegetable oil (such as olive oil) into the scalp to soften the crusts.

  • Brush their hair regularly – Brush your baby’s hair using a soft brush to remove the crusts after leaving oil on the area for a few hours.

“We never really noticed Henry’s cradle cap when he was a baby and just assumed it would clear up on its own,” says mom, Louise.

“But he was coming up to two years old and it was still there, so we started to pay it a bit more attention. I looked online and the main cradle cap treatment for babies recommended just gentle scrubbing in the bath and brushing out with a soft brush. He’s two now and still has it but it’s definitely fading off.”

Baby acne and how to treat it

We don't often think of acne as something that smaller children have to deal with but this is one of those common baby skin conditions that many families learn to treat.

Baby acne is acne that develops on a newborn's skin. It is usually characterized by small red or white bumps and often develops within the first two to four weeks after birth. This is not to be confused with infantile acne which begins later (between 3 and 6 months of age); if you’re unsure please consult a health care professional.

It can occur anywhere on the face, but usually appears on the cheeks, nose and forehead. Baby acne is temporary and usually clears up on its own within three to four months.

How to treat baby acne

  • Keep the affected area clean – Cleanse the area with warm water two or three times a day. Gently pat the skin dry.

  • Avoid soap – Don’t use soap or lotion on the affected areas.

  • Do not pick at the acne – Don’t squeeze or pick at the acne.

  • Avoid adult acne products – Do not use adult acne or other adult skin care products.

  • Speak to your doctor if the problem persists – If the problem does not go away over time, or is severe, ask your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter medication that might help.

Milia and how to treat this baby skin condition

Milia is the appearance of tiny, slightly raised, yellowish spots or white bumps on your baby's face. They are essentially small cysts and are most commonly seen across the nose, chin, cheeks, chest, forehead or around the eyes of a baby4.

Milia develops when tiny skin flakes become trapped in small pockets near the surface of the skin. Nearly half of all new-born babies have milia, there is no way to prevent it, although if your baby was born prematurely, then they may not develop immediately.

How to treat milia

  • Leave the skin alone – The white bumps on your baby’s face should disappear on their own, without treatment, in a few weeks. However, it's a good idea to keep your baby's face clean with warm water and pat dry the affected skin, don't rub5.

  • Speak to a professional – If you're concerned about your baby's complexion or it doesn't clear up within three months, consult a doctor or your paediatrician.

Baby skin concerns – Diaper rash

Most babies will experience diaper rash at least once and this skin concern is most commonly caused by irritation of the skin from the ammonia in pee and poop. When treated, diaper rash should only last around three days6, if it doesn't then it may be a yeast infection.

Diaper rash is a baby skin condition that is characterized by:

  • Red patches on your baby's bottom, or the whole area may appear red.

  • Their skin may also look sore and feel hot to touch, and there may be small spots, pimples or water blisters.

Diaper rash is really common and can come about from many things such as sitting in soiled diapers a little too long, or from using a wet wipe that doesn’t agree with their skin.

This is where WaterWipes can help - created by a father who was concerned about his own daughter’s diaper rash, they are made from 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract, making them the world’s purest wet wipes.

Take a look at our guide on diaper rash for a list of top tips for managing the condition.

Baby psoriasis – What is it and how to treat it

Psoriasis is one of the relatively rare baby skin conditions, but typically causes patches of skin that are dry, red and covered in silver scales. Psoriasis can also cause itching or soreness. In psoriasis the process of shedding old skin cells and replacing them with new ones is much quicker than normal. It isn’t clear what causes baby psoriasis, but it does run in families and is believed to be related to the immune system.

The two most common forms of baby psoriasis are: plaque psoriasis and guttate psoriasis.

With plaque psoriasis dry red skin lesions, known as plaques, covered in silver scales appear on elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body. The plaques can be itchy or sore, or both.

Guttate on the other hand is a specific form that appears mainly in children. It typically appears about 2-3 weeks after an infection and causes a more generalized rash of small raindrop shaped spots.

How to treat baby psoriasis

  • Moisturize the skin – As with eczema, try and keep your baby’s skin moisturized.

  • Regulate their temperature – Avoid heat and cold if these seem to worsen the rash, ensure their clothes are appropriate for the temperature and check how warm or cool their skin is regularly.

  • Keep the affected areas clean and dry – This may mean washing their skin in warm water regularly and patting it dry each time with a clean towel.

  • Expose their skin to natural sunlight – Sit your baby in sunlight for a short period of time – with the appropriate SPF on, of course. Sunlight has been known to help reduce or clear the symptoms of psoriasis7.

  • Opt for wet wipes for sensitive skin – If using wipes, use fragrance-free and alcohol-free baby wipes. Check they do not contain alcohol or other unnecessary ingredients. WaterWipes and WaterWipes for Weaning are the world’s purest baby wipes and provide gentle but effective cleansing for your baby or toddler’s skin.

