Two newborn babies lying side by side sleeping
newborns

understanding common baby skin concerns

Dr Cairine Wilkinson, Consultant Dermatologist
6mins

There are many different skin concerns that can affect a baby’s skin. Here our dermatology expert provides information and advice to help keep your baby’s skin happy and healthy.

Understanding common baby skin concerns

There's nothing quite like the velvety soft, delicate skin of a baby . However, there are many different skin disorders that can affect their skin.

Many babies are prone to skin irritation in their first few months. Here's what you need to know about some of the most common baby skin concerns and advice for what you can do about it.

Baby acne

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 health care professionals.

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.1

Top baby acne management tips:

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

  • Don’t use soap or lotion on affected areas

  • Don’t squeeze or pick at the acne

  • Do not use adult acne or other adult skin care products

  • If the problem persists, or is severe, ask your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter medication that might help

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a harmless skin condition that's common in babies. 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 contagious.2 It usually clears up on its own within a few months.2

Top cradle cap management tips:

  • Wash your baby's hair regularly with baby shampoo. Regular washing may stop crusts forming

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

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

Dry skin

The skin of newborn’s is much thinner than that of an adult. Their skin 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.

Top dry skin management tips:

  • You do not need to bathe your newborn every day. Three times a week should be enough until your baby becomes more mobile.3

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

  • Use lukewarm, not hot water for bathing

  • Apply an moisturizer cream all over your baby's body as often as needed to prevent dry developing into eczema

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

Eczema

Babies often get red, scaly skin known as eczema. The symptoms are patches of red, dry and itchy skin on the face or behind the ears, and in the creases of the neck, knees and elbows. 4

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 health care professionals or health visitor if you think your child has eczema.3

Top eczema management tips:

  • 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 products with sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) as these can dry or irritate the 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 with Soapberry are the world’s purest baby wipes and provide gentle but effective cleansing for your baby or toddler’s skin

  • Try to keep your child's bedroom cool as overheating can make their eczema worse

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

  • Steroid creams can reduce inflammation during flare ups. They are safe as long as they're used as directed by health care professionals or pharmacist

  • 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

  • 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

Milia (White Bumps)

Milia is the appearance of tiny, slightly raised, white or yellowish spots that are most commonly seen across the nose, chin, cheeks, chest, forehead or around the eyes of a baby. They may also occur in other areas, such as on the upper trunk and limbs.5

Milia develop when tiny skin flakes become trapped in small pockets near the surface of the skin.4

Nearly half of all new-born babies have milia, although if your baby was born prematurely, then they may not develop immediately.

Top milia management tips:

  • The spots should disappear on their own, without treatment, in a few weeks

  • If you're concerned about your baby's complexion or it doesn't clear up within three months, consult your baby's doctor.4

Diaper Rash

Up to a third of babies and toddlers in diapers have diaper rash at any one time.6 It is most commonly caused by irritation of the skin from the ammonia in pee and poop.

Diaper rash is characterized by red patches on your baby's bottom, or the whole area may be red. Their skin may look sore and feel hot to touch, and there may be spots, pimples or blisters.5

Read our article on Diaper Rash for a list of top tips for managing the condition.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is rarely diagnosed within infants, 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 psoriasis, but it does run in families and is believed to be related to the immune system.

The two most common forms of 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. 7

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.

Top psoriasis management tips:

  • As with eczema, try and keep your baby’s skin moisturized

  • Avoiding heat and cold if these seem to worsen the rash

  • Keep the affected areas clean and dry

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

  • For most children, using gentle moisturizers is all that is needed, however, if symptoms persist your doctor can prescribe topical treatments

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

If your baby develops spots or a rash and you're not sure what it is, always speak to health care professionals, midwife or health visitor. If your baby seems unwell and has other symptoms, such as a fever, go straight to health care professionals.

References

1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/baby-acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20369880

2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cradle-cap/

3 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20044438

4 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/eczema-in-children/

5 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/milia/symptoms-causes/syc-20375073

6 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/nappy-rash/

7 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psoriasis/symptoms/

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