New babies happen to get a lot of rashes and mild skin issues. The good news is that most of these problems resolve on their own. While baby skin care is important, it can be maddening to try to resolve every little rash, redness, pimple, or patch of dry skin that pops up on your new baby. Don’t stress about the small stuff, especially when it comes to a baby’s skin! (Read more about how to prevent diaper rash or diaper rash treatment.)
Here are some of the most commonly occurring skin issues that develop in new babies. (Click on the photos to see a larger version.)
Baby acne is quite common in the first few weeks after birth. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and unfortunately your baby’s perfect skin will look like it’s going through puberty for a few weeks! Baby acne is benign, and usually clears on it’s own within a few weeks. Don’t do anything, and make sure to avoid picking at the pimples or trying to pop them!
More from Deb
In the natural health community, herbs are used as one way to treat baby acne by encouraging a breastfeeding mother to drink teas that support liver function. I did this when my third daughter’s acne flared up and her skin was beautiful! These herbs contain great nutrients for mom as well. Here are instructions for making the baby acne tea.
Newborn Dry Skin
Newborns tend to have dry and peeling skin. This is normal, and due to your baby being inside a very moist area for many months (the womb!)…Just think of how your skin looks just after 30 minutes of soaking in a bathtub, and you get the idea. It will resolve on its own. It’s best not to use moisturizing cream or lotion on brand new baby skin because it can be irritating. If you feel like you just can’t take it, and you have to apply something to your baby’s skin, try an all natural oil, like apricot seed or grapeseed.
Seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap is quite common. It usually presents in the first couple of months and can last throughout your baby’s first year. It’s caused by a reaction to an excess of oil production. It can be found anywhere on your baby’s scalp, nose, eyelids, or eyebrows. It tends to look yellowish and scaly, and can flake off fairly easily. Mild cradle cap can be left alone, and will usually resolve on its own without treatment. More involved cradle cap can be treated by using a small amount of gentle baby soap on the area, followed by a natural oil. Grapeseed oil and apricot oil seem to work the best. Simply apply sparingly to the area. You can also use a very soft toothbrush to brush the affected area when wet, but avoid forcefully removing or picking-at the scales. If the cradle cap is bothersome to you or your baby, ask your healthcare provider for additional treatments.
Many parents often ask about how to manage oily hair from cradle cap treatment. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good methods to get rid of the oil and make your baby’s hair look soft and silky, while still treating the skin! Try applying the oil to the scalp in the evening before bedtime. This may result in slightly less greasy hair in the morning. The good news is that cradle cap is generally self and time limited, and you should be back to a “grease-free” baby head in a few short weeks!
Infant Heat Rash
Heat rash or “prickly heat” is fairly common in new babies. It appears as very small reddish bumps, which are spread diffusely over their bodies. Babies are unable to sweat like adults do, and if they get too hot, their sweat glands are plugged and the rash develops. If your baby is bundled up too warmly, the rash may just appear in areas like the neck, diaper area, or skin folds. Simply take off some layers or bring your baby to a cool, well-ventilated environment. Make sure that you dress your baby in soft, cool, easily breathable layers to help prevent heat rash. My rule of thumb is that your new baby should only be wearing one more layer than you are wearing.
Eczema is quite common in babies. It tends to be more common in babies who have a family history of allergies, asthma, or something called atopic dermatitis (basically a tendency to have an allergic reaction rash). Eczema is usually found in small patches. It’s red, slightly raised, often scaly. Occasionally it can become open or weepy, and can get infected. It most commonly appears on elbows, cheeks, behind the knees, or on the arms. As long as it is not too large of an area, and not too bothersome, you don’t have to do too much. Keeping the skin moisturized with a non-cosmogenic/fragranced moisturizer is a great idea. Apricot oil or grapeseed oil will work wonders, as does petroleum or non-petroleum based ointments. Colloidal oatmeal baths can help soothe the skin and calm eczematous regions. If it looks like it’s getting infected, or if your baby is scratching a lot, or the rash is spreading to a larger area, see your healthcare provider.
Milia are small, firm white bumps that often appear on babies skin. They are usually seen on the face and nose. They are formed from the blockage of sweat glands. These blocked sweat glands open on their own in time (a few weeks or so), and then the milia clear. Do not pick or try to pop these bumps; that will only lead to scaring or infection.
Baby’s skin is delicate and needs special protection when in the sun. In fact, the bulk of sun exposure happens in the earlier half of life, so it’s a great idea to start a good suncare regimen early. Make sure that you limit sun exposure at peak UV index times of the day (usually around noon to early afternoon). Try to keep babies in the shade, whenever possible. Always use sunscreen, and apply it liberally and frequently. California Baby and thinksport are good choices. Use sun-protective clothing like a rashguard shirt or sunhat. Purchase a sunshade for the beach or use a floatation device with a shade. If you think your infant got sunburned, call your healthcare provider right away.
Many parents are concerned about sunscreen use on their new babies. It is certainly prudent and we advise that you stick to a chemical-free brand (see our recommended products!). And remember, a sunburn is always more dangerous than a sunscreen!
Things to Avoid
Don’t use fragranced soaps, lotions, oils, etc. Fragrance additives can often irritate sensitive baby skin, and they provide no added utility to the products. This also applies to laundry detergent. You don’t have to buy a specific “infant laundry detergent”. Just make sure you choose one without fragrances, etc.
Try to avoid dyes, phthalates and parabens. Phthalates and parabens are other chemical additives found in many health and beauty products. They, like fragrance, provide very little benefit, and often cause irritation and skin problems.
Don’t use baby powders or cornstarch. Baby powders are usually more irritating than helpful, and cornstarch can “feed” a yeast-based rash.
Never use talc powders. Talc can be inhaled and harm your baby’s lungs.
Avoid long soaks (over 5-10 minutes) in bathtubs. This can dry out your baby’s skin…just think of what your skin looks like after a long soak, wrinkly!
When to Call Your Doc
If your baby is showing any signs of infection: oozing wound, pus, extreme redness, heat felt in the area, or fever.