  • Speak to your doctor about topical treatment – For most children, gentle moisturizers is all that is needed, however, if the symptoms of baby psoriasis persist then your doctor can prescribe topical treatments

  • Consult a dermatologist – If topical treatments do not work, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who can offer therapies like ultraviolet light or oral medications

Heat rash and how to treat it

Baby heat rash or ‘prickly heat’ happens when skin gets hot and sweat glands get blocked, and appears as red bumps, often on the back and bottom but also on the chest and nest. Older children may describe their skin as feeling 'prickly'8.

If you think your baby is suffering with a skin condition such as heat rash here are some tips for treating it:

  • Cool your baby down – Wet a cloth in cool water and wipe over their skin to cool it down or put them in a cool bath.

  • Let their skin breathe – Leave them without a diaper or clothes for a little while to allow their skin to breathe and get some air.

Take a look at our guide to baby heat rash and how to care for their skin during the summer months for more information.

Baby skin concerns – Allergic reactions: Hives and contact dermatitis

As babies find their way in the world they may come into contact with things that upset their skin, resulting in allergic reactions that can understandably panic parents. Here, we've considered two common baby skin concerns that are a result of an allergic reaction – hives and contact dermatitis – and how to treat them.

Contact dermatitis in babies and how to treat it

Contact dermatitis is characterized by red, itchy skin, which comes about after skin has come into contact with something that has irritated it – such as certain soaps or detergent – or something that it’s allergic to, for instance latex or nickel.

While it’s not easy to see your baby in discomfort, once the irritant/allergen has been established, you can avoid it and the rash should clear up on its own. However, if you are concerned, always speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.

“I would have never thought a fairly harmless baby skin condition would have such an impact, but when Emmie had contact dermatitis she could just not sleep at all because of the scratching,” says Dad, Ed.

“She was obviously then grumpy during the day, so we just couldn’t be bothered to go out or do much and all just felt a bit miserable! But we stopped using bubble bath and bathed her less too, and then it cleared up, so now we know she obviously just has sensitive skin.”

Take a look at our baby contact dermatitis guide for more information on the symptoms, causes and treatment.

Hives

Red bumps that appear on the skin are known as hives, and can come about if your baby’s skin has come into contact with something that irritates it, for instance, sap from a certain plant, or when they’ve eaten something they’re allergic to.

You may find that your baby first gets hives when you begin the weaning process, as you slowly introduce them to known allergens such as eggs and nuts. Keep a log of what they've eaten that day or have been around to help you determine what is causing the hives.

It's important that you look out for any other allergic reactions in your baby that may require emergency medical attention such as wheezing, problems breathing or if their throat starts to close9.

How to treat hives on a baby

  • Use a cool compress – Place a cool cloth on the affected area to calm the skin and relieve discomfort10.

  • Seek medical attention – If the hives do not calm down within a week or so then go to your doctor to discuss treatment. This may be in the form of a histamine medication.

“Reuben came up in hives when we first introduced cow’s milk,” says Dad, Alex. “We went straight to the doctor who prescribed us allergy relief, which we now carry with us at all times, and when he’s a little older we’ll have a full allergy test. Obviously it’s not ideal, but if we know what he reacts to and how to deal with it then we should be fine.”

We hope that this guide has helped put your mind at ease or given you direction if you are dealing with a baby skin concern. However, it's important to note that if your baby develops spots or a rash and you're not sure what it is, you should always speak to a healthcare professional. If your baby seems unwell and has other symptoms, such as a fever, go straight to health care professionals.

If you found our baby skin conditions and concerns article insightful, be sure to look at our other articles mentioned above in our Parenting Community Hub.

References:

  1. Seattle Children's Hospital, Eczema, https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/eczema/, [Last accessed 18th September 2020]

  2. Mayo Clinic, Baby Bath Basics: A Parent's Guide, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20044438, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  3. Mayo Clinic, Cradle Cap, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cradle-cap/symptoms-causes/syc-20350396, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  4. Mayo Clinic, Milia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/milia/symptoms-causes/syc-20375073, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  5. Cleveland Clinic, Does your skin have tiny white bumps? Leave them alone, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/does-babys-skin-have-tiny-white-bumps-leave-them-alone/, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  6. Seattle Childrens, Diaper Rash, https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/diaper-rash/, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  7. Healthline, Sun and Psoriasis: Benefits and Risks, https://www.healthline.com/health/psoriasis/benefits-and-risks-of-sunlight, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  8. Seattle Childrens, Heat Rash, https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/heat-rash/, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  9. Healthline, Hives on Baby: What you Need to Know, https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/hives-on-baby, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

  10. Healthline, Hives on Baby: What you Need to Know, https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/hives-on-baby#treatment, [Last accessed 21st September 2020]

